Soriano focused on improving 'D'
Cubs outfielder wants to avoid being pulled late in games
CHICAGO -- Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano said he doesn't want to be pulled early in games so he's doing what he can to improve his defense, even if fans don't agree.
Asked if he was bothered at being lifted early, as he was in the home opener, Soriano said Wednesday it was "50-50."
"I think Tyler [Colvin] is a better fielder than me," Soriano said Wednesday. "[Cubs manager Lou Piniella] does it because it gives us a better defense. At the same time, I would like to play nine innings and play the whole game. The only way I can control that is to play defense, and that's what I have to do."
Piniella met with the outfielders before the season began to go over his game plan on how he would rotate them. He did not threaten to take away Soriano's playing time if he didn't perform, as reported by one Chicago newspaper.
"That couldn't be further from the truth," Piniella said of the report.
"They'll all play," Piniella said. "I've got five good outfielders. I can't sit two of them and just play three -- that we're not going to do. All I said was be patient with me and I'm going to have to take one of them out of the lineup occasionally and give somebody some at-bats.
"Down the road, when we get into this thing, obviously the guys who are doing the best are the ones who will get more at-bats," Piniella said. "When I played, that's the way it was and I think it'll be that way 20 years from now."
Soriano understands that.
"I have to do both, play defense and hit," he said. "If I don't produce, I cannot play."
The left fielder, whose error on Sunday led to a tying run by Cincinnati, said Piniella did not speak to him specifically about playing time. He plans on spending more time in the outfield taking fly balls and working with coach Mike Quade during batting practice.
He's healthy, so Soriano isn't limited because of his legs. But he is a little hesitant because he doesn't want to get hurt again.
"Sometimes I hit the wall last year, and I have to put that away and not think about the wall," Soriano said. "Whatever happened last year happened. Now it's 2010, and I have to try to forget what happened last year."
He was booed during pregame introductions on Monday, the Cubs' home opener.
"It's hard," Piniella said. "The amazing part about it is you don't like to see it happen, but it happens -- and not only in Chicago, but it happens in other sports and it happens elsewhere.
"I enjoy him -- he's a good young man, he's a team player," Piniella said. "Nobody feels worse than Soriano when he misses a ball. Believe me, there's nobody who feels worse."
Colvin will start on Thursday, although Piniella didn't specify which outfielder would sit. The playing time is not being determined by the size of the player's paycheck, Piniella said.
"The guys who are making money are making that money because they've had really nice careers and have been successful," Piniella said. "I don't like living in the past, and I don't like living in the future. I like living in the present."
Which means, he has to put the best defensive players on the field.
"He wants to do good," Piniella said of Soriano. "Nobody wants to drop a fly ball. ... He'll get better. I love this guy to death, I really do. I still take him out for defense with leads but I want to see 'Sori' do good. He's a good young man, he works hard. He's had such a great career and you want to see that continue."
On Wednesday, Soriano was charged with an error when he had trouble picking up Rickie Weeks' double into the corner in left. Some of the 39,565 fans at Wrigley Field showed their displeasure by booing the left fielder. That's unfair, shortstop Ryan Theriot said.
"I think if they knew him, they wouldn't boo him," Theriot said. "This guy is the ultimate professional. That's bricks out there. It's really tough to play the carom [off the wall].
"He's going to give you his best effort," Theriot said, "and I love having him as a teammate."
Piniella said he wasn't bothered by Soriano's play on Wednesday. In the Milwaukee seventh, Corey Hart's ball hit the left-field wall and bounced back onto the field. Soriano had to chase it down, but Piniella said it was played fine. The players have to be deal with the ricochet.
And what was Soriano's take on the fans?
"They can do whatever they want," he said. "Like I've said before, that doesn't bother me. It makes me want to come back tomorrow and work a little harder to do my job. They can do whatever they want. I just have to try to do my job."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.