MESA, Ariz. -- All you Chicago Cubs fans who appreciate Mike Fontenot's hustle and grit, know that you sure aren't alone. Manager Lou Piniella essentially named him as the everyday second baseman Saturday morning before the club's Cactus League game with the Los Angeles Angels.
"Fontenot's basically winning the second base job right now," Piniella said. "He's played really well this spring.
"If that's the case, we'd rather keep him at second base as much as possible."
A month into camp, those ideas essentially have changed. Fontenot is hitting .371 with a.421 on-base percentage and making all the plays at second.
More conscious than ever about balancing his lineup with left-handers following last October's playoff debacle, Piniella also likes the left-handed Fontenot's strength. Even though he's only 5-8 and 170 pounds, Fontenot popped nine homers in 243 at-bats last summer.
Piniella right now plans to bat Fontenot sixth, lefty Kosuke Fukodome second and switch-hitter Milton Bradley in the cleanup slot.
"It breaks things up," Piniella said of batting Fontenot sixth. "I don't want to get caught with two left-handed hitters hitting sixth and eighth at the tail end of the lineup.
"Two, four and six is a real nice way to break things up."
Meanwhile, lefty Sean Marshall is throwing to well this spring that he's making another decision for the Cubs. The fifth starters' slot was open entering camp, following Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Rich Harden.
Marshall has been lights-out, compiling a 0.68 ERA over 13 1/3 spring innings, and has emerged as the clear favorite as the fifth starter.
"What we're looking for more than anything else is what we're going to do in the seventh inning," Piniella said, referring to his bullpen. "How we set up our pen in the seventh will dictate what happens everywhere else."
They're still unsettled on whether Carlos Marmol or Kevin Gregg, acquired from Florida during the winter, will replace Kerry Wood as closer. Likely, Marmol will wind up being that guy. Either way, one of them will pitch the eighth and the other the ninth.
Heilman probably will become the seventh-inning guy if Marshall nails down the fifth-starters' slot. Piniella is somewhat concerned that Marshall's move from the pen to the rotation will leave him with only one lefty reliever, Neal Cotts, though there are some options in camp, including veteran Mike Stanton and Jason Waddell.
As for Samardzija, 24, the Cubs continue to evaluate whether it would be best for both him and the team if he breaks camp as a long reliever or returns to Triple-A as a starter. The guess here is it may be very difficult for Piniella to resist bringing that arm north with him.
Likes: Nice chat with Milton Bradley on Saturday morning. I hope this three-year deal works out for him in Chicago. Yes, he has had issues. But he is an intelligent man, and quite likable when he doesn't have a chip on his shoulder. ... The way Jarrod Saltalamacchia's last name curves around the number on the back of his jersey, bending like one of those swimming pool noodles. If there were any more letters in that name, they would have to begin and end on his pants, not his jersey. ... The completely underrated song on Bruce Springsteen's latest disc, Working on a Dream, is Tomorrow Never Knows. It's spare, simple and excellent. ... Of the "fast-food" pizza delivery chains, I'll take Papa John's in a rout over Pizza Hut and Domino's.
Dislikes: Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol was wild against Los Angeles on Saturday, hitting two Angels in the third inning. Someone must have told Marmol that they were hitters from The Netherlands disguised in Angels uniforms. ... Aw, hate to see Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central bow out of the Michigan boys high school basketball tournament, but it's true. My Falcons were defeated by Dundee 38-23 on Friday night in the district championship game. Sounds like Dundee played a little defense.
Sunblock Day? It's the gorgeous part of the year in Arizona now. Warm sun, around 80. It's supposed to creep up to 90 in a few days, but for now, it's perfect.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Does anyone know where the love of God goes
"When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
"The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
"If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her
"They might have split up or they might have capsized
"May have broke deep and took water
"And all that remains is the faces and the names
"Of the wives and the sons and the daughters."
-- Gordon Lightfoot, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald