Piniella apologizes for comments

Piniella apologizes for Marquis comments

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs manager Lou Piniella apologized Sunday for comments he made regarding Jason Marquis, who said he wants to be a starter, and if there's no room in Chicago's rotation, he'd like to go elsewhere.

Piniella and Marquis met early Sunday for about 10 minutes.

"First of all, I'm going to apologize," Piniella said Sunday. "I didn't handle that situation well. I overreacted to it after the ballgame we didn't play particularly well in.

"I can understand why a player feels that way, and we'll leave it at that. The whole thing is I wasn't expecting it and it sort of surprised me. I should've handled it better and I apologize."

After his two-inning outing Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Marquis said if there's no spot for him in the Cubs rotation, he could "take my services elsewhere if that's the case, and I could help another team in that capacity as a starter."

Told about Marquis' comments after Saturday's game, Piniella was obviously angry.

"If that's the case, he can go somewhere else," Piniella said. "Win a spot in the rotation, you don't have to worry about it."

On Sunday, Piniella said things were fine between him and the right-hander, now in the second year of his three-year, $21 million contract with the Cubs.

"We're going to continue to go with the way we've been doing it," Piniella said. "Everybody will get an opportunity here to start. We'll see what happens here at the end of Spring Training. Competition is part of this thing. We have seven very capable people here to start. Is that my fault? No. We've got to give everybody a chance."

Marquis was not guaranteed a spot after his talk Sunday with Piniella. Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Rich Hill are set for the rotation, with Marquis competing with Ryan Dempster, Jon Lieber and Sean Marshall.

"I've said all along we have seven starters for five spots and that's how I've handled it," Piniella said. "I haven't talked to anybody else. We told Dempster we'd give him a chance to compete, Lieber the same thing and the same with Marshall and that's what we're going to do."

Marquis doesn't look at it as a head-to-head battle with the other three pitchers.

"Like I said, I don't compete with other players," he said. "The only people I compete with is myself and the hitter in the box. That doesn't mean I think I deserve the job over somebody or not. If you come on the basketball court and play defense on me, I'm going to compete. That's a whole different ballgame.

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"I compete with myself to get better every day, I compete with the hitter in the box. They're the one trying to take the ball out of the ballpark. Sean Marshall, Ryan Dempster and Jon Lieber, they're not trying to do that to me. We're all working for the same goal and that's to win ballgames."

Marquis hasn't changed his tune. He still wants to be a starter.

"Obviously," he said. "That's one of my career goals. I've done it effectively the last four-plus, five years. I feel that's where I'm best suited. We'll go from there and keep pitching and see where it takes us."

Piniella was asked about Marquis after the Cubs had lost, 6-2, to the Angels, and his emotional response was partly related to the outcome of the game.

"I overreacted to it," Piniella said. "I'm human and when I'm wrong, I admit I'm wrong. I should've handled the situation differently. I recognized it after I said it, but what can you do? On the way home, I said I stuck my foot in my mouth. I had already stuck it, so what do you do?

"Again, we're going to give [Marquis] every opportunity to compete and win himself a job. Basically, I like Jason, I really do. It had nothing to do with the person. I've got to be fair, and let people compete and let the process take hold."

Marquis said the meeting went well and "everything was fine."

"There was no problem before, there's no problem now," the pitcher said. "It was just a misunderstanding of words and that's what it came down to.

"I'm committed to the Chicago Cubs, first and foremost," Marquis said. "I want to pitch here, and that's why I signed here. I'm going to go out there and try to get better day by day and work on the things I need to work on, and cross that path [if he's not in the rotation] when we get there."

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry also talked to Piniella on Sunday and said the matter wasn't an issue.

"It's not that big a deal for me March 1," Hendry said. "It's going to play out fine. We're going to break camp with the five we think will give us the best chance."

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