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Piniella figures out plans for rotation
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff

Ryan Dempster will get things started for the Cubs on Tuesday in St. Louis.


John Starks | Staff Photographer

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Published: 9/8/2008 12:05 AM

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CINCINNATI - If you're looking ahead to the playoffs - and what Cubs fan isn't? - you could be looking at a division-series pitching rotation of Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly in the first three games against either the Dodgers or the Diamondbacks.

First things first, especially after Sunday's tough 4-3 loss to the Reds.

Manager Lou Piniella has mapped out his pitching rotation through the end of the season. Beginning Tuesday in St. Louis, the Cubs will go with Dempster, Lilly and Rich Harden.

If Carlos Zambrano and his right shoulder are a go, the Cubs will send Jason Marquis, Zambrano and Dempster against the Astros next weekend in Houston. Of course, Zambrano's shoulder and possibly even Hurricane Ike may have something to say about that. If Zambrano can't go, Sean Marshall will get another start.

Lilly, Harden and Marquis would go against second-place Milwaukee at Wrigley Field Sept. 16-18. The Cubs would finish the season in Milwaukee with Lilly, Harden and Marquis.

What Piniella wants to do is get his top pitchers in rotation and keep them there for the rest of the regular season.

"Oh, please, and our top guys pitching every five days, if we can, if we can get it to that," Piniella said. "Staying healthy is the key."

Piniella said Zambrano threw off flat ground Sunday and will have a bullpen session in St. Louis. He also said Harden is "ready to go" after having not started since Aug. 29 as he rests his troublesome right shoulder.

Not in this house: Lou Piniella said he was glad Alfonso Soriano did not take a curtain call Saturday night after hitting his third home run of the game.

Even though most in the crowd of 41,204 were Cubs fans, the Cubs were visitors to the Great American Ball Park, and a curtain call may not have played well with the host Reds.

"I'm glad he didn't go out," Piniella said. "I think I'd have grabbed him, if I'd have seen him. That was smart of him. That's what you call (evoking) road rage."

Lieber goes home: Pitcher Jon Lieber has called it a season and maybe even a career. The veteran right-hander told general manager Jim Hendry that he still had pain and that it would do him or the Cubs no good for him to pitch anymore.

Lieber was on the DL from mid-July until Sept. 1 because of a strained right foot. Hendry said Lieber would be welcome to be with the Cubs on the bench during the postseason if he wishes if the Cubs make the playoffs.

After signing a free-agent deal with the Cubs last winter and competing for a job in the rotation in spring training, Lieber went 2-3 with a 4.05 ERA in 26 games.

Not on a bet: Second baseman Mark DeRosa was a happy camper Sunday, and he figures to be a happy camper next spring.

DeRosa said he no longer has to make the boring bus trip from Mesa, Ariz., to Tucson for Cactus League games because of a deal he made with Lou Piniella.

The deal? Hit 20 homers and drive in 80 runs.

DeRosa has done both.

"I'm not going at all," he said. "I told Lou, for two years, it's been me and (Ryan) Theriot and (Geovany) Soto, and all the big dogs were getting to stay back.

"So I told him, 'We've got to have a bet or something because I'm tired of covering for D-Lee (Derrek) and Aramis (Ramirez) and (Alfonso) Soriano. I think the people of Tucson would very much like to see them play."

Theriot ill: Shortstop Ryan Theriot left the game in the sixth inning. The Cubs said he was ill and feeling lightheaded.