Prospects work in shadow of rumors

Prospects work in shadow of rumors

MESA, Ariz. -- The long-running Brian Roberts rumors won't go away, and Cubs manager Lou Piniella called them "unsettling" for the young players whose names have been mentioned.

There's been no movement in talks, but the Baltimore Orioles are reportedly sending scout Bruce Kison to Arizona this week to look at some of the Cubs' pitchers.

"You hate to tell somebody he's on [the team], or too many people they're on," Piniella said Sunday. "The one thing with our camp and these trade rumors all the time, it's been a little unsettling for a lot of these kids here. It's hard enough -- it's not easy for them to come here and read their names all the time."

Why doesn't Piniella tell Cubs general manager Jim Hendry to make the deal for the O's second baseman? Piniella laughed. It's not that easy.

On Roberts' first day in the O's camp, he was asked about the gossip.

"It's a great organization," Roberts said of the Cubs. "I've never played there, but it looks like a fun place to play. And they've certainly made an effort to put themselves in a situation to win. Yeah, I think the bottom line is I do want to win. Would I like it to be here [with the O's]? Of course. This is all I know.

"But for this organization, if it's better to send me to another place and get a couple of pieces for down the road, I understand that, too. The sooner the chance I get to win, the better off."

The Internet rumors don't bother young Cubs pitcher Sean Gallagher. He threw last Friday at the Minor League facility, and there were several scouts watching, including one from the Orioles. It's nothing unusual for Gallagher, who pitched in the Arizona Fall League last October.

"They don't call it the Arizona Fall League -- they call it the 'Arizona Scout League,'" Gallagher said. "It seemed like every other game we went to they had a scouts pool. It's 60 to 70 scouts out there.

"I've always pitched in front of scouts. High school was different because you're trying to throw out of your brain. Up here, it's, 'Go out and make your pitches and relax.' Let them see what they want to see. I'm not worried about their opinion. I'm worried about what the Cubs think. I'm trying to get outs, I'm trying to make the decision hard for someone. I want to help this team."

If the Cubs didn't have veterans like Jason Marquis, Jon Lieber and Ryan Dempster ahead of him, Gallagher could be challenging for a spot in the rotation.

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"I guess you could call me an insurance option, just in case something happens," Gallagher said. "Even if I'm not [starting], I'd like the long relief role. I want to go through the full year and help this team win and help them win a championship."

It's not as if the Cubs need a second baseman. They have Mark DeRosa, who is doing fine after undergoing a procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat. DeRosa went down to the Minor League complex on Sunday to catch up on at-bats and get more work in.

Piniella does have decisions to make, and said he expects to finalize them by the end of this week. He also plans to announce who will fill the last rotation spots and who will be the closer.

"We're going to have to put everybody in roles," Piniella said.

One player who is making the Cubs re-think their decisions is Micah Hoffpauir, who is batting .486. He has mostly played first base this spring but started in right field on Sunday.

Hoffpauir isn't going to replace Kosuke Fukudome or Derrek Lee on the Cubs' big league roster, but he could win a job on the bench. He's played every game this spring but would likely be a part-time player if he goes to Chicago. Could he handle that?

"I think I could," Hoffpauir said Sunday. "I think I have the right mindset. There are enough people here who have the experience who you could talk to about that kind of thing. It's definitely something I could work my way into doing."

"We've been looking for a left-hand bat who can hit a little bit, and we might just have him in camp," Piniella said of Hoffpauir. "He's had a real nice spring. He's looking for a spot. We'll see."

Hoffpauir also had a good spring last year and was assigned to Triple-A Iowa, where he hit .319 and would've been called up but suffered a season-ending knee injury.

"He's a better hitter now than what I saw last spring," Piniella said. "He hangs in there against lefties, he's hitting the ball to left field, which he didn't last spring. I've been impressed with his approach. Now, where do you put him is obviously the question. I like his bat. He swings it."

One backup spot the Cubs aren't set on is center field. Expect to see Fukudome play there this coming week.

"If somebody gets hurt in the course of a game, or a double switch, we have to give him a little work in center field," Piniella said.

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