Patton has had good spring (PHOTO/LARRY WOOLIS)
The Cubs say they are "intrigued" by right-hander David Patton, a Rule 5 draft pick. The Cincinnati Reds took Patton in the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings and traded him to Chicago.
Through March 20, Patton had worked in seven Cactus League games, giving up seven hits in 7 2/3 innings. More important, at least in the eyes of manager Lou Piniella, he hadn't walked a batter and had struck out nine.
"I'm going to tell you this: He's in the picture here," Piniella said.
Patton, 24, is a fastball-curveball pitcher who has impressed the field staff with his aggressiveness on the mound and his willingness to go right after hitters.
Two things possibly working against Patton are that he has not pitched above the Class A level and that the Cubs have several veteran, and more expensive, pitchers in camp. However, the Cubs think Patton's stuff is more than good enough.
This is a decision that could go down to the final day of spring training.
--LHP Sean Marshall has won the fifth starter's job to open the season. Marshall, who had the inside track coming into spring training, beat out RHPs Aaron Heilman, Chad Gaudin and Jeff Samardzija. However, with an off day in the opening week of the season, Piniella is likely to skip Marshall's first turn through the rotation, meaning Marshall could work in long relief before his first start.
--C Koyie Hill appears to have a big lead over Paul Bako and Mark Johnson for the job as Geovany Soto's backup. Through March 20, Hill was batting .394 with a home run and three doubles. He has come up from the minor leagues the past two years and filled in as the backup.
--RHPs Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg each worked more than one inning for the first time in the March 20 game against the Padres. Piniella said he may announce soon which of the two will win the closer's job. Marmol set up RHP Kerry Wood last year. Gregg was the Marlins' closer. Whichever one loses out will work the eighth inning.
--RHP Rich Harden missed his March 20 start because of a nasty stomach bug. Harden started only twice before that because the Cubs are taking it easy with his troublesome right shoulder, which Harden says is fine. Piniella said he doesn't believe the illness will put in jeopardy Harden's timetable for starting the fourth game of the regular season. The Cubs want three right-handers to face Milwaukee in the second series. They'd send Harden, Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster against the Brewers.
--1B Derrek Lee has been slowed by a sore right quadriceps. Lee played March 16, then sat out the next four days. The Cubs said they were being precautionary with the injury, and Lee said he would have played if it were the regular season. Lee also expressed no concern about a low batting average and a lack of power in the spring.
INSIDE THE NUMB3RS: 18 -- RBIs for 1B Micah Hoffpauir, tops in the major leagues through March 20. Hoffpauir has all but clinched a spot on the roster.
HE SAID IT: "This is going to sound odd, but Elton John is going to help us win some ballgames." -- Cubs chairman Crane Kenney on the revenue generated by having John and Billy Joel play concerts at Wrigley Field.