What will Cubs Opening Day lineup look like?

What will Cubs Opening Day lineup look like?
February 26, 2011, 12:36 am
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Friday, Feb. 25, 2011Posted: 6:30 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. They circled the board where the lineup was supposed to be posted and saw empty white space. It frustrated them last year, not knowing if or where theyd play while trying to get ready for a game.

This is not to say that Lou Piniella didnt know what he was doing or that Mike Quade has all the answers.

Piniella won more than 1,800 games and a World Series during a managing career that should land him in the Hall of Fame. Quade is only running his first big-league camp.

But you could see the differences on Friday as bench coach Pat Listach struggled to find room on a clubhouse door to tape up yet another piece of paper. He had lineups for the first three exhibition games before the Cubs had completely moved out of Fitch Park.

Heres what it looks like for Sundays Cactus League opener, down the street at HoHoKam Park against the Oakland As:

1. Kosuke Fukudome, RF
2. Starlin Castro, SS
3. Marlon Byrd, CF
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
5. Carlos Pena, 1B
6. Alfonso Soriano, LF
7. Geovany Soto, C
8. Blake DeWitt, 2B
9. Carlos Zambrano, P

Replace Zambrano with Ryan Dempster and that could be your lineup on Opening Day at Wrigley Field.

Next to each name in parentheses was the player who would substitute in next. The sheet also noted that there will be a two at-bat minimum and a five-inning maximum. An organization man, Quade is all about the details.

Rod Blagojevich once sent Piniella his lineup suggestions, and Quade understands that he will constantly be second-guessed.

Everybody thinks they can manage, Quade said. Im a fan. I look at other clubs and go: How come that guys hitting there?

The manager will defer to veterans, locking in Ramirez as the cleanup hitter. He still views Fukudome as the best leadoff option if the matchups are right that day.

I dont hate it, Fukudome said with a smile to a Japanese reporter.

For now Quade is looking beyond Fukudomes .193 average from the No. 1 spot last season. Quade thinks of Fukudome as someone who sees a lot of pitches and has posted good on-base percentages across his first three seasons: .359; .375; and .371.

Ultimately, the lineup combinations and the final scores wont really matter across the next month. But Quade is particularly interested in seeing new pieces like Pena and Matt Garza up close, as well as rising prospects Trey McNutt and Brett Jackson. How he interacts with them does count.

Players are obsessed with routine. They live in a bubble where everything is taken care of for them. A pair of pants fell out of one players bag as he walked out of the clubhouse Friday afternoon and he barely broke stride.

Veteran move, he said. Watch this.

He tossed the pants into a laundry cart, cracking up a few reporters and a team official.

Quade wants to simplify things for his players and let them know where they stand. He is prepared, but this didnt keep him up at night. He didnt spend his offseason in Florida staring out into the Gulf of Mexico and picturing his lineup.

If I find myself in the middle of a bunch of trout or redfish someday and all of a sudden Im thinking about whos my third-hole hitter, Ill kill myself, Quade said. Theres plenty of time for that. Theres all sorts of things that will become clear later. And why in the world get locked in too early when theres so much that can change?

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.