Cubs put Soriano on DL, call Patterson
Star out with strained right calf; callup reunites with brother
CHICAGO -- The Cubs lost their leadoff man Wednesday, placing outfielder Alfonso Soriano on the 15-day disabled list for only the second time in his career, and second year in a row, because of a strained right calf.
"You'd like to think we won't miss a beat," Chicago's Mark DeRosa said, "but it'll be tough not seeing No. 12 in the lineup."
"Any time you lose one of your top players it's not good," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "Plus, Alfonso is one of our leaders here. We're going to miss him. The team has to step up and make up for the loss."
The Cubs called up Eric Patterson, who can play both the infield and outfield, to take Soriano's spot on the roster. Patterson was batting .222 (8-for-36) at Triple-A Iowa with three doubles, one triple, one homer and three RBIs. He also was hitting .571 with runners on and .250 with runners in scoring position.
Patterson has primarily played second base but has played one game in the outfield this year, 40 last season. It was a little bit of a family reunion at Wrigley Field on Wednesday. He is the younger brother of former Cubs outfielder and current Cincinnati center fielder Corey Patterson, who is in town for a three-game series at Wrigley Field.
"It's something not many sets of brothers get to do, and it'll obviously be something special," Eric said about playing in the same game with his brother.
Matt Murton, another option for the Cubs, was batting .294 (10-for-34) but had no extra-base hits and no RBIs in 11 games with Iowa. He was hitting .250 with runners on and .125 with runners in scoring position. Piniella said Patterson gives the Cubs some speed, a versatile player and a much-needed left-hand bat.
Soriano injured his leg after doing his trademark jump to catch Ken Griffey Jr.'s fly ball to end the first inning Tuesday. As he landed, Soriano had trouble putting any weight on his right leg and had to lean on teammate Ryan Theriot for help getting off the field.
"It's not comfortable, but the trainer said I'll be OK in two weeks, so I have to listen to the trainer," said Soriano, who was wearing a large boot on his right leg. "It's nothing big, it's early in the season, and I think in two weeks, I'll be OK."
He said he had a little soreness in his calf during the Cubs' series in Pittsburgh last week but felt better after Monday's off-day. The actual "hop" isn't what caused the problem.
"I did two little jumps, and when I started running, normal running, that's when I felt it," Soriano said.
"I asked him if he needed help, and he said, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah,'" said Theriot, who assisted Soriano off the field. "You could tell he was in some pain. It was weird the way he came down on it."
Why does Soriano do the hop?
"I feel comfortable catching the ball that way," said Soriano, who added it when he moved to left field in Washington. "I don't like to catch the ball routine because when I played second base, I made errors on a lot of routine ground balls. I make the little jump to make the play a little difficult. That doesn't make the play a routine fly ball. It looks like it to me that it's not comfortable."
Piniella said Soriano feels comfortable with the move and said the injury was a freak thing.
"I don't think the 'hop' was the sole reason for this," Piniella said. "That's the way he feels comfortable catching the ball."
"I don't mind the hop as long as he catches them all," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "For the most part, he plays good solid defense for us and throws a lot of people out."
Don't expect to see DeRosa doing any hops, leaps or jumps in left field.
"I don't have that flair in my game," DeRosa said. "I turned around to the fans [Tuesday night] and said, 'It's not going to be pretty, but I'll get it done.'"
It's the second straight April that Soriano has been injured. The outfielder strained his left hamstring on April 16, 2007, and missed five games before returning as a pinch-hitter on April 22.
Last Aug. 5, Soriano strained his right quad and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. He was not activated until Aug. 28, and finished the season strong, batting .320 in September '07, with 14 homers and 27 RBIs.
"This is not as serious as the injury last year," Piniella said of the quad. "The biggest thing is let's get it well and heal it entirely. The danger with this thing is [returning] too quick and tear it, and you're out for a long time. We won't bring him back until he's ready to do all the things he needs to do."
"We feel confident Soriano won't be out past the 15," Hendry said. "At the same time, we don't want to rush this and take a chance of him re-injuring it."
As far as who will fill in at the top of the order, Mike Fontenot led off on Wednesday, and Piniella said he also could insert Theriot in the spot.
"He's one of the best players in the game and definitely a game changer for us," Theriot said of Soriano. "You've got to make the best of it while he's gone. The main thing is you want him out there 100 percent."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.