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Open Thread: Cubs vs. Pirates, Thursday 4/10, 6:05 CT

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The pitcher box below may wind up being wrong if this note in the Sun-Times comes to pass:[Lou] Piniella plans to swap left-hander Rich Hill and right-hander Jason Marquis in the rotation the next two days, provided Marquis -- who was sent back to the hotel with the flu Wednesday -- is well enough to start today.The Pirates tend to club lefties (.311 average and .447 slugging entering Wednesday's game) compared with right-handers (.254, .379), and Marquis had two exceptional starts against Pittsburgh early last season.

So, stay tuned... and don't be surprised if you see Marquis on the mound tonight, and Hill tomorrow in Philadelphia.

Here's something I didn't -- and you probably didn't either -- ever expect to see: Ernie Banks defending Sammy Sosa:Banks hopes Sosa can eventually be welcomed back to the Cubs' family."It's going to take time," Banks said. "Maybe there is a possibility with everything changing and new leadership—new owners and stuff. I'm going to try to bridge that gap a little bit. Try to have him come back and throw out the first pitch and possibly sing 'Take Me Out To The Ball Game.' That would be a good start."

There are, of course, other issues that have to be resolved before Sammy can be welcomed back, but there is precedent for this with other teams:Bill Buckner, a figure of scorn in New England since his costly error on Mookie Wilson's roller in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, was invited back to Fenway Park for a ceremonial first pitch before Tuesday's home opener with Detroit, and Red Sox fans greeted him with a prolonged ovation. Sosa says he would be amenable to throwing out a ceremonial first pitch at Wrigley Field, but he's not going to ask the Cubs.

"I don't have a problem with that," he said. "If anyone wants to find me, they know where they can find me. I'm not going to call them and say, 'Hey, I want to go up to Chicago and throw out the first pitch.' But if they call me and say they want me to do that, I will do it. I'm not going to go up there begging to throw out the first pitch. That is not me.

"Probably with the new ownership, definitely, things probably will be better. No matter what happened, all those years that I was giving to my people … all those years of glory, all those years of happiness … they cannot scratch that."

Today's Starting Pitchers
Rich Hill
R. Hill
Cubs
vs. Matt Morris
M. Morris
Pirates
0-0 W-L 0-0
3.00 ERA 5.40
4 SO 2
3 BB 2
1 HR 1
vs. Pit -- vs. Cubs

Matt Morris has had two careers against the Cubs. He went 10-2 with a 3.18 ERA in his first 17 starts (all with St. Louis) against the Cubs - but since then he's gone 2-6 with an 8.22 ERA. Let's hope that continues tonight; Aramis Ramirez (.326/.360/.587), Derrek Lee (.355/.429/.839), Alfonso Soriano (.556/.600/1.111) and Daryle Ward (.375/.385/.583) all hit him hard.

Hill has been hit hard by Ronny Paulino (.462/.500/.769), but has handled everyone else pretty well. If it winds up being Jason Marquis tonight, he's also handled the Pirates hitters well, except for Jason Bay (.382/.450/.912, 4 doubles, a triple, 4 HR, 5 walks in 39 PA).

Tonight's game is on WGN and FSN Pittsburgh, so it's available on Extra Innings if you don't have WGN. For other info check ther MLB.com Mediacenter.

MLB.com Gameday (2007 version)

MLB.com Gameday (2008 version)

Discuss amongst yourselves.