Piniella scoffed at the suggestion, even though Theriot was riding a three-game, 0-for-9 mini-skid.
"He'll be fine," Piniella said.
Yes, he will. Alfonso Soriano and Theriot hit back-to-back homers leading off the first, and Theriot added another in the fourth to set a career high and power the Cubs to a 6-4 rain-interrupted victory over the San Diego Padres.
Geovany Soto drove in three runs, including two on his first home run of the year, to back Ted Lilly (5-2), who didn't earn his fifth win last year until his 10th start. Wednesday was No. 7. The Cubs lefty served up two home runs to Adrian Gonzalez, including a two-run blast in the first, and struck out seven over 6 1/3 innings.
What was the key to Lilly's success?
"One of them was I didn't have to face Adrian Gonzalez nine times," Lilly said. "It would've been great if he would've hit a couple line-drive base hits. He's obviously pretty locked in at the plate. The pitches weren't really executed, but at the same time, he's taking advantage of it. He's a pretty impressive hitter."
Lilly had a pretty impressive outing. He threw 86 pitches, 68 for strikes. That's a pretty good ratio.
"Maybe I'm not walking guys because my pitches look so good they want to swing at the ball," Lilly said. "I still feel like my command can improve. There were some balls struck well for outs. I have to take that into consideration. I have to make sure I'm not leaving the ball out over the middle of the plate."
The Cubs answered Gonzalez's first homer when Soriano launched the second pitch from Chris Young (2-2) onto Waveland Avenue over the left-field bleachers for his 53rd career leadoff homer, fourth this year, and a franchise-record 21st with the Cubs. He's now tied with Craig Biggio for second on the all-time list, trailing only Rickey Henderson, who hit 81 in his career.
Theriot drove the next pitch from Young into the seats in left-center to tie the game at 2. Soto added a two-out RBI single to go ahead.
"I hope I get to watch this for another five months or so," Lilly said of Theriot. "He knows how to hit, and when he's at his best, he's letting the ball travel. He's picking his spots, and I think that's smart. He's taking advantage of the way guys are pitching him. You don't want to walk Theriot. He's a threat on the bases and can steal, so you have to pitch him aggressively. That might change if he keeps hitting balls into the left-field bleachers."
It's the first time the Cubs have hit back-to-back home runs to lead off a game since Eric Young and Ricky Gutierrez did so against Jose Lima in Houston on April 27, 2000.
With one out in the Chicago third, Milton Bradley surprised the 38,410 in attendance and the Padres with a bunt that stayed fair down the third-base line. One out later, Soto connected to go ahead, 5-2.
Theriot, whose previous single-season home run high was three, set in both 2006 and '07, added his fifth homer with two outs in the fourth. This was the second time Theriot has hit two in a game. He also did so Sept. 17, 2006, against Cincinnati. There's no place like home for the shortstop, who has hit all 12 of his career homers at Wrigley Field.
"If you watch him take batting practice, he has a quick bat," Piniella said. "At the same time, he hits them out. It's just a question of getting them up in the air. Today the ball was carrying well."
However, when told how many home runs Theriot hit last year, even Piniella was a little puzzled.
"How do you explain it?" Piniella said
We may find out Thursday. Theriot had already left the clubhouse after the game was called. The start was delayed 37 minutes because of rain, and there was another brief interruption before the sixth. Crew chief Tim Welke called for the tarp, but the grounds crew never fully unrolled it before the rain stopped. That delay was four minutes.
"I didn't time it," Piniella said of the short stop.
Play was halted again at the start of the Cubs' eighth as sheets of rain drenched the field. After a 58-minute delay, the game was called.
Lilly wasn't fazed.
"I didn't get ready as far as my throwing goes," Lilly said. "I started running and getting loose that way. It's the old adage, stay ready so you don't have to get ready and just try to stay loose."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.