LIVE: Cubs facing Diamondbacks at Wrigley

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LIVE: Cubs facing Diamondbacks at Wrigley

Monday, April 4, 2011
Posted: 9:24 a.m.

(AP) -- Randy Wells thinks his struggles in 2010 will make him a better pitcher this season.

The Chicago Cubs right-hander will try to get this campaign off to a strong start and help his team bounce back from a disappointing loss in Monday's opener of a three-game home series with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Wells' first full season as a starter in 2009 was a surprise as he finished 12-10 and led all Cubs starters with a 3.05 ERA after being called up in May.

Wells, though, won only eight times last year, going 8-14 with a 4.26 ERA. After opening with three consecutive victories, he was 2-12 over his next 21 starts.

READ: No excuses, Cubs can't close deal for Garza

"I hit a little rough patch and didn't really know how to deal with it," Wells said. "I think it was a big learning experience. You learn a lot about yourself when you're going through that kind of adversity. I think it's really going to be beneficial for me this year."

The Cubs (1-2) could use a solid effort from their right-hander after failing to win their season-opening series versus Pittsburgh on Sunday as closer Carlos Marmol allowed two ninth-inning runs in a 5-4 loss. Shortstop Starlin Castro, who had two triples among his three hits, made a throw that pulled first baseman Carlos Pena off the bag, allowing Neil Walker to score the go-ahead run.

"A tough one for sure," manager Mike Quade said. "My sense is we'll be in a lot of (close) games. You work like heck and eliminate the mistakes."

The Diamondbacks (1-1) didn't get the chance to play Sunday as a mix of rain and snow postponed their series finale in Colorado. The previous day, they experienced a record 84-degree weather in Denver before losing 3-1.

Arizona had six hits in that game after collecting 15 in its season debut, a 7-6 win in 11 innings. Ryan Roberts said that opener gave the Diamondbacks a boost confidence.

"This team is capable of coming back and we showed it," he said. "This is a team that can hit and score runs late in games."

READ: Leading off, Castro only scratching the surface

Joe Saunders, who was scheduled to start Sunday, will get the ball for the series opener and bump Barry Enright to Tuesday.

"The guy's on my team. He's a veteran. I feel great about it," manager Kirk Gibson told the team's official website. "He was behind on his innings, but he got up around 100 pitches in his last outing. ... He'll be fine."

Saunders will try to rebound after suffering the most defeats in the majors in 2010 with Arizona and the Los Angeles Angels. The left-hander, who was 9-17 with a 4.47 ERA in a career-high 33 starts, didn't give many promising signs of a rebound during spring training as he was 1-3 with a 12.46 ERA in six outings.

Enright went 6-7 with a 3.91 ERA in 17 starts after his contract was purchased from Double-A Mobile on June 30. He won his major league debut in St. Louis but lost to the Cubs at home in the next outing.

Saunders dropped his only outing against Chicago on June 20 when he was tagged for eight runs - five earned - in 2 2-3 innings at Wrigley Field.

Wells is seeking his third win in as many starts against Arizona and will try to guide the Cubs to their seventh straight victory in the series.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Preview: Jon Lester goes for win No. 20 as Cubs battle Reds on CSN

Preview: Jon Lester goes for win No. 20 as Cubs battle Reds on CSN

Jon Lester goes for win No. 20 in his final start of the regular season as the Cubs take on the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (19-4, 2.28 ERA) vs. Tim Adleman (3-4, 3.90 ERA)

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No guarantees, but Ben Zobrist believes Cubs can live up to ‘super-team’ hype

No guarantees, but Ben Zobrist believes Cubs can live up to ‘super-team’ hype

CINCINNATI – Flooded with offers, Ben Zobrist turned down the New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals – three teams the Cubs could potentially face in the playoffs – because he believed in The Plan, closing a four-year, $56 million deal by the winter meetings for the chance to make history in Chicago.    

Zobrist has been exactly what the Cubs wanted, a patient switch-hitter to set an example for a young lineup, a versatile defender who can play all over the field and an insightful clubhouse presence. But that contract should really pay off in October, the way the Kansas City Royals added dimensions to last year’s World Series winner with a trade-deadline deal for Zobrist.

“Talent really doesn’t mean a whole lot,” Zobrist said. “Every team that’s going to be there is talented. But that talent makes less of a difference when you’re playing against those caliber teams. It really comes down to execution.

“The teams that execute – the teams that make the pitch, make the play, have the good at-bat when they need it – are the teams that win. Regular season is what it is. We’ve had a great season. We know that we’re probably the best team that’s out there regular season. But that doesn’t guarantee us anything for the postseason.”

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One week out from the roar at Wrigley Field and the playoffs Cubs fans have been waiting for since the Mets swept last year’s National League Championship Series, Camp Joe Maddon crossed another day off the bizarro spring-training calendar with Friday night’s 7-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park   

There aren’t many conclusions to be drawn from a 102-win machine rolling over a last-place team, but Zobrist did end Josh Smith’s perfect game by leading off the fifth inning and drilling a ball into the right-field seats. The crowd chanted “Let’s go, Cubbies!” in the eighth inning after Zobrist blasted his 17th home run out toward the same general area.

It’s one thing to have a strong relationship with Maddon and believe the recruiting pitch from team president Theo Epstein. It’s another to see the vision come to life across 160 games, in an industry where the teams that win the offseason typically buckle under the pressure.

Zobrist – who played in six postseason series with Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays and put up an .880 OPS in 16 games during Kansas City’s World Series run – believes the Cubs have what it takes to become that special team.  

“For sure,” Zobrist said. “Just based on the mix of personalities and character and players that we have in this room individually.

“You know that when you put them together, it’s a ‘super-team’ of sorts. We really have to prove our record right, prove people right that we can do it when it counts. And that’s going to be the most important thing going into the postseason.”