Third baseman Aramis Ramirez was a Thursday morning scratch with continued soreness in his right triceps area. Cubs manager Lou Piniella says if the problem persists, Ramirez will be sent to minor-league camp in order to get some at-bats against live pitching.
"I'm not concerned about it," Piniella said. "He doesn't seem to be. Our trainer Mark O'Neal is not concerned. It's lasting a little longer than we anticipated. It's back in the triceps area, in the muscle."
Piniella said he isn't able to get Ramirez any at-bats in the deisgnated hitter spot against American League teams because he needs to continue to supply Xavier Nady with at-bats.
Pitcher Ted Lilly threw a round off the mound against hitters on Thursday. Lilly returned to camp after a short break beginning on Saturday to be home for the birth of his son. The plan continues to be the same for Lilly -- facing hitters one more time in camp followed by a simulated game next week and one spring training start before the Cubs break camp on April 2. Piniella reiterated that the hope is Lilly will only need one start in Mesa after the Cubs leave followed by two minor-league starts before returning to the Cubs around the third week of April.
Pitcher Jeff Gray, now recovered from a groin strain that lasted six weeks, threw off a mound on Thursday against hitters in what Piniella called three "batting practice innings." "The next step for Gray would be a little simulated game," Piniella said. "Then we can put him out there to pitch [a spring training game]. We need to get him going pronto."
Piniella said that he will make seven or eight cuts from his roster on Friday.
Piniella said pitcher Jeff Samardzija will pitch over the weekend after throwing a few innings against minor leaguers on Wednesday, the Cubs' only off day during spring training. "I think Jeff would preferrably like to start," Piniella said. "The thing with Jeff is, he continues to improve as a pitcher, but where we don't want to be caught with Jeff is, moving him back and forth [from the starting rotation to the bullpen]. That we don't want to do. That's why we're taking our sweet time in spring training." Samardzija is vying for a fourth or fifth starter's role with the Cubs but could end up as a seventh- or eighth-inning pitcher. Piniella said on Thursday that Esmailin Caridad and Justin Berg are the leaders for a setup role and sixth- or seventh-inning pitcher.