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As the Cubs' modified youth movement continues to march forward, an old veteran said he's letting the kids know he's here only for a cameo.
"I told Angel Pagan and Matt Murton, 'I'm just keeping a spot warm for you,'" right-fielder Cliff Floyd said Tuesday night.Floyd's two-run, first-inning homer kick-started the Cubs on their way to an 8-5 victory over Colorado, tying their season high with their fifth straight victory.
The Cubs broke things open with a four-run fifth and cruised to the finish line to move only to two games below .500 for the first time since they stood 20-22 on May 20.
Ted Lilly (6-4) allowed four runs on five walks in six innings, struggling with his control but managing to escape most of his self-created jams, Mike Fontenot made his first start at shortstop and Carlos Marmol was brought in to close out the ninth.
As it turned out, Marmol was removed after giving up a run, leaving Will Ohman to retire Todd Helton to end the game and notch his first save of '07.
Manager Lou Piniella was happy Marmol was upset with being taken out.
"First time out for a youngster like Marmol in the ninth inning of a major-league baseball game is not the easiest [thing]," Piniella said. "He was disappointed, and I like that. He's going to get other chances."
Marmol didn't mince words afterward when asked whether he thought he deserved to stay in.
"Why not?" he said, "I struck out the last two hitters (Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Holliday) I faced. Why not let me stay in?"
Meet the new Cubs.
A complacent group of kids they're not.
It was May 30 when Piniella met for more than an hour with team President John McDonough, general manager Jim Hendry, assistant GM Randy Bush and Tribune Co. Senior Vice President Crane Kenney.
Piniella said it was just a routine meeting, while Hendry addressed possible roster changes by saying: "You always want to tinker."
But since that meeting, the "tinkering" has included the trade of Michael Barrett for Rob Bowen, the demotion of Murton, the return of Felix Pie and Fontenot, reduced playing time for Jacque Jones and Cesar Izturis and the switch from Scott Eyre to Marmol in late-inning relief.
"From spring training to now, it has been a big transition here," Piniella said. "We've gotten more left-handed, we've gotten quicker, we run more, we've improved defensively. ... There are reasons why we're winning with a little more consistency. ...
"It's going to be slow [progress]. I don't see any explosion. But I see a nice, little steady upside to this baseball team."
Piniella's big "surprise" Tuesday was giving Fontenot his first start at short so Mark DeRosa could return to second base. If he continues to excel, Fontenot could replace Ryan Theriot, who replaced Izturis as the regular shortstop after the May 30 meeting.
Fontenot had an RBI double in the second on Tuesday to extend his hitting streak to nine games on the heels of his 5-for-5 performance on Monday night.
Meanwhile, the Jones' situation is not sitting well with some in the Cubs clubhouse. Jones was left in limbo while reports that he had been traded to Florida surfaced Tuesday afternoon before the deal fell through.
"That's the unfair part about it," Floyd said. "I'm talking not just as a baseball player, but as a friend. You have to feel for him. He goes home and has to wonder, 'What the heck is next?' "
Floyd said he hopes Jones understands he's still part of the Cubs family, even though he's on the trade block.
"He's still part of our team," Floyd said. "The man is a good player and a good person. I just hope whatever happens to him it's a good thing, and if he stays here, I'll be a happy man."