Soriano moved out of leadoff spot
Slumping slugger sixth with Fukudome at top for Cubs
CHICAGO -- The Cubs had a new leadoff man on Saturday.
Alfonso Soriano, batting .226 overall and .173 in his past 36 games, was dropped from the top spot in the order to sixth and replaced by Kosuke Fukudome in the one-hole in the Cubs' 11-2 loss to the Brewers. And this isn't a temporary thing, Lou Piniella said.
"We're going to see if we can get Sori jump-started," Piniella said. "We moved him to the six-hole, where he doesn't have to concern himself with trying to get on base or running. Let him swing the bat. Hopefully, he starts hitting the ball for power for us and drives in some runs. Hopefully, it works out. It's helped other hitters when they've done that, so hopefully it helps Sori."
Piniella went over to Soriano at his locker and talked to the left fielder prior to Saturday's game. Soriano, who has not homered since June 7, accepted the change.
"Sixth is fine," Soriano said. "I know I'm not doing my job batting leadoff. I hope whoever is batting leadoff does a better job than I'm doing to help the team to win. That's the key. Everybody has to help the team to win."
Piniella picked Fukudome because the outfielder has a .380 on-base percentage. Soriano is at .291.
"He works the count well," Piniella said of Fukudome. "He'll draw a walk. I think it'll be a good thing for Fukudome also."
Soriano went 0-for-4 from the six-hole. Piniella said he planned on looking at some video of Soriano's swing on Sunday. Maybe if the left fielder moved his feet closer together and put more weight on his backside, it would help him wait a little longer with his swing. No matter what Piniella says, it's up to Soriano.
"It's got to feel comfortable to the individual," Piniella said.
"Anything can help," Soriano said. "I'm struggling at the plate, and I don't know what I have to do. I have to keep fighting and working."
He's heard the boos.
"It's part of the game," Soriano said. "If I get a hit, they want to clap. If I strike out, they want to boo. It's part of the game."
The debate over whether or not Soriano should continue as leadoff man has raged all season. Rookie Sam Fuld went 4-for-8 combined on Wednesday and Thursday and was considered for the top spot. But the Cubs need Soriano to find his swing if they hope to three-peat in the National League Central.
"Sometimes, there's a lot of pressure to try to get on base," Soriano said. "Now, batting sixth, it takes a lot of pressure off myself."
He told Piniella before the season began that if he wanted to move the left fielder, he was open to the suggestion.
"He's a team guy, that's one thing," Piniella said of Soriano. "He wants to see the team win. He's a good man. I hate to see him struggling the way he has. Hopefully, this will help him and help us."
How long will Piniella experiment with this lineup?
"We'll see how it works," Piniella said. "I'm not going to say 'game by game.' That's not the way to describe it. We're going to stay with this for awhile and see how it works out. If we have to make an adjustment or two along the way, we'll try. I plan on staying this way for the time being."
On Monday, the Cubs could get three players back from the disabled list in third baseman Aramis Ramirez, outfielder Reed Johnson and reliever Angel Guzman. To make room on the roster, there will be some tough decisions. Piniella said he's considering going with 11 pitchers -- instead of the usual 12 -- up until the All-Star break.
"I think the best of all worlds for us -- and I don't know if we can -- but it would be to get by with 11 pitchers and just have to make one player move," Piniella said. "I don't know if we can. To me, that makes some sense, too. It gives us a different combination of players who we can play. We have more parts during the course of a ballgame. But we'll see how we go. Every time I talk to Larry [Rothschild, pitching coach] about 11 pitchers, he shudders a little bit."
The Cubs hope they have found the right lineup combination. Soriano was batting .283 before the All-Star break last year, earning a start for the NL Midsummer Classic team. He feels there's still time to get back on track.
"My confidence is always high, because there's a lot of games left," Soriano said. "If there were one week or two weeks left, I'd be down. There's a lot of games left, so I can help the team."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.