While pointing to the spate of injuries that has slowed the Cubs, Piniella said those injuries aren't an excuse. At the same time, he's been praising his players for battling through them.
It all may be part of a grand strategy of looking long term and winning players over for the stretch drive.
The Cubs have been without right-hander Carlos Zambrano, left fielder Alfonso Soriano, outfielder Reed Johnson and left-hander Scott Eyre in addition to having several players at less than 100 percent because of injuries.
Piniella and the Cubs point to the fact that they're in first place and have expressed confidence that they'll be fine in the second half once everybody is 100 percent healthy.
--RHP Carlos Zambrano threw 60 pitches at "100 percent" Sunday in the bullpen as his final test before coming off the DL. Zambrano has been on the shelf since June 19 because of a strained right shoulder. He proclaimed himself ready to start Friday at St. Louis.
--The Cubs placed LHP Scott Eyre on the DL Saturday with a strained left groin and recalled RHP Jose Ascanio from Class AAA Iowa (Des Moines). The move leaves the Cubs with one lefty in the bullpen, Neal Cotts.
--SS Ryan Theriot has been slowed by swelling in his right-thumb area. He started Sunday after missing the first two games of the White Sox series. Theriot may have hurt his hand getting jammed at the plate.
--LF Alfonso Soriano has had additional X-rays taken of his broken left hand. He has been on the DL since June 12. He has been cleared to do strengthening exercises without a splint. He'll accompany the Cubs on their upcoming road trip to San Francisco and St. Louis but isn't sure when he can pick up a bat. He hopes to beat the original timetable of a total of six weeks off.
--LHP Ted Lilly, who starts Monday's series opener at San Francisco, has a 4.53 road ERA compared with 4.92 at Wrigley Field. He has allowed two or fewer runs in three of his last four road starts.