Randy Wells' best start of the season - to beat Atlanta 3-2 Wednesday night -- might have come just in time for him to remind the Cubs they could have more than a two-man starting rotation coming out of this season.
Even if it took a teammate jumping his ass a few starts back.
``It took a good kick in the butt from a teammate to remind me of the right mindset to go out there and pitch and make things happen,'' Wells said.
Wells retired the first 10 batters he faced Wednesday night and went two outs into the seventh inning with a one-hit shutout - until Chipper Jones unloaded on a long home run over the center field wall.
That was Wells' last batter but it didn't diminish the performance the Cubs have been looking for since a forearm strain sidelined him after a lights-out spring and one strong start in April.
``This one feels pretty good,'' said Wells (5-4), who missed two months with the injury. ``I still won't make any excuses for it, but it definitely was a hard thing to come back from. I think the biggest thing obviously is the physical health, but besides that the confidence - cutting the ball loose and having the confidence that it's going to carry and stay on the line that you want it to. ... Every start the confidence starts to come back and start to feel better.''
With Carlos Zambrano not expected back for the final year of his contract after he quit on the team two weeks ago, only Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster are assured of spots in next year's rotation from the current one.
Rehabbing Andrew Cashner is expected to get another shot at the rotation next spring.
And with Casey Coleman and Rodrigo Lopez the extent of the rest of the depth in that area, Wells could become increasingly important to the Cubs' plans if he closes out the final five weeks of the season strong.
``Coming out of spring training, I never had any doubt that I was going to have a good season,'' he said. ``I learned a lot last year, and even coming off the DL - just a lack of confidence, not sure of yourself.''
Enter the teammate with the swift kick.
``Ever since that day I've felt confidence and been throwing the ball really well,'' he said.
NOTES - Alfonso Soriano, whose two-run homer in the second gave the Cubs the lead for good, had his right forearm bandaged after the game because of a bad bruise from being hit by a pitch in the eighth. He said he was fine and expected to return to the lineup Thursday. ... Carlos Marmol became only the second pitcher in Cubs history to record 30 saves in consecutive seasons when he got No. 30 Wednesday (Lee Smith had four straight 30-save seasons in the 1980s). ... Aramis Ramirez extended his hitting streak to 13 games, during which he's hitting .560 (28-for-50) with four homers, three doubles, 14 RBIs and seven walks.