Camp Report: Velocity Woes Present

Mark Prior

The top two candidates for the No. 5 spot in the Cubs rotation had troubles with their velocity early in Cactus League play.

Mark Prior and Wade Miller, who both missed significant time in 2006 because of shoulder woes, failed to hit 90 mph on radar guns when they opened the exhibition season.

Both were in the mid- to high-80 mph range.

Prior, who made just one appearance in three previous Cactus League seasons, faced Seattle on March 5 and lasted just 1 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on four hits.

But he came out of the game healthy, and that's what's important to the Cubs.

"For the first time in almost 2 1/2 years, I wasn't more worried about my arm than facing hitters," Prior said.

"Obviously he needs to throw the ball better -- let's be honest," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "But it's a start he can improve on."

Three days earlier, Miller gave up a run in two innings of work against Oakland. In his second outing against San Diego on March 8, Miller gave up a run on six hits in three innings.

"I'm not really changing my approach as far as going out there and doing anything different," Miller said. "I'm just trying to go out and throw strikes and get outs, and the rest is going to come. It's up to them -- whatever they decide is up to them."

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Michael Wuertz, who is battling for one of the final spots in the bullpen, is hoping to make his first Cactus League appearance the week of March 12 after suffering from tightness in his right shoulder.

--RHP Roberto Novoa, who suffered minor injuries in January after being involved in an auto accident, made his Cactus League debut on March 7 and gave up three runs in a third of an inning. He is battling for one of the final spots in the bullpen.

--INF Ryan Theriot figures to be on solid ground as far as breaking camp on the 25-man roster because he can work as a backup second baseman and shortstop. But he is also working out in the outfield to prove his versatility.

--LF Cliff Floyd, who is recovering from surgery to remove bone spurs from his left ankle, has been sitting out the early part of the Cactus League season at the Cubs' request but is expected to make his debut on March 12. Floyd said he didn't need the time off, but the Cubs felt it would be smart to keep him from too much running and cutting.

--RHP Kerry Wood, who will spend the 2007 season in the bullpen to save wear and tear on his oft-injured arm, threw in the mid 90s in his Cactus League debut March 5 against Seattle. While there is speculation he could eventually become a closer, the Cubs are going to wait until they see how his arm responds after outings before even considering that move.

BY THE NUMBERS: 57 -- Number of ejections in Cubs manager Lou Piniella's 2,939-game career. Piniella claims he has mellowed over the years.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I believe this year that I will win the Cy Young and will enjoy that. And besides that, we will win the World Series -- I guarantee that." -- Cubs RHP Carlos Zambrano.

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