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Cubs discuss shutting down struggling Hill
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff

The Cubs' Daryle Ward grabs a flyball hit by Ray Durham in the third inning Tuesday night.


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Published: 7/2/2008 12:06 AM

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SAN FRANCISCO - Don't look for lefty Rich Hill in a Cubs uniform any time soon. In fact, manager Lou Piniella said Tuesday the organization has discussed shutting Hill down, at least for a while.

The 28-year-old Hill, who opened the season as the Cubs' No. 4 starter, had another disastrous outing Tuesday, this time for the Arizona Cubs of the Rookie League. Hill started against the Padres' team and lasted one-third of an inning, giving up 1 hit, 5 runs (4 earned) while walking three and hitting a batter. He hit the first batter and walked the next two.

Hill's problems are a mystery to the Cubs, who demoted him from to Class AAA Iowa on May 3. When Hill continued to struggle with his command at Iowa, the Cubs sent him to Arizona and the team's spring-training facility.

"They've actually discussed that; it might be just best to shut him down totally," Piniella said. "I don't know if that's going to happen, but it's been discussed, yes. It's a shame, it really is. This came out of nowhere this spring and fed on itself. The amazing thing is about it is I never even realized he had a problem. I just saw him last year, and he pitched so well. Last spring, he never walked a hitter."

Back in 2004 at Class A Daytona, Hill led the league with 72 walks.

Rotation roulette: Lou Piniella said all systems are go for Carlos Zambrano to start Friday's series opener in St. Louis.

"He threw today, and he threw very well," Piniella said.

The manager then added that he'd follow Zambrano with lefties Sean Marshall and Ted Lilly, in either order, to face the Cardinals. That would push righty Jason Marquis into next week against the Reds.

"You look a the Cardinals, and they're 11 games over (. 500) against right-handers and 1 game over against lefties," Piniella said. "That leaves me to believe we have a better chance with left-handers. It remains to be seen. But just looking at the numbers, and we go by numbers here, plus we go on how a guy's throwing. Really, Marshall threw the ball really well against the White Sox the other day."

Soriano closer: Left fielder Alfonso Soriano may be able to take batting practice in St. Louis if X-rays later this week check out OK. Soriano is nursing a broken left hand.

"If there's no change at all in the bone structure, he'll start taking batting practice in St. Louis over the weekend," Lou Piniella said. "So far, it's all positive."

Lineup shuffling: When Reed Johnson comes back from the DL Thursday, it'll give Lou Piniella chance to rest center fielder Jim Edmonds, who has done well playing every day. Piniella added Alfonso Soriano will be his leadoff man once he gets back.

"We'll probably drop (Kosuke) Fukudome to the 2-hole and try Edmonds in that 5-hole and see how that works," Piniella said, referring to the way the Cubs would attack right-handed pitching. "Maybe if (Geovany) Soto's swinging the bat really, really well or (Mark) DeRosa's hot, but I sort of like the idea of a left-hand hitter in the 5-hole. We can always move Fukudome to the 5-hole and go from there."