Soriano in No. 3 spot for new-look Cubs
Piniella tries slugger in power position; Theriot leads off
ST. LOUIS -- Lou Piniella tweaked the Cubs' lineup on Friday, moving leadoff man Alfonso Soriano into the No. 3 spot, inserting Ryan Theriot at the top of the order, and dropping Derrek Lee to fifth.
"We'll take a look at it and see how it works," Piniella said before the Cubs opened a three-game series against the Cardinals. "We've struggled a little bit scoring runs. We moved Theriot to the leadoff spot. We've got [Kosuke] Fukudome in the two-hole, Soriano in the three-hole and [Aramis] Ramirez in the four-hole. Those have been our best hitters."
Soriano, who entered the weekend series riding a 10-game hitting streak and batting .350 in that stretch, got the news from hitting coach Gerald Perry.
"Whatever they want to do to try to make the team better, I'm open," Soriano said. "If [Piniella] thinks he wants to do something to win, I want to win. If he changed the lineup today because he thinks with that lineup we have a better chance to win, [it's OK]."
How long will it last?
"If we win, it stays," Soriano said, smiling. "If we lose, I know he'll make some more changes. It depends on what happens in the game."
Soriano has been the Cubs' No. 1 man in the lineup the past two seasons as well as this year, and he ranks third among active players with 51 career leadoff homers, including two this year. He did bat third for seven games in 2007, but went 5-for-28 (.179) with one RBI and was switched back to the leadoff spot.
Lee batted .303 (10-for-33) on the just completed eight-game homestand, but was batting .207 overall entering Friday. Theriot ranks among the National League leaders with a .365 average.
The one player missing from the equation is Milton Bradley, who is sidelined with a nagging groin injury. Piniella repeated that he would likely put Bradley in the sixth spot when he returns.
"We'll see how it works, that's all," Piniella said.
The Cubs don't want Soriano to change his approach at all with the change in the order. The left fielder has a team-high five home runs.
"His approach is going to be the same whether he hits first or fourth, it doesn't matter," Piniella said. "He's leading the team in home runs, so we're trying to put a little more power in the middle part. We'll see how it goes. If it works, it'll get us deeper into the lineup, and if it doesn't, we'll make adjustments."
Piniella and Cubs coaches talked about the switch on the short plane ride from Chicago to St. Louis on Thursday night.
"There's no difference, really, where you hit in the lineup," Piniella said. "I can see where some players feel more comfortable in one spot as opposed to another, but the fact remains you'll get four or five at-bats. Once you get the first at-bat, if you didn't keep the scorecard, you wouldn't know where they're at, if they're first or wherever."
Lee has been the Cubs' mainstay in the No. 3 spot, but Piniella said the switch had nothing to do with his production. The plan coming out of Spring Training was to have Lee, Bradley and Ramirez in the 3-4-5 spots, but Bradley has made one start since April 12, and the Cubs rank 11th in offense in the NL at .252.
"We have a little different lineup than last year," Piniella said. "We don't have Bradley in the lineup, so we're just looking at this thing and we'll see how it works. I've got more people basically who can hit 1-2 than I have in the middle part of our lineup right now."
Soriano is not the typical leadoff hitter and Piniella knows moving him is a hot topic in Chicago.
"Let's see if it works," Soriano said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.