Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

For openers: Big Z

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Despite deciding after another over-amped, poor performance on Opening Day last year that ace Carlos Zambrano probably wouldn't start an opener again, Cubs manager Lou Piniella said during an informal chat with media Wednesday that Zambrano probably would be his starter for the Cubs' opener next season, at home against Milwaukee. ``I think he's probably over all that,'' Piniella said. ...

On the Mark Prior front, Piniella confirmed the Cubs have talked to several teams about at trade but wouldn't speculate on the likelihood of a deal getting done. The Cubs have until Dec. 12 to move the arbitration-eligible Prior or face a Dec. 12 arbitration deadline for offering arbitration -- and a salary of maybe $3.4 million -- for a pitcher that may or may not be ready to pitch competitively next season, and could bolt for a big free agency payday after that if he does. The Cubs want a one-year deal with an option year to keep Prior. The Padres head a list of interested teams that also includes Cincinnati, Texas and possibly Philadelphia. ...

Other highlights from Piniella's media briefing Wednesday:

--He preached patience to fans who may be unsatisfied with the Cubs' lack of deals during the meetings, pledging that patience will be rewarded -- a thinly veiled reference to the Cubs' front-runner status for Japanese free agent Kosuke Fukudome. ``[GM Jim Hendry] [promised me by Christmas, I'll be pretty happy,'' Piniella said.

--Piniella said he expects the Cubs to add left-handed hitting via both free agency (Fukudome) and a trade, which suggests the Cubs might have a middle infielder in their sights. Boston's Alex Cora would be a good fit, but tough to land.

--Those who watched Ryan Theriot's productivity tail off at the end of the season and wondered if that loosened up the shortstop job going into spring training, Piniella said flatly Theriot's his shortstop in 2008. ``He earned it,'' said Piniella, who said Theriot's spot in the order (second or eighth) is likely to be determined by which players the Cubs are able to add to the lineup.

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This page contains a single entry by Gordon Wittenmyer published on December 5, 2007 3:25 PM.

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