Two months into the season, Lou Piniella finally appears ready to go with a set lineup.
What that lineup is or how long he will stick with it are questions only Piniella can answer, but after Wednesday night's 9-0 loss to Florida, he wasn't ready to divulge his master plan.
"Maybe we'll draw the darn thing out of a hat," Piniella said.
The series sweep dropped the Cubs seven games below .500. With four straight losses and eight of their last 10, are players waiting for an eruption of Mt. Lou?
"No, we don't want nobody to erupt," right fielder Cliff Floyd said. "I know I don't. We're too old for that. With some young kids, maybe. … But there ain't no young kids in here. We all understand what's at stake."
Ted Lilly allowed six runs over seven innings and served up three of Florida's four home runs, including two to Dan Uggla. Lilly (4-3) also failed to field his position, forgetting to cover first on an infield hit and committing a throwing error that led to an unearned run.
Ex-Cub Sergio Mitre pitched four shutout innings before leaving with a right hamstring cramp, and the Marlins bullpen completed the shutout.
"They totally outclassed us," Piniella said. "They outpitched us, they outhit us. … That's the first time that really has happened this year."
Asked beforehand if some players were playing themselves out of jobs, Piniella gave a cryptic response.
"Look, I've tried my darndest to play everybody, and give everybody opportunities," he said. "It's getting to the point where we're going to have to get really, really set.
"I can't do it in every position. But get to the point where we get as set as we can possibly be. … just play the people who get the job done the best, and go with that and forget about it.
"I've tried to be as fair [as possible] and play everybody. But, I've gotten to the point, really, where the guys who are doing the best job are going to get the playing time. "
Four players who may be getting fewer starts are shortstop Cesar Izturis, who's hitting .194 with runners in scoring position, right fielder Matt Murton, who has eight RBIs, catcher Michael Barrett, who has made costly mental mistakes, and Jacque Jones, who has only one home run in 181 at-bats.
Piniella said he won't platoon certain players depending on whether a right-hander or left-hander is starting.
"We've tried that," he said. "I might have to tinker, or play different people, at one or two positions. I don't know what else we can do ."
Wednesday, Piniella inserted Floyd in the clean-up spot and moved Aramis Ramirez down to the No. 5 hole, sticking a left-handed bat between right-handed sluggers Derrek Lee and Ramirez. It didn't work.
General manager Jim Hendry met with Piniella for 1 1/2 hours before the game."We've certainly struggled offensively in certain situations that have cost us some ballgames," Hendry said. "I think he's just trying to figure out what works best and try to give everybody a fair chance. You know how that goes—you win a few games with a certain lineup and some guys start delivering, and I'm sure he'll leave it like that."
The Cubs had a players-only meeting before the game, and the general message was to stop pressing. But after another debacle, Piniella was wishing "I had a magic formula."
"Everybody just needs to relax and do what they need to do," Piniella said.
Does that advice apply to Piniella as well?
Stay tuned.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times