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03/15/08 7:38 PM ET

Struggling Fukudome flipped, frustrated

Import fine after collision, remains in funk at the plate

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Chunichi Dragons did not have a rivalry with a team in Japan the way the Cubs have against the Chicago White Sox. But Lou Piniella said he wasn't going to ask interpreter Ryuji Araki to say anything to new Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome.

"Let him learn on his own," Piniella said Saturday before the first intracity showdown between the two teams.

Fukudome found out how hard-hitting the series can be. In the eighth inning, he singled with two outs and one on, and tried to advance on Matt Murton's ball but collided with White Sox second baseman Mike Rouse who had stumbled as he tried to pick up the ball.

Fukudome flipped over Rouse and tumbled to the ground, and was called out for interference. Did Piniella see the play that way?

"I saw the flip," Piniella said. "I don't know who was right, and who was wrong. It happened on the grass part, but it happened also after the infielder bobbled the ball."

Fukudome said the second baseman booted the ball, and ran into his running path and he didn't have time to avoid a collision.

"If he did catch the ball, then he never would've come to his running path and the collision never would've happened," Fukudome said.

Was he hurt?

"I'm fine," Fukudome said.

Asked about whether he understood the intensity of the Cubs-White Sox series, Fukudome said it was too early.

"It's still Spring Training, so I didn't see much of the tension," he said. "It will probably start when I get back to Chicago."

He did go 1-for-4 Saturday, and his average now is .229. On Friday, he told the Japanese reporters that he was a little frustrated.

"I was a little mad at myself," Fukudome said.

"We've tried him in three spots," Piniella said. "Give me another four, five days and we'll have it nailed down as to where he's going to hit.

"He's got good talent, and it's going to take a while to get himself acclimated to the pitching," Piniella said. "The more at-bats he gets, the more he learns the pitching and how teams are going to pitch him, the better. You send a good American hitter to Japan and it will take him awhile to get used to pitching, too. It's mutual."

One player who seems able to hit anywhere in the world is Micah Hoffpauir, who went 3-for-4 and was batting .486 this spring for the Cubs.

"You know what he's making me do?" Piniella said of Hoffpauir. "He's making me decide where I can put him on the field and get his bat in the lineup, that's what he's doing. It's as simple as that. He's swinging the bat better than anybody we have in camp. He's been getting work in the outfield. We'll see.

"He wants a job, and it's good to see," Piniella said. "I wish we had a few more like him."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.