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05/01/08 1:50 PM ET

Soriano activated and ready to go

Left fielder in lineup batting leadoff; Murton optioned to Triple-A

CHICAGO -- Alfonso Soriano was activated from the disabled list Thursday, inserted into the Cubs' starting lineup in left field and batting leadoff, and he has the green light to run.

Soriano, who injured his right calf on April 15, admitted he was a little "nervous" about coming back. Cubs manager Lou Piniella wasn't worried. Soriano has no limitations.

"We've gone through the outfield play, we've had him out there shagging balls, we've had him run the bases," Piniella said Thursday. "He's taken extra [batting practice] -- he's ready to go. Are we going to take undue, unnecessary chances? No. But he's ready to go. If he needs to steal a base, he should be able to, yes."

To make room for Soriano, the Cubs optioned outfielder Matt Murton to Triple-A Iowa. Murton batted .214 in eight games with the big league team.

The addition of Soriano at the top of the order meant Piniella had to find a new spot for Reed Johnson, who was batting .296 overall and .220 (9-for-41) as the leadoff man. He started in center and batted eighth, bumping Felix Pie, who is hitting .205 in 21 games.

"It's not easy," Piniella said about making the choice. "Johnson's doing a nice job. He's hitting over .300, he's getting on base. What do you do?"

The Cubs won a franchise-record 17 games in April, and they did so without Soriano for two weeks.

"We felt that coming out of Spring Training that we had a very respectable bench," Piniella said. "We were fortunate to pick up Reed Johnson at the end of Spring Training and it gave us more depth and experience.

"These guys have held their own quite well, and a few of them have superceded our expectations," Piniella said. "You're going to have injuries over the course of the year. What we'd like is for Soriano to come in nice and hot and give us a lift."

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