Probably a result of his team's anemic hitting the past few days, along with the monthlong slump of tonight's starting pitcher, Piniella was short and a not-exactly-sweet Lou during his pregame media session -- to the the degree of creating unnecessary intrigue over the recent decision to skip Rich Harden in the rotation.
It's no secret that Harden had a history of injuries the past few years with Oakland before the Cubs got him in that July trade. And skipping him seemed nothing more than the reasonable precaution rhe club explained a few days ago -- until Piniella got curt with a couple of mundane questions on the matter this afternoon.
Question: ``What was the reason Harden was given full turn off in the rotation?''
Piniella: ``He needed the time. Obviously, if he could pitch we'd have kept him in the rotation.''
Question (after a few other questions on other topics): ``You said Harden needed the time. Did he ask for it?''
Piniella: ``He needed the time. We'll just leave it at that.''
Of course, there's no just leaving it at that. Not when you're the Cubs, and you have a lead in September, and you're talking about a pitcher with a history of injuries.
So, naturally, that set off a search for more answers. And after GM Jim Hendry provided the kind of answer we might have expected from Lou -- ``We've been planning to do this all along once we got the chance. We said that from the start. He's fine. Etc. Etc.'' -- it was off to see what Harden had to say.
After all, if it was that simple, why didn't Lou just say so -- even if it meant spending a sentence or two repeating something that was said over the weekend?
By the time Harden finished a TV interview on another subject, a group of four writers turned into a mob of a dozen or more waiting for the bewildered pitcher.
``Didn't we just talk about this yesterday?'' he said.
No, there's no pain, he said. Why is this a big deal today all of a sudden, he said. The decision was made mutually, during a sit-down with the pitching coach and trainer, he said.
He walked away shaking his head.
Welcome to the Cubs, Rich.
And, of course, we'll all be watching even closer now when you start again, against St. Louis next week.