04/03/08 8:20 PM ET
Piniella to stick with Soriano at leadoff
Slugger's comfort level high atop lineup; Theriot No. 2 for now
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Piniella decided to return Soriano to the top of the order after two games, saying the left fielder was more comfortable there. He has batted first most of his career.
"We'll just put him in the leadoff hole," Piniella said. "That's where he hit last year. This is no big change. All we're doing is flip-flopping the first two hitters in the lineup."
Ryan Theriot now will bat second and may move lower in the order against left-handed pitchers. That's a story for another day. Soriano is staying put at No. 1.
"I felt more comfortable at home plate today," Soriano said after going 1-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored Thursday in the Cubs' 6-3 win over the Brewers. "The more at-bats I get in the game, the more selective I am at home plate. I feel comfortable batting leadoff."
That's the whole idea.
"Obviously, we need these guys to hit -- and they will," Piniella said of Soriano and Aramis Ramirez, who hit his first homer Thursday.
Piniella had said before Wednesday's game that he wanted to keep the Cubs' lineup constant, which meant Soriano would've hit second. But after the game, which the Cubs lost to the Brewers, the manager changed his mind. Piniella seemed to grow weary of the questions.
"Where did Soriano hit last year? He hit in the No. 1 hole," Piniella said. "Where did he hit this spring? He hit in the one hole. So he's back in the one hole. I don't know what makes things so complicated or such changing.
"I am not going to be making excuses or giving explanations on why I want to change the lineup from time to time. That's what I get paid to do, and that's what I'm going to do."
Well, we're going to keep asking.
"You can ask all you want, and you're asking," Piniella said. "I'm telling you, I don't need to justify it. I think I know what I'm doing."
This spring, Piniella said he wanted to drop Soriano down to protect his leg. The outfielder had missed significant time last season because of an injury to his left leg in April and his right leg in August. He seems to be running well despite the cold weather this week.
"There are other reasons I put him in the two hole for God's sake," Piniella said. "We've got him in the one hole now, and that's where he's going to stay."
The Cubs had tried to acquire a top-of-the-order player this offseason -- anyone hear of Brian Roberts?-- but didn't make a deal. Moving Soriano down may have been an attempt to prepare him in case the team did make a trade.
Last season, when Soriano led off, the Cubs went 69-56. He has a career .295 average as the leadoff man, and he's happier there.
"Truthfully, I like him in the leadoff role," Piniella said. "That's where he likes it, that's where I like it. That's where we'll put him, and we'll just go play baseball."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.