Notes: Closer race too early to call

Notes: Closer race too early to call

MESA, Ariz. -- The three Cubs closer candidates each have pitched two innings, and it's still too early to pick who will win the job.

On Monday, Bob Howry gave up three runs on five hits in one inning. Kerry Wood threw a perfect inning on Tuesday. Carlos Marmol has not given up a hit in two innings over two games. Does that mean Marmol has the edge in the closer race and Howry is out? No.

"I think people are making a whole lot out of this because of the whole 'closer' thing, so two outings in, 'Wow, he gave up three runs on five hits,'" Howry said Tuesday.

Howry wasn't conceding the job after his outing against the Mariners. He also didn't do anything different this offseason to prepare for the season.

"I'm not trying to do anything different than I did in the past," Howry said. "I'm out there, getting ready for the season. If this was the last week of spring, and the last outing of spring, I'd be a little more concerned."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella hinted Howry may need more work than the other pitchers to get on track. Howry would welcome that.

"I think I like to pitch more than other guys like to in spring," he said. "Most guys prefer to throw 12 innings in spring. I'd like anywhere from 16 to 20. You tell that to a coach, and they say that's too much."

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild did tell Howry the right-hander is ahead of where he's been in past springs.

"At the same time, it's early and I know there's a lot of time to get ready for the season," Howry said.

Arms race: Ryan Dempster admitted he got away from his game plan in the first inning Tuesday against the Brewers, but he's still developing a starter's mentality.

"You just try to make pitches and get outs and keep the at-bats short," Dempster said. "After that inning, it seemed like it was three or four pitches, at the most, every hitter, and that's what you're trying to do is get quick outs. By doing that, I allowed myself to go three innings instead of two."

In the first, Dempster faced seven batters and gave up a hit and two walks, including a free pass to Brad Nelson with the bases loaded to force in a run. The last time Dempster went three innings in an outing probably was spring 2005.

"The more I was throwing, the better I felt," he said. "I felt like I could've kept going."

Rumors: Rumors regarding a possible trade between the Cubs and Orioles for second baseman Brian Roberts have resurfaced. Piniella said he didn't notice.

"The only thing I do on the Internet is trade stocks every once in a while," Piniella said. "It's a little bit of a hobby. I don't trade infielders, and certainly I don't read sports."

How's he doing in the stock market?

Spring Training
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"I'm doing just like everybody else," Piniella said.

The Cubs do have scouts watching the Orioles in Florida. The O's have scouts here in Arizona.

"We have scouts watching not only Baltimore, but a few teams," Piniella said. "We'll just have to wait and see what happens, if anything at all."

Hall of Fame Game: Tickets for the Hall of Fame Game between the Cubs and Padres will go on sale Saturday, with 2,500 seats available through a one-day walkup sale at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Museum members can purchase tickets by phone starting at 10 a.m. ET Saturday.

In the event tickets remain from the one-day sale and member-exclusive period, they will be available starting March 17 by calling the museum's mail-order department at 888-425-5633.

They said it: "You look at these guys before the game starts and you think to yourself, 'This guy has a good arm, this guy has a good slider,' and all of a sudden you put an umpire and start selling some beer in the stands and it changes around. That's every spring, isn't it? It's still early in camp, but some of these guys aren't helping themselves. We're giving up six, 10 runs every game. They need to get better quick." -- Piniella, on some of the pitchers

Extra bases: Michael Wuertz hasn't pitched in a game yet, giving him more time to build up arm strength. ... Alfonso Soriano said the swelling had gone down on his right finger, and he hoped to resume throwing on Wednesday. ... Mark DeRosa took batting practice, but he has yet to see live pitching this spring. ... Aramis Ramirez (shoulder) and Daryle Ward (sore gluteus muscle) both are expected to make their Cactus League debuts Thursday. ... Players did extra baserunning drills before Tuesday's game. "We're just trying to make the players a little more aware," Piniella said. "We've had two or three days of running the bases, and there's really no need for it." ... Mike Fontenot started at shortstop on Tuesday. "The more positions that he can play, the better for him and the better for us," Piniella said. "We have to try him at shortstop. It's hard for any player who is competing for a spot on the roster if he can only play one infield position. It's not good for that individual. We like his bat." ... Steve Wilson, the Cubs' international scouting director who is based in Taiwan, and part-time scout Bill Holmberg, who is based in Italy, were in attendance Tuesday.

On deck: The Cubs make their first trip to Tucson on Wednesday to face the Diamondbacks in the first meeting since Arizona swept them in the National League Division Series. Carlos Zambrano, who started Game 1 of the NLDS, and Rich Hill, who started Game 3, both are slated to pitch.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.