HOUSTON -- First baseman Derrek Lee was not in the starting lineup for the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night in the opener of a two-game series at Houston.

"He's got that same stiffness in his neck he's had the past couple of years," manager Lou Piniella said. "We told him to stay in [the clubhouse] and not hit. Hopefully, it will get better."

Lee is hitting only .209 with five doubles, three homers and 15 RBIs in 24 games.

Micah Hoffpauir started at first in place of Lee and batted seventh Wednesday night.

Lee's neck also bothered him during the St. Louis series in late April. He hurt it in Saturday's game and sat out Sunday and Monday.

"The last few times this has happened it's been four or five days," Piniella said. "We'll have to wait and see."