Notes: Fukudome makes plans to steal
Lee in Obama's corner; Ramirez, Soriano to sit Cactus opener
MESA, Ariz. -- Kosuke Fukudome's career single-season high in stolen bases is 13, which he swiped in 2005 for the Chunichi Dragons. The No. 3 hitter in Japan does not run much, and Fukudome said he never had the green light to go.
That may change.
The Japanese outfielder, who will make his Cubs debut in Thursday's Cactus League opener, could be running more this season. Don't expect him to keep pace with Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki, but Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Fukudome will get the green light once he builds up more leg strength.
"He'll steal some bases up here, and hit some home runs, and play some good outfield," Piniella said. "He's a good, all-around player."
Asked what he could do, Fukudome projected 15-20 steals for a season, although he added that it depends on the situation and if he's given the go ahead.
The Cubs will bat Fukudome third to help ease the transition from Japan. That's where he hit most of the time for the Dragons.
"I like the idea of having power in the fourth and fifth spots with [Derrek] Lee and [Aramis] Ramirez, at the same time it gives us more speed in the one, two, three spots," Piniella said of his batting order. "We'll see how it looks. He's a good hitter. He's hit third in Japan, and if he can hit third in Japan, there's no reason to assume he can't hit third here. We'll try it and see how it works."
So far, Fukudome looks at ease with the Cubs, although he confessed that the spring workouts are a little easier than Spring Training in Japan. He reportedly hit for two, three hours a day almost every day.
"I like him as a player," Piniella said. "He's serious, he works hard, knows how to play. He's got an all-around game. He can hit the ball for a little power, he can hit the ball in the gaps, he runs well, he's a good outfielder with a good throwing arm."
Any advice for his first game?
"He's a professional," Piniella said. "He knows how to play. Put him out there, have some fun, and get him in shape to play some games."
Fukudome's locker at HoHoKam Park is separated from Carlos Zambrano only by a drinking fountain. That might not be a good idea since Zambrano already has pulled a couple of pranks on the new Cubs outfielder.
"I'll get him back," Fukudome said.
Campaign speech: Barack Obama can count on a vote from Derrek Lee. The Cubs first baseman walked into the clubhouse Wednesday wearing a T-shirt supporting the Democratic presidential candidate. Lee has been following the primaries and the Democratic debates closely this election year.
"He's fresh," Lee said of the Illinois Senator. "He doesn't seem like the typical politician. He knows what he's doing, I think."
There is the rap that Obama does not have enough experience.
"We need something different, obviously," Lee said, concerned about health care and the economy. "I think experience is overrated. It's kind of like in baseball -- sometimes you don't need experience.
"Maybe he'll come in and bring some fresh ideas," Lee said.
He's not afraid to show his support.
"That's definitely my pick," Lee said of Obama.
Aches and pains: Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano will skip the Cactus League opener, but both are expected to be in the Cubs' lineup on Friday.
The only position players who need to be monitored include Daryle Ward and Tyler Colvin, who both experienced some tightness in their backs.
Ronny Cedeno also has some tenderness in his right elbow. He's been doing a lot of throwing as he works at second base, shortstop and third, as well as in the outfield.
Cedeno played short and outfield this winter in Venezuela, but will start at third on Thursday.
"I'm nervous, a little bit," Cedeno said about playing third. "The ball comes at you and you have to be ready. It's reaction."
Extra bases: Left-hander Ted Lilly is the Cubs' new player representative. ... Sean Marshall will throw twice on the side and is scheduled to get in a Cactus League game on Monday. ... Piniella has had no trouble pronouncing Fukudome's name. "After I saw his name on his jersey a couple times, it becomes much easier," Piniella said. ... Longtime Cubs equipment man Yosh Kawano, 86, is recovering after being hospitalized Tuesday night because of cellulitis in his foot. ... Author Tammy Lechner will be signing copies of her book on the Cubs, "Our Team -- Our Dream," in the Phoenix area March 9-16. The photo documentary covers 15 seasons of the Cubs. Hall of Famer Billy Williams wrote the foreword. On March 9 and March 12, Lechner will be at Surprise Stadium when the Cubs play the Royals and Rangers, respectively. She also is scheduled to be at Don & Charlie's restaurant in Scottsdale from 4-7 p.m. MT March 9-16. ... Congratulations to Cubs clubhouse assistant Gary Stark, whose daughter, Veronica Niedeffer, gave birth to his second grandchild, Carson.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.