LIVE: Byrd puts Cubs back on top 6-4

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LIVE: Byrd puts Cubs back on top 6-4

Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Posted: 9:46 a.m.

(AP) -- The Chicago Cubs may be in line for consecutive wins for the first time in 2011. Alfonso Soriano could play a major role in that, too.

Soriano and the Cubs will try to make things a bit easier on themselves as they attempt to continue their success against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the middle game of this series at Wrigley Field on Tuesday.

Chicago (2-2) has alternated wins and losses through its first four games, with each of them decided by three or fewer runs.

That trend continued Monday, when the Cubs opened this three-game set with a 4-1 win over Arizona (1-2) to extend their winning streak in the series to seven - four at home.

READ: Carlos Pena sidelined with thumb injury

"It'd be OK if we came out and took a 10-0 lead (Tuesday)," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "We've got to get better and we still have plenty of work to do, but at least the approach and attitude out of the chute has been good."

Soriano could make a difference for Chicago after going 4 for 11 with two homers and four RBIs over the last three games after going 0 for 4 in a season-opening 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Friday.

The left fielder connected for his second home run in as many games Monday and finished 2 for 3 with two RBIs. He's hitting .413 with eight homers and 22 RBIs over his last 14 meetings versus the Diamondbacks, leading the Cubs to wins in 11 of them.

Soriano has been even better in seven games at Wrigley in that span, going 13 for 23 with five home runs and 13 RBIs.

READ: Trammell has no regrets about time with Cubs

"He's very formidable," Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson told the team's official website. "He's a good player, he's been playing the game for a long time and he's done very well against us. We'll try to do things differently to get him out."

Barry Enright will take on that responsibility as he makes his pitching debut this season. The right-hander went 6-7 with a 3.91 ERA in 17 starts as a rookie in 2010 after being a midseason call-up.

He was charged with a 6-4 home defeat July 6, yielding three runs and seven hits - two homers - with five strikeouts over 5 2-3 innings.

"Obviously, you want to say you're going to take it like any other start, but there will probably be some extra adrenaline, sure," Enright said of starting at Wrigley.

Enright struck out as a pinch-hitter in a 7-6, 11-inning season-opening win at Colorado on Friday.

Andrew Cashner is also entering his first full season in the majors, and will get the nod opposite Enright. The 24-year-old right-hander won a spot in the Chicago rotation during spring training.

"It's my first start in the big leagues - why wouldn't you be excited?" said Cashner, who went 2-6 with a 4.80 ERA in 53 relief appearances last season.

Carlos Pena's status is unclear after leaving Monday's win after spraining his thumb on his glove hand apparently while trying to field an off-target throw to first in the top of the eighth.

The Diamondbacks stranded 11 runners Monday and are 4 for 34 with runners in scoring position this season.

"We'll start to get the timely hits as we get going, so the main thing is we're putting good at-bats on guys," shortstop Willie Bloomquist said. "It's just a matter of putting good at-bats in the right situations."
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Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Joe Maddon's T-shirt slogans can get a little old at times, but the Cubs manager found a new audience in Brett Anderson, who liked the idea of "Be Uncomfortable" after signing a one-year, prove-it deal with the defending champs.

"It's been awesome so far," Anderson said. "That's my running joke – we're a month into it now or whatever it is – and I don't hate anybody yet.

"That's a testament to the group as a whole – and maybe me evolving as a person."

Yes, Anderson's sarcasm, social-media presence and groundball style fits in with a team built around short-term pitching and Gold Glove defense. The if-healthy lefty finished his Cactus League tour on Saturday afternoon by throwing four innings (one unearned run) during a 7-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies in front of 13,565 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Anderson will open the season as the No. 4 starter after a camp that has been remarkably low-key and drama-free.

"I'm kind of cynical by nature, but it's a fun group to be a part of," Anderson said, "(with) young guys that are exciting and happy to be here. And then obviously the mix of veterans, too, that are here with intentions of winning another World Series."

To make that happen, the pitching staff will have to again stay unbelievably healthy. Anderson rolled with a general question about how he physically feels now compared to where he's usually at by this time of year.

"Obviously better than last year, because I was walking with a gimp and all that stuff," said Anderson, who underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a bulging disk in his lower back last March. "No, my body feels good, my arm feels good and you're getting into the dog days of spring training where you're itching to get to the real thing."

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

MESA, Ariz. – Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella appears to be the final decision as the Cubs shape their Opening Night roster.

That's assuming good health – manager Joe Maddon sounded unconcerned about Ben Zobrist (stiff neck), Addison Russell (stiff back) and Albert Almora Jr. (stiff neck) – and the Cubs carrying an eight-man bullpen.

Maddon appeared to eliminate one variable, confirming that La Stella has signaled a willingness to go to Triple-A Iowa if necessary, which would normally be an obvious statement, except for last summer's "Where's Tommy?" episode.

"I haven't even thought about it," Maddon said during Saturday's media session at the Sloan Park complex. "It's not an issue. I thought we handled it pretty openly last year and there's been no blowback whatsoever from the players."

Beyond this – La Stella initially refused to report to the minors last July, moved back home to New Jersey and talked briefly about retirement – an American League scout and a National League scout tracking the Cubs in Arizona both agreed that Szczur looks like the superior player.

Plus Szczur – and not La Stella – is out of minor-league options now.

"When you get this kind of a talent, depth-wise, it's a wonderful problem to have," Maddon said. "And then, of course, the rules start creeping in. The rules in this situation would benefit Matt, which is a good thing, because he's a big-league guy that's been riding the shuttle. He's done it in a very stoic manner, and he's been great for us."

La Stella has allies in the clubhouse – Jake Arrieta got a Coastal Carolina tattoo on his right butt cheek after losing a College World Series bet – and goes about his routine in a quiet, diligent manner.

La Stella is not a distraction at all and can hit left-handed and play the infield – two attributes that Szczur can't bring to Maddon's bench.

"Matt Szczur, to me, is a Major League Baseball player," Maddon said. "You're seeing what Tommy can do from the left side of the plate right now. And then it's just a matter of balancing things out. We've already mentioned that some guys on the infield can play the outfield within this group, thus it presents differently regarding what you need."

[MORE CUBS: Javier Baez won’t change his style around Cubs after World Baseball Classic: ‘We’re not showing anybody up’]

Szczur is hitting .361 with a .994 OPS through 14 Cactus League games and can play all over the outfield. But that skill is diminished when the Cubs already have four established outfielders plus Zobrist and Kris Bryant able to shift from the infield.

Then again, defensive wizard Javier Baez should have the Cubs covered all across the infield in case of an emergency. With the defending World Series champs a week out from facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, we're about to find out if Maddon made his recommendation or had a possible trade scenario or disabled-list situation in mind.

"I love Matt Szczur," Maddon said. "This guy as a teammate – you're not going to get a better one. Nobody's going to get a better one on any team for any reason.

"We haven't decided everything or anything yet. Stuff happens in a very short period of time. He is a major-league baseball player. So we'll just wait a couple more days, see how it plays out. But he's a benefit to any group that has him."