Pierre's Start Doesn't Trouble Baker

Baker isn't concerned with CF's start

Juan Pierre's lukewarm start at the plate has contributed to his lack of stolen bases in spring training.

The Cubs traded for the speedy center fielder in December for him to get on base and create havoc so that sluggers Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez could drive him home.

But through his first 16 Cactus League games, he was hitting .255, and he picked up his first steal of the spring in four attempts against San Diego on Wednesday night.

Manager Dusty Baker said he wasn't concerned. Pierre's 267 stolen bases in 845 major league games are proof enough for the skipper that Pierre's slow start will not last into the regular season.

"He hasn't forgotten how to steal," Baker said. "For a while, he wasn't getting on base to steal. Then you go through your basic soreness in spring training with your legs.

"On the other hand, I think that catchers are at their freshest throwing-wise. As the season goes on, the catchers' throws get a little worse. They are at their maximum arm strength right now."

NOTES, QUOTES

--1B Derrek Lee returned to the lineup after being out since March 12 with a left shoulder injury. Lee, who injured the shoulder when he dove for a ball in the World Baseball Classic, was hit in the left triceps by the first pitch he saw Thursday, then doubled and struck out against Seattle. He said after the game that he felt no pain in the shoulder.

--LHP Glendon Rusch, who entered Thursday's game with a 9.82 ERA in Cactus League play, gave up a run and a hit in the first inning against Seattle but settled down and did not allow a run or hit in the next four frames. The Cubs are depending on Rusch to perform well when the season starts. He is slotted second in the rotation because of the shoulder injury to Mark Prior.

--3B Aramis Ramirez was hit in the ribs with a pitch Wednesday night but was able to play Thursday afternoon. Manager Dusty Baker was going to give him a day off after the night game, but Ramirez insisted he wanted to play. He responded by hitting two doubles and driving in two runs against Seattle.

--RHP Ryan Dempster, who had spent 10 days pitching simulated innings rather than pitching in Cactus League games, threw a 1-2-3 inning against San Diego on Wednesday night and returned Thursday to retire the final batter against Seattle. Dempster said he was not hurt during his absence, rather he wanted to pitch in a controlled setting to build up his strength.

--The Cubs made a round of roster cuts Thursday. They optioned C Geovany Soto to Triple-A Iowa and optioned INF Brian Dopirak to Double-A West Tenn. INFs Casey McGehee and Augie Ojeda were reassigned to minor league camp.

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