Notes: Theriot thrilled to nab roster spot

Notes: Theriot thrilled to nab spot

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Last year, Ryan Theriot was the 26th man and didn't make the Cubs' Opening Day roster. This spring, Theriot is trying to find someplace for his family to live in Chicago. He's made it.

"It's the first time for me," Theriot said Saturday about making the team. "For me, I was always fighting to make the team. Last year, in the Minors, was the first year I knew I'd be a starter.

"It does make you feel good," he said. "You get that sense that, hey, they're counting on me to help. I don't have to go out there and scrap and fight to make the team, which was always the case."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella called Theriot into his office to give him the news, but that doesn't mean the versatile infielder can lounge by the pool for the rest of Spring Training.

"I don't think he would've told me that if he thought that would happen," said Theriot, who is batting .409 so far, and had two hits Saturday. "You still do your work every day, and you've seen the way I go about my business. It was a cool thing. It made me feel good."

Actually, he was a little giddy after getting the news.

"You're on cloud nine for a little while, that's for sure," Theriot said. "Honestly, I fully expected to be on [the Opening Day roster]. You have to, as a competitor and athlete, you have to feel like you belong. It's just never been something that's happened for me."

He started at third base on Saturday for the second straight day and will get some playing time in the outfield as well. Theriot has been peppering Mark DeRosa with questions about the different positions. He could develop into a Ryan Freel-type player. Freel played second, third and all three outfield positions last year for Cincinnati. Those types of players are valuable.

"They are, and now more than ever with all the double switches and everything," Theriot said. "It frees up the manager to do a lot of different things. You can insert them and not worry about their offense. You say, 'Well, he can play defense, but he's not going to get a hit.' That's not the case. You never know. A lot of guys hit their way into a starting job."

Piniella has often told the story about how he began the year as a fourth outfielder, then played his way into the lineup as a regular. Theriot knows he could get even more playing time.

"It's good that things aren't set in stone," Theriot said. "It keeps the competition up. Guys keep working hard. I think they're going to put the best lineup out there. It's comforting for me. If I can get some reps in the outfield, get some reps at third, at short, you never know."

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Arms race: Neal Cotts made his first start Friday, and gave up four runs, none earned, on seven hits over two innings against the Texas Rangers.

"I felt better, I made some good pitches," said the left-hander, who is in the mix for the vacancy in the Cubs rotation. "I got in a situation where I needed to get a guy with two outs, and I made a bad pitch and he got a double. Other than that, I felt it was OK."

It's still early, and Cotts said he's still working on things. Whether he starts or is used in relief doesn't matter.

"Not really," Cotts said. "My basic mindset is stretch it out, try to work on all your pitches, and just go from there. I feel a lot better compared to what I did in the first couple outings. I just want to get mechanically better, and make more quality pitches, that's it."

Piniella said the reports on Cotts' outing were "mixed."

"He should've gotten out of his work with better results," Piniella said. "We booted the ball behind him. He didn't really have as good stuff as he had the second time out. He faced 13 hitters and didn't get a strikeout. Lester [Strode, bullpen coach] said he liked what he saw. Cotts was throwing his fastball over for strikes, and what he really needs is to get his second and third pitch over."

Cotts is expected to get another start and be stretched out to three, four innings. Piniella said he expects to know who the fifth starter will be and who the long man in the 'pen will be by March 20.

Squeaky wheel: After Friday's game, Jake Fox poked his head into Piniella's office and asked for a few minutes. Piniella told him to stop by Saturday. They talked, and on Saturday, Fox subbed behind the plate at catcher and definitely made an impression. He was 2-for-2 with a double and a two-run homer.

"How about Fox?" Piniella said after Saturday's game, a 6-5 loss to the Royals. "He came into my office yesterday and today, he let the bat do the talking."

Fox has a career .284 average in the Minor Leagues. He can hit.

"He wants to play," Piniella said. "I don't blame him. He's got a nice bat, and it's quick and powerful. We knew he could swing the bat."

Fox played some outfield and some first base in the Arizona Fall League. He offered to move around this spring. He hasn't offered to pitch yet.

"When he tells me he can play center field, I'll start to wonder," Piniella said.

Extra bases: First baseman Mike Kinkade had to leave Saturday's game when he was hit on the left hand by a pitch. He was taken to Mesa for X-rays, which were inconclusive. ... The Cubs are expected to make the first round of roster cuts on Monday. ... Outfielder Cliff Floyd is on track to play in his first game Monday, when the Cubs play in Scottsdale against the Giants. He's expected to start in left. ... Sean Marshall, slowed this spring with shoulder issues, threw his second batting practice session Saturday. It will be at least four days before he's slotted for a Cactus League game. "For all practical purposes, he's three weeks behind everybody, and we certainly don't want to rush him," Piniella said. ... Michael Wuertz, who has been sidelined with a strained right shoulder, also could get into a game in the next couple days. ... The candidates for the No. 2 spot in the lineup include Theriot, Matt Murton, DeRosa, Cesar Izturis and Jacque Jones. "It'll come out of that group," Piniella said. Jones will get some playing time in center field this spring as well.

On deck: The Cubs play host to the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday at 3:05 p.m. CT. Jason Marquis is slated to make his third start for the Cubs and face Claudio Vargas. So far this spring, Marquis has given up one run on five hits over five innings. Kerry Wood is on the list of pitchers expected to see action. It'll be Wood's third spring appearance. The game will be broadcast on WGN Radio and can be heard on Gameday Audio.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.