© 2011 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

03/09/11 6:58 PM ET

Offseason regimen paying dividends for Soriano

MESA, Ariz. -- If Alfonso Soriano is hitting the ball to right field, that's a good thing for the Cubs.

"If I hit a home run to right field, I know my swing is good," the Cubs outfielder said of his focus on hitting to the opposite field. "That means I'm feeling good and I have power today. If I hit a homer to right field, that means I stayed on the ball."

Soriano is batting .364 this spring with one homer, which sailed over the right-field wall at Maryvale Baseball Park on March 2. On Wednesday, he went 0-for-2, and flew out to right in the Cubs' 13-4 loss to the Royals.

Pitchers will continue to throw inside on Soriano, but Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo wants him to think right. The good thing this spring is that Soriano can think about hitting and not rehabbing. He's healthy because of a good offseason.

Every day, starting in January in the Dominican Republic, Soriano would drive his kids to school, then go to the Cubs academy to work out. He spent three hours there, beginning at 8:30 a.m. His program included leg strengthening exercises, running and agility drills. When finished, he'd go home and complete his workout routine by doing upper body exercises.

Then it was time for lunch, a quick nap, and he'd go pick up his children from school. Soriano didn't spend much time hitting this offseason.

"Spring Training is six weeks, so I have plenty of time to hit," he said. "It's my legs, defense and a little hitting in the Dominican."

So far, his program has paid off.

Garza working on fastball, making adjustments

MESA, Ariz. -- Matt Garza's game plan in Spring Training is to throw only fastballs in his first three outings so he can work on location. On Wednesday, the Cubs pitcher had to change his approach.

Garza walked the first two batters he faced, then gave up an RBI single to the Royals' Billy Butler. Because he was having a tough time throwing fastballs for strikes, he switched to his breaking pitches. First baseman Carlos Pena, who was Garza's teammate on the Rays, came over to the mound twice in the first to talk to the pitcher.

"[Pena] was just trying to slow it down," Garza said. "He knew that I was fighting some things, and he came over and said, 'Slow it down, slow it down.' That's when I had to step back and take a deep breath and analyze what I can do and can't do. It was a tough situation but a good learning process today. I was able to adjust on the fly. Next time, it'll be sooner than later."

And that's what Spring Training is for.

Garza -- who allowed six runs on four hits, while walking four and striking out four over 2 2/3 innings in the Cubs' 13-4 loss -- admitted he was a little stubborn about sticking to his fastballs-only game plan.

"These are the best outings to learn from," he said. "It could've been a four-inning shutout, no hits, but what will I learn from that?"

Colvin baffled by defensive lapses in outfield

MESA, Ariz. -- For all the work Tyler Colvin has put into playing first base, he's perplexed by what's happening in the outfield.

Colvin has made two errors in right this spring and had trouble with another ball when playing left on Tuesday. Cubs manager Mike Quade said he "challenged" Colvin to play better.

"It's frustrating," Colvin said. "I pride myself on my defense, and it's something that has to always be there. I always go back to college because you think back to if you mess up, they take you out of the game. It's not lack of effort or anything like that -- I don't know what it is.

"I understand, yeah, it's Spring Training, but there's no excuse for it. I'm still working at it and everything, but I'll be fine."

He's working with Cubs outfield coach Bobby Dernier and center fielder Marlon Byrd on his positioning.

"We're asking him to spend some time at first and you're dividing his time up a little bit, which we haven't done before," Quade said. "We're going to continue to look at him at first and just ask him to make sure he's getting all the work he can in the outfield and try to learn to have his mind in the spot he's at. I've been surprised [by the mistakes]."

Colvin has been taking ground balls at first to see if he can give the Cubs some insurance there. He will make his second spring start at first on Thursday. Colvin did handle first base fine in his only game there.

"I think he'll learn as he goes along," Quade said. "It's learning to divide your time and focus wherever you end up in the lineup and on the field every day. It's something I think he's more than capable of dealing with.

"He told me, 'I'm frustrated.' I said, 'Let's figure out a way to stop this.' It goes back to what I've said -- you've got to work and keep working it out."

Second baseman Blake DeWitt also has some work to do and was on the field early Wednesday with shortstop Starlin Castro to go over plays. The emphasis has been on being consistent around the bag and turning the double play.

"There are some guys who are naturally gifted defensive players, and there are some guys who it's going to be a priority to work on their defense and even maintain their defense their entire career," Quade said. "Right now, at least at second base, [DeWitt] is in that position where it's always going to be something he'll have to bear down on."

Quade also is keeping an open mind regarding second base and looking at the other middle infielders in camp, such as Darwin Barney.

Extra bases

Cubs reliever John Grabow has not pitched in a Cactus League game since the first one on Feb. 27 because of some tightness in his left shoulder. He has been able to do side work with pitching coach Mark Riggins and will likely get back into a Cactus League game next week. Grabow is coming back from knee surgery last year that limited him to 28 games. "It's nothing serious," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "We're just being careful. You worry about his knee, and every so often people coming back from that try to compensate and change their mechanics." ... Todd Wellemeyer is nursing a sore right hip but downplayed the problem, saying he's dealt with it for a couple years. "I'm old," Wellemeyer quipped. ... Carlos Zambrano will host a home run derby on March 21 at Big League Dreams in Gilbert, Ariz., to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Gilbert and Hope of Life foundation. Geovany Soto, Ozzie Guillen and Carlos Silva also will attend. ... Thursday is Ron Santo Day at HoHoKam Park and the Cubs will honor the late radio broadcaster and third baseman by installing a plaque under the radio booth. Fans would line up under the booth to get Santo's autograph before games and between innings. Santo died in December. He was 70.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.