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Notes: Health paying off for Gallagher

Notes: Health pays off for Gallagher

MESA, Ariz. -- Sean Gallagher didn't check the list to see which scouts from other teams were at HoHoKam Park on Saturday to watch the Cubs right-hander pitch.

Gallagher has been mentioned often in trade rumors. He's focused on trying to win a job, and right now, it's with the Cubs. On Saturday against Arizona, the right-hander struck out two and walked one, facing seven batters over two innings.

"I'm not worried about who's in the stands," Gallagher said. "I'm just here trying to open a few eyes and trying to find a spot on this team. I'm coming to get my work done, go out there and prepare every day.

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"I'm just working my tail off every day. If someone says, 'Hey, the job is yours,' I'm still going to bust my butt every day, 110 percent."

Gallagher fell behind hitters in his first outing. This was much better, and a lot of the credit goes to him for being in better shape. When he left Chicago, Gallagher was 250 pounds. Now, he's 220.

"It's so much easier," he said. "I don't feel I have to put in so much exertion into every pitch and fight against myself."

He's more agile in the field. In the sixth, Gallagher scampered to first to take a flip from first baseman Derrek Lee for a putout.

"Normally, I would've missed that one," Gallagher said. "The old me would be five steps behind the new me. I feel pretty good."

Welcome back: Alfonso Soriano went 2-for-4 on Saturday, including an RBI single, in his first game since Spring Training began. He had been sidelined with a nondisplaced fracture in a finger on his right hand, but didn't have any problems with the bat.

He looked comfortable running, but says he's only going 85 percent, not 100 percent.

"My legs feel good," Soriano said. "I'm a little scared because today is my second game. Every day, I feel more comfortable. Today, I had it in my mind that I had a problem last year [with his leg]. Maybe one more week, I'll be OK.

"I know I can run a little bit more. It's more in my mind."

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Arms race: The Cubs have seven starters for five spots, and Cubs manager Lou Piniella said he anticipates one of the candidates will wind up in the bullpen. However, that still leaves one extra pitcher. Piniella isn't exactly sure what will happen.

By March 23 or sooner, pitching coach Larry Rothschild will have everyone aligned for the regular season.

"We'll just go with our best starting pitching, and that's it," Piniella said. "I don't know how else to do it."

To keep Ted Lilly on track, he will pitch on March 17, which is an off-day for the team, at the Minor League complex. Carlos Zambrano will get an extra day so he doesn't face the Brewers, against whom he will open the season, again this spring.

"The other thing we talked about is that by [March 23], we have to get our roles sorted out in the bullpen," Piniella said. "That will give us roughly five or six games to be able to get the bullpen the way we want."

One issue is set: The Cubs will carry 12 pitchers.

"I don't see how we can go with 11 pitchers here," Piniella said. "[Eleven] sounds good, and then carry the extra position player. I think we'll go with 12 pitchers and our five starters, and the heck with it."

Jon Lieber made a strong case to include him in the rotation. In his second start, he gave up two hits, both to former teammate Augie Ojeda, and struck out four over four innings.

"His pitch count was so low, he wanted to go out and get another inning in," Piniella said. "He threw strikes, and his velocity has improved and his breaking ball is getting tighter."

After his first outing, Lieber said he felt as if he was throwing in "slow motion."

"I still didn't feel the type of rhythm I'd like to be in," he said Saturday. "I know it's still early. First-pitch strikes, I'm disappointed in that. The first inning or so, it was good, but I was getting behind and had to come back. Overall, I was happy with my breaking ball and location-wise and trying to stay right there."

Aches and pains: Mark DeRosa, who has been sidelined after undergoing a procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat, is expected to make his Cactus League debut Monday. The only question has been whether DeRosa could run.

"The trainer came into my office today and said, 'Give him a real good work day today, lighten him up tomorrow, and if he's OK, get him in the lineup,'" Piniella said.

Kevin Hart had a bruise on his left calf after getting hit by a ball on Friday in the eighth inning. His leg tightened up on him after the game.

"I woke up this morning and felt fine," Hart said. "I've been hit before."

Batter up: Arizona pitcher Micah Owings batted seventh on Saturday, instead of ninth, which is where most pitchers are inserted in the lineup.

"He's a legit hitter," Piniella said.

What about Chicago's Zambrano? Big Z hit six homers one year. Would Piniella ever consider moving the right-hander up in the batting order?

"Zambrano swings the bat well, obviously, and so does [Jason] Marquis, although he didn't hit all that well last year," Piniella said. "I don't think Lilly or [Rich] Hill or whomever [fills the fifth spot in the rotation] would force us to do anything like that. I don't think so -- just hit the pitcher ninth and forget about it."

However, Piniella did briefly consider tweaking the order on Wednesday, when the Cubs played Arizona and Zambrano was starting.

"I was going to do that the other day when we went to Tucson, just joking around with [catcher] Henry Blanco a little bit, but I didn't," Piniella said. "I was going to put Zambrano eighth and Blanco ninth.

"If we ever did anything like that -- which I don't anticipate doing -- it'd have to be a speed guy in the ninth spot so it gives us the look of an American League ninth hitter," Piniella said. "A [Felix] Pie, a [Ryan] Theriot, somebody like that, but not to hit a catcher ninth, no, and clog up the bases."

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa has most of his pitchers hitting eighth.

"I like the pitcher hitting ninth -- the heck with it," Piniella said.

Zambrano, who already has one home run this spring, will probably be knocking on Piniella's door to try and convince the manager to change his mind.

"Zambrano wants to make sure he doesn't play in these American League parks and we use the DH," Piniella said. "He looks to see where he's scheduled so he can get his at-bats."

Owings never got a chance to bat Saturday. He was pulled after giving up four runs in 1 2/3 innings.

Good cause: The Cubs Wives will host the 11th annual food drive to benefit Paz de Cristo on March 14 at HoHoKam Park. The first 400 fans who make a donation of 10 non-perishable food items or $20 will have the opportunity to randomly select a Cubs autographed baseball grab bag featuring former and current Cubs.

On deck: Ryan Dempster will make his third spring start Sunday in Surprise at 3:05 p.m. CT, when the Cubs travel to play the Kansas City Royals. Dempster, battling for a spot in the rotation, has given up two earned runs on four hits and two walks over five innings in his two previous starts. Kerry Wood could get one inning of work. Kosuke Fukudome is not on the travel roster and won't make the trip. The game will be broadcast on WGN TV and WGN Radio. Don't be confused -- Sunday's game was listed on some schedules as a home game.

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

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{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }