Per Chris De Luca's story in Wednesday’s Sun-Times, the race for the fifth starter’s spot seems to be between Wade Miller and Angel Guzman. Neal Cotts will pitch long relief and Mark Prior will wind up in a city (Chicago? Des Moines?) and capacity (Starter? Reliever?! On the Disabled List?) to be determined. But Larry Rothschild says Prior is healthy.

''It doesn't always look like it because he is pushing balls and things like that, but he has felt pretty good all along. And that's the key. If he keeps pushing it that way, it will all come together at some point. We'll just keep working and try to get him over the hump.''

Miller wasn’t brilliant in Tuesday’s start against Arizona, allowing two runs and five hits in four innings, but Lou Piniella seems to suggest the job is now Miller’s to lose. Says the skip, “(Miller) hasn’t done anything here in spring training that you don’t like.”

Also on Wednesday, the Tribune’s Dave van Dyck reported that Alfonso Soriano appears to have landed the center field job, with Piniella coming thisclose to saying Soriano will definitely be there on opening day. “I didn’t say that, but it looks like it. I haven’t seen anything to tell me he cannot play center field.”

Throughout this spring training, Piniella has offered frank judgments of his players—a marvelous relief from four years of Dusty double talk—so I want to be encouraged by the fact that Lou is able to see Alfonso as a legitimate center fielder.

Still, I have the feeling that where Soriano and center field are concerned, Lou is simply crossing his fingers and closing his eyes a bit. As he acknowledges in van Dyck’s story, “With the logjam we have in the outfield, (this is) the best possible scenario we have to start the season.”

In other words, it might not be a great or even good idea to turn a terrible second baseman turned borderline left fielder into your starting center fielder, but barring other developments, it’s the best the Cubs can do.


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