Thursday was the sixth, and last day on fake grass for the team after three in Toronto and three against Tampa Bay. The Cubs were playing shorthanded in the series finale against the Rays, because both outfielders Reed Johnson and Jim Edmonds were injured on the turf.
Edmonds has plantar fasciitis in his left foot, which forced him out of Wednesday's game, but he was available to pinch-hit, if necessary, on Thursday. Because the White Sox are starting a left-hander on Friday, Edmonds will most likely get an extra day to rest.
Johnson experienced back spasms on a ninth-inning bunt attempt Tuesday, and expected to be available on Friday for the intracity series.
The Cubs have had what Piniella described as "preliminary talks" about bringing back outfielder Eric Patterson, who was sent down to Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday when Matt Murton was added. However, that would require putting someone on the disabled list, and neither Edmonds or Johnson was believed to be that seriously injured.
"I'm feeling really good," said Johnson, who had surgery for a herniated disk in April 2007. "When you've had surgery, it's something that's always in the back of your head. I never had any [pain] going down my leg. It wasn't something serious, it was more of a precautionary thing."
Johnson was believed to have injured himself when he collided with Tampa Bay first baseman Willy Aybar, but corrected that. The problem was when he bent down to bunt and he felt spasms in his back.
"I think it was because I was bunting and I was down low," he said. "I was trying to explode out of the box. I felt a little tug. By the time I got back to the clubhouse it was starting to pull a little bit. I had some back spasms, and we were able to get some treatment and take care of it pretty quick."
He said that if he ices his back quickly, he's usually ready the next day or the day after. Because of the turf, the Cubs want to wait until Johnson can play on real grass to avoid aggravating it.
However, Johnson may have lost his leadoff spot to Kosuke Fukudome, who batted first for the second straight game on Thursday. Fukudome started in center, with Micah Hoffpauir in left and Mark DeRosa in right.
"We'll see," Johnson said. "Like I've said in the past, it's not going to change my approach. I've started to feel good at the plate. I'm going to keep those approaches."
He has gotten more familiar with the eighth spot.
"When I had runners in scoring position and the pitcher hitting behind me, I'm thinking they're going to mess around, they'll intentionally walk me, they'll pitch around me," Johnson said. "A lot of people have been coming right after me, and that was something I wasn't ready for right away. I was taking good pitches. Now I'm ready to hit, and trying to get good pitches to hit."
The Cubs had been relatively injury-free until recently. When Alfonso Soriano broke a bone in his left hand after he was hit by a pitch on June 11, Piniella had to mix and match in left field and at the top of the order.
"Everything was going pretty smoothly for us," Piniella said. "It started with the Soriano thing, and then it escalated to [Carlos] Zambrano and the two outfielders. We're a little banged up.
"I'm glad we're getting away from the [designated hitter] situation -- it will give us another healthy body," he said. "If we were at our strength, we'd have Soriano playing left field and [Daryle] Ward DH'ing, which would make us more formidable offensively. I'd rather forget about the DH situation for a while, and just play National League baseball."
Piniella also had a suggestion on how Johnson could get ready for Friday's game.
"We're going to have the stewardess massage him all night [on the charter flight]," Piniella said. "Heck, he might play when he gets off the plane."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.