02/19/09 5:20 PM EST
Soriano staying put as leadoff man
Cubs slugger may drop down in spring as Piniella tinkers
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Actually, Soriano never left. On Monday, Cubs manager Lou Piniella said he was going to drop Soriano down in the order at times but added that if it were Opening Day, the left fielder would be hitting first. The two had discussed such a move in January at the Cubs Convention.
On Thursday, Piniella said the lineup he's leaning toward is Soriano, Aaron Miles, Derrek Lee, Milton Bradley, Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Geovany Soto and Ryan Theriot.
"That seems like a real nice lineup to me," Piniella said. "Left, right, left, right -- we have some balance, we have some speed. You can add [Micah] Hoffpauir as one of those left-handed bats."
So, Soriano stays at the top of the order?
"That hasn't changed," Piniella said. "There are going to be times when he's not in the lineup, so basically we have to figure out who is going to be that guy, and how you do it is play around with it in Spring Training."
Which means Soriano could bat somewhere else in the order in Cactus League games as Piniella tinkers with Miles, Theriot, Fukudome or Mike Fontenot in the No. 1 spot.
"I never said we were going to move [Soriano] out of there," Piniella said. "I said we were going to take a look at the possibility of [dropping him]. I never said we were going to move him."
Is it probable or improbable that Soriano moves?
"Improbable," Piniella said. "I'll characterize it that way."
Told that he was back at the top of the order, Soriano flashed his megawatt smile.
"I'm very happy -- happy at how I feel [physically]," Soriano said. "I think [Piniella] saw me running, and he knows I can be the guy I was in 2001, 2002. I feel very good right now."
In 2001, Soriano stole 43 bases. He followed that with 41 the next season. Can he swipe 40 again?
"If I feel for six months how I feel now, there's a very good chance I could steal 30, 35 bases because I feel very good now," he said.
The Cubs had considered moving Soriano down to avoid any injuries to his legs. He arrived in camp feeling strong after spending one month this winter working out at the Cubs' academy in the Dominican Republic. It's early, but he's feeling the benefits. However, Soriano said he's also aware that Piniella does think out loud. The Cubs manager may change his mind on Friday.
"We'll see," Soriano said, smiling again. "We'll see what he says tomorrow. He is a smart manager. Any move he wants to make, I know he'll talk to me first. All those comments [earlier in the week], I don't even pay attention because I know he'll talk to me before any move he wants to make."
Soriano is aware that Piniella could move him around this spring to test the other candidates for the job.
"We'll see," Soriano said. "Today is the second day of Spring Training. We'll see what happens next week."
Maybe Piniella would consider tweaking the lineup another way and insert the pitcher into the eighth spot. Carlos Zambrano, who hit .337 last season, would probably like that.
"Zambrano swings the bat good," Piniella said. "Theodore Lilly puts the ball in play. [Rich] Harden's an athlete, but he hasn't had that many at-bats. [Sean] Marshall swings the bat a little bit. And there's [Ryan] Dempster."
Lilly hit .177, Harden .087, Marshall .333 and Dempster .164. Would he move the pitcher up?
"I don't think so," Piniella said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.