MESA, Ariz. (AP) -With none of the distractions common in recent years - no brooding outfielders, no major injuries, no contract dramas, no World Series predictions - it's been a blissfully quiet spring training for the Chicago Cubs.
Thursday, they finally got to make some noise.
Marlon Byrd homered in his Cubs debut, one of five home runs in Chicago's 16-hit attack that opened the exhibition season with a 9-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
``Marlon's a professional,' manager Lou Piniella said. ``He's a hard worker. He's got a good way about him. The players like him.'
Signing Byrd to play center field also let Kosuke Fukudome return to right. That's where moody Milton Bradley played last season as part of an experiment gone bad.
The absence of Bradley has made camp more mellow - as have downsized expectations after last season's disappointing second-place finish.
``Not much going on, and that's the way we like it,' said Derrek Lee, whose first-inning homer got the offense going. ``Everyone's pretty healthy. It has been quiet. It's nice. Just going about our business.'
The beneficiary of the businesslike hitting approach was Randy Wells, who didn't allow the ball out of the infield in two perfect innings of work.
In his seventh season as a pro when he got called up last May, Wells surprisingly went 12-10 with the NL's 10th-best ERA (3.05).
Wells flunked the eye-chart test early in camp and ordered tinted glasses to wear during games, but the specs didn't arrive in time for Thursday's outing.
``I'm not going to wear them until I throw a couple of bullpen (sessions) and see if it helps,' he said. ``It's not that I couldn't see the strike zone. It's just something I'm going to try.'
Sean Marshall, bidding for one of the two openings in the Cubs' rotation, followed with two hitless innings, and Esmailin Caridad also pitched well. But the game was more about an offense trying to rebound after scoring 148 fewer runs last season than the year before, when the Cubs won 97 games and the NL Central title.
Tyler Colvin hit a homer and two doubles. Fellow outfield candidates Sam Fuld and Brad Snyder also homered.
``We're going to let these guys compete and we'll see how it shakes out,' Piniella said. ``There's some jobs to be won here.'
The same is true on the Oakland side, and Trevor Cahill didn't exactly show he deserves to be the No. 5 starter. He gave up two runs on three hits in two innings and was tagged for Lee's long homer after shaking off catcher Landon Powell.
``He wanted me to throw a fastball but ... I just really felt like throwing a changeup,' said Cahill, who went 10-13 as a rookie last season. ``(Lee had taken) two aggressive swings, so I figured if I could keep the same arm speed and slow the pitch down, he'd swing right over it. But I hung it right down the middle, belt high.'
NOTES: RHP Ben Sheets, signed to a $10 million contract after missing all of last season with an elbow injury that required surgery, is scheduled to make his A's debut Friday against Milwaukee, his former team. ... Piniella said he would use Xavier Nady at DH either Saturday or Sunday. Nady, recovering from a second career Tommy John surgery, isn't ready to play the outfield yet. In a mild upset, Piniella got Nady's name right Thursday. The manager had been calling him ``Nagy' - as in former Indians pitcher Charles.
The Associated Press News Service
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