Notes: Improvement sought vs. lefties

Notes: Improvement sought vs. lefties

LOS ANGELES -- The Cubs will face two left-handed starters this weekend in Los Angeles' Mark Hendrickson and Randy Wolf. If you look at the numbers, that doesn't bode well for the Cubs -- but it should.

As of Friday, the Cubs were 3-7 against left-handed starters, including 1-6 on the road.

"It surprises me, and the reason being is our lineup is predominantly right-handed," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said on Friday. "One of the secrets of beating left-handed pitching consistently is to have left-handed hitters who can hit left-handed pitching."

Among the Cubs' left-handed hitters, Jacque Jones was batting .167 (3-for-18) against lefties entering Friday, Cliff Floyd was hitting .333 (2-for-6) and Daryle Ward was 0-for-4.

Piniella likes to insert Matt Murton (.258 against lefties) and switch-hitter Angel Pagan (.333) in the lineup against left-handed pitchers.

"I've asked Jim Hendry, our [general manager], and that was the case last year, too," Piniella said about the Cubs' struggles in 2006, when they were 22-30 against lefties. "I don't know why. I don't know if we pull off or try to pull too much."

If the Cubs could insert a couple left-handed hitters who had success against southpaw starters, it would make the pitcher work harder. They'd have to pitch to both sides of the plate instead of staying on one side and getting into a groove.

"It's almost like an 'Iron Mike' machine," he said, refering to an automated pitching machine. "You set it up to pitch on one side of the plate, it can throw 1,000 pitches here. If you have to adjust it, he'll throw them here [on one side] and here [on the other] and can throw a couple down the middle."

Bottom line, the Cubs should fare better with right-handers like Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano.

"I like all these numbers," Piniella said, "but sometimes they drive you crazy."

Big boppers: Speaking of numbers, it seems odd that Jones has one home run in 144 at-bats. Jones has the fifth most at-bats on the Cubs, and is coming off a season in which he matched his personal high of 27. Piniella talked to Jones in the outfield on Thursday.

"I said, 'Son, have confidence in yourself and relax, and when you go home, don't worry about this,'" Piniella said. "Let the manager worry."

"I'm just trying to get hits," said Jones, who was batting .243. "Home runs come with hits. I want to get hits. I go up to the plate to hit."

Soriano appears to be breaking out of his funk -- his triple on Thursday against San Diego was an encouraging sign -- but Jones is scuffling.

"We need Jones. We need Jones to hit," Piniella said. "I'm not talking about 25, 30 home runs, I'm talking about hits, drive in some runs."

Jones' lone homer was May 1 at Pittsburgh. He's batting .231 with runners in scoring position.

"I'd expect him to come out of this thing any day," Piniella said.

Fresh 'pen: Ever since Angel Guzman was moved to the bullpen, the other right-handers seem to have fared better.

"All of a sudden, I don't have to rely on [Bob] Howry and [Michael] Wuertz," Piniella said. "These guys are fresher and they've got more stuff on the ball when they come in. I like the way our bullpen is set up, I really do."

Memorial Day: On Monday, the Cubs will celebrate Memorial Day with special events before their game against the Florida Marlins. Challenger, an American bald eagle, will fly onto the field at the conclusion of the national anthem. Army Sgt. Bryan Anderson of Rolling Meadows, Ill., will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Anderson, 25, lost three limbs while serving in Iraq when the Humvee he was in struck a roadside bomb in Baghdad on Oct. 23, 2005.

The Northwest Marine Corps League Color Guard will be in attendance. And the Cubs and Marlins will observe a moment of remembrance at 3 p.m. CT to recognize those who served and continue to serve the nation.

Monday's game begins a six-game homestand against the Marlins and Atlanta Braves.

Extra bases: Wade Miller will make one more rehab start for Triple-A Iowa on Saturday before the Cubs make a decision on what to do with the right-hander. ... Scott Eyre hasn't pitched in four days, and Piniella said he'd like to get the lefty in a game. "He's shown flashes of starting to throw the ball better," Piniella said. ... Piniella played at Dodger Stadium in the 1977, '78 and '81 World Series with the Yankees and hit .273, .280 and .438, respectively, in the series those years. "It's a really nice park," he said.

On deck: Carlos Zambrano will start Game 2 of this weekend series in Los Angeles against Hendrickson. First pitch is scheduled for 2:55 p.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast on FOX TV.

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