Bullpen Starting to Worry Piniella

Brian Barden homers off Angel Guzman Thursday (AP)

Cubs manager Lou Piniella was given an almost entirely new bullpen this year, and it's starting to concern him. Piniella watched Thursday as Cubs relievers couldn't hold a lead for Sean Marshall, who left with Chicago holding a 4-3 edge over St. Louis after five innings.

The Cardinals went on to win 7-4. Piniella was asked if it was too early to be concerned.

"Too early?" he said. "It's 4:30 in the afternoon."

In the first part of the season, Piniella has been upset with his relievers giving up walks. So far this season, Cubs relief pitchers have given up 20 walks in 31 innings.

"All we can do is preach," he said.

Aaron Heilman suffered a blown save in the sixth when he gave up a game-tying homer to Khalil Greene. David Patton, a Rule 5 pick trying to stick with the Cubs, allowed two walks (one intentional) and one hit. He was charged with two runs, as Neal Cotts allowed an inherited runner to score on a hit. Angel Guzman gave up a homer to Brian Barden in the ninth.

Only Carlos Marmol returns from the bullpen that opened the 2008 season, and Piniella is still learning what he has. However, his patience appears to be wearing thin.

CARDINALS 7, CUBS 4: Kosuke Fukudome's three-run homer in the fifth put the Cubs ahead 4-3, but the bullpen allowed the Cardinals a run in the sixth, two in the seventh and one in the eighth. Marshall made his first start of the season, giving up seven hits and three runs in five innings. The Cubs offense didn't manage a hit over the final three innings against the St. Louis bullpen.

NOTES, QUOTES

--OF Milton Bradley was ejected from Thursday's game after being called out on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning. Bradley, who had not played since straining his right groin Sunday, was pinch-hitting. Before the game, Bradley ran and took batting practice, and the Cubs hope he can start Friday. Bradley has been known for his run-ins with umpires, but Piniella said he had no reaction to Bradley being tossed.

--Fukudome hit his third homer of the year Thursday, going 2-for-5 with a double. He has hit safely in six of seven games, going 12-for-28 (.429). He's batting .375 with an .487 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of .781.

MINORS WATCH

IOWA 8, ALBUQUERQUE 7 (CLASS AAA)

At Albuquerque, N.M., the Cubs (5-3) tallied 12 hits to earn a series split with the Isotopes Thursday. 1B Jake Fox recorded his third consecutive multi-hit game, finishing 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles. He is batting .516 (16-for-31) with nine extra-base hits and 16 RBIs through eight games. CF Sam Fuld, LF Jason Dubois and 2B Bobby Scales each added two hits. RHP Esmailin Caridad (2-0) picked up the win, tossing five innings. He allowed four runs and seven hits to go with three walks and three strikeouts.

TENNESSEE 4, BIRMINGHAM 2 (CLASS AA)

At Sevierville, the Smokies (3-4) recorded 11 hits to snap a three-game losing streak Thursday. 1B Blake Lalli, RF Jim Adduci and LF Ty Wright each recorded two hits apiece for Tennessee with Lalli recording a go-ahead two-run double in the sixth inning. RHP Hung-Wen Chen (2-0) got the win, allowing one earned run and six hits over 6 1/3 innings. He struck out four batters. Tennessee used three pitchers in relief with RHP Blake Parker recording his first save.

DUNEDIN 6, DAYTONA 4 (CLASS HIGH-A)

At Daytona Beach, the Cubs (3-4) were swept by the Blue Jays Thursday. 3B Marquez Smith finished 1-for-4 and hit a two-run home run in a losing effort. 1B Russ Canzler (1-for-4) finished with two RBIs. Daytona was held to seven hits in the loss. RHP Ryan Searle (0-1) suffered the loss in 4 2/3 innings on the mound. He allowed three earned runs and five hits to go with three strikeouts.

QUAD CITIES 8, PEORIA 6 (CLASS-A)

At Davenport, Iowa, the Chiefs (4-3) dropped the series opener despite out-hitting the River Bandits, 10-4. 1B Rebel Ridling was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs to extend his Midwest League-leading RBI total to 10. Ridling is batting .400 (8-for-20) with a hit in all but one of his first seven games. Top Cubs prospect Josh Vitters also finished with two hits, as did C Michael Brenly in his first start since joining the team from extended spring training. RHP Chris Carpenter (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing three earned runs on two hits in four innings. Carpenter struck out six batters and walked five. Peoria pitchers combined for eight walks. The Chiefs committed three errors.

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