LOS ANGELES -- When the Cubs opened spring training, they claimed to have eight starting pitchers for five spots.
The first pitcher eliminated was Sean Gallagher.
Tonight, Gallagher will make his sixth start of the season when he pitches against the Dodgers.
"He's got a good arm," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "He's basically learning to pitch at the big-league level. He's working every time he works in the bullpen on his second and third pitches. He's got a fine arm.
"I've said many times it surprised me how good an arm he has. I didn't see it last spring, and I didn't see it last summer, and I didn't see it this spring. I knew he had the potential to be a major-league pitcher, but I didn't realize he threw as hard as he did."
Gallagher enters tonight's start with a record of 3-1 and a 4.55 ERA. He lost weight in the off-season, and Piniella said he feels that has helped Gallagher.
"He's in much better shape," the manager said. "He doesn't have to labor as much to throw. I think he's got a little more arm speed. And those are all important considerations in throwing a baseball.
"Now he needs to stay in good shape, and he needs to keep working on his second and third pitches. I can see this young man staying in our rotation for this year and for years to come, with success."
Murton or Hoffpauir? Infielder-outfielder Daryle Ward is said to be progressing more slowly than hoped in his recovery from a bulging disc in his lower back.
The Cubs wanted to have Ward ready for the interleague games, which begin next weekend in Toronto and continue in Tampa Bay.
If he's not ready, the Cubs likely will call up either left-handed batter Micah Hoffpaiur from Class AAA Iowa or righty Matt Murton, either of whom could DH.
Runnin' Cubs? The Cubs entered Thursday seventh in the NL with 42 stolen bases. The 6 they stole Tuesday at San Diego represented their highest in a game since they stole 6 at Montreal in May 2000.
"We run in spurts," Lou Piniella said. "When we have an opportunity to run, we run. And if the pitchers' times are quick to the plate or the catcher from the other team throws particularly well, we sort of hit and run a little more.
"But when we find situations we like, yeah, we'll get aggressive. In fact, I gave the option to steal more than we actually ran. I was hoping we'd run a little more than we did."
That said, the Cubs still aren't a true basestealing team.
"We've got a semblance of speed here," Piniella said. "We don't have what you'd call a true basestealer. But we do have tactical speed that we can use, and these kids work at it, and we're not scared to use it. But we don't have what you'd classify as a burner."