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Cubs pitcher Sean Marshall feeling VCU’s success

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

PHOENIX — Jay Bilas can kiss Sean Marshall’s butt, too.

Actually, the Cubs reliever, who played baseball at Virginia Commonwealth, says he didn’t hear about Bilas and other ESPN talking heads ripping the selection of the VCU basketball team for the NCAA tournament. But Marshall definitely was paying attention when VCU handily defeated USC in a first-round game Wednesday night.

‘‘Makes me even happier now that they won,’’ he said when told of the critical comments. ‘‘Hopefully, they can win again [against Georgetown tonight at the United Center].

‘‘I’m real proud of those guys. If I know my VCU team — just like when I was there — they’ll fly a little bit under the radar and then surprise you.

‘‘We had a good baseball program. The basketball program’s been good for years now. We just try to be one of those sleepers. . . . They’re scrappy. They’re good. They’re quick. ‘‘I’m looking forward to [tonight’s game].’’

Grabow returns

Left-hander John Grabow, who could be a key part of the Cubs’ bullpen if he regains his 2008-09 form in the final year of his contract, pitched a scoreless seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday in his first game since the spring opener.

‘‘The shoulder feels great — no issue at all,’’ said Grabow, who already was coming off knee surgery last year when a heavy throwing program early in camp led to a sore shoulder. ‘‘The ball feels like it’s coming out of my hand good. The knee feels good. It was a positive day. I’ve just got to keep on working and build off this.’’

Grabow and manager Mike Quade both say the veteran has enough time in camp to be ready for the start of the season.

Need for Reed?

Reed Johnson probably already had the inside track on the Cubs’ fifth outfielder opening before hitting a two-run homer Thursday off tough Athletics setup man Grant Balfour — and even before teammate Fernando Perez flubbed a fly ball to left early in the A’s three-run ninth.

Quade said before the game that he’s still learning about Perez, who might need a knockout finish to win the job.

‘‘I think we have a real good feel for who Reed is, no matter what takes place down here,’’ Quade said of the outfielder who spent 2008 and 2009 with the Cubs. ‘‘So constantly trying to get a look at Fernando is huge for me.’’

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