Soriano's leadoff days may be numbered
Lineup spot in flux, but slugger taking team-minded approach
NEW YORK -- Don't be surprised if Alfonso Soriano is no longer No. 1 in the Cubs lineup.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella wouldn't commit on Wednesday, but he is considering moving Soriano to the second spot and inserting Ryan Theriot into the leadoff spot.
"You guys will get that answer soon," Piniella told reporters Wednesday. "When you get Derrek Lee in the lineup, you'll get the answer."
Lee has been sidelined with neck spasms, and Soriano has subbed in the third spot in the last two games. Asked if he was tempted to have a lineup of Theriot, Soriano, Lee and Aramis Ramirez, in that order, Piniella smiled.
"'Tempting' is a good word," he said.
Soriano said it didn't matter where he hit.
"I enjoy the game, batting first, batting third," Soriano said. "If I'm in the lineup, I enjoy the game. I don't like to not be in the lineup. I like to play every day. If you're in the lineup, batting first, second, third, fourth, five, I'm happy because I enjoy the game."
What about hitting second?
"I don't know. Lou knows," Soriano said. "I like to be in the lineup. That's most important for me."
When Soriano signed his eight-year, $136 million contract in November with the Cubs, Piniella said the outfielder would bat leadoff. When he hit first last season with the Washington Nationals, it resulted in a 40-40-40 season, and he was the first player to hit 40 homers, 40 doubles and steal 40 bases.
"[Batting leadoff] is important for me, but now I'm batting third because Derrek Lee's not here," Soriano said. "If he wants me to move when Lee comes back, batting third or batting in a different part of the lineup, it's [Piniella's] decision. I'll do whatever he wants, because I think he wants to do something to make the team better."
As of Wednesday, Soriano has some catching up to do to repeat 40-40-40. He was batting .301, but had 14 doubles, four homers and six stolen bases. Is he satisfied with his season?
"I don't have power, but I have average -- it's good to have the average," Soriano said.
He also has reached base safely in his first 31 games, a career high for the outfielder whose previous best was 30 games Aug. 27-Sept. 29, 2006. He's reached base via a hit in 28 of the 31 games.
The power will come, he says.
"I'm not worried," Soriano said. "It's only a month and a half of the season. There are four and a half months left. I can do a lot of things, especially at Wrigley Field with the wind blowing out. I'm not worried about it. I'm worried if it's the last game of the season and I don't have the numbers, but there's plenty of time left."
Soriano was expected to start in left for the Cubs, but offered to play center field in January. He then strained his hamstring, and was moved back to left. He's cooperated with Piniella all the way.
"I love the young man," Piniella said. "He's a gamer and he's a team guy. We're not going to do anything here that's going to harm any individual player. As a manager, you're always appreciative when successful guys, successful players make concessions that possibly could make the team better."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.