03/02/12 6:30 PM EST
Soriano a serious leadoff candidate
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Cubs manager Dale Sveum asked Soriano how he felt about leading off before making out the lineup card for Friday's game.
"He asked me a couple days ago what I thought about batting leadoff and I said, 'I'm open,'" Soriano said. "My last time batting leadoff here was two, three years ago. I said to the manager, I'm open to any decision he makes. It's more important for me that I'm feeling good and we'll see what happens."
Sveum tried to downplay the significance of Friday's lineup. In Soriano's career, he has a .288 average as a leadoff man. He batted first in one game last year, none in 2010, and 70 in 2009.
"The one thing about Soriano is that his numbers as a leadoff hitter are pretty good in his career," Sveum said Friday. "If you want to get into details of why you might come up with something like that, it could be as simple as that.
"We don't have the bona fide guys at any position in the order," Sveum said. "We don't have any guys who have driven in runs in the big leagues. [Starlin] Castro is probably the most talented and best hitter we have to hit third. Do we have that base stealer to lead off or an on-base guy? [David] DeJesus probably fills that as much as anyone. But we don't have a lot of cut and dried spots where you say, this guy is this, this guy is that. It's not that easy with this lineup."
How would Soriano feel about leading off during the season?
"I don't know, maybe he'll try something in Spring Training," Soriano said. "I think now is the right time to do it and see how I look, how the team looks and he'll make the decision.
"I feel very comfortable because most of my career, I've batted leadoff," he said. "What's more important is I feel healthy. Any part of the lineup, I feel great, I feel fine."
Maybe it's because the Cubs have a lot of younger players in camp, but Soriano said he feels a little more spring in his step.
"I feel good," he said. "I'm surprised. I have 11 years in the league and I'm 36 years old, but I don't feel like 36. As soon as I put on the uniform, I feel 25. That's more important for me."
Sveum said he expects to finalize the lineup by the middle of March after he's seen players in games. The ideal place for Soriano is in an RBI spot, Sveum said, and the same is true for Castro.
"He's a great hitter," Sveum said of Castro. "He's proven to be able to do what he's done in almost two years playing every day. That's pretty impressive numbers to put up, so a guy like that should be put in an RBI spot. When and at what time, that's always the million-dollar question with young hitters. Can they handle hitting in the heart of the lineup?"
Szczur shines in intrasquad game
MESA, Ariz. -- Matt Szczur drove in six runs, hitting a grand slam and two-run double, and scored from second on a sacrifice fly as the Blue team beat the White team, 10-4, in the Cubs' intrasquad game Friday at HoHoKam Park.
Which was bigger, the slam or scoring from second?
"Probably the grand slam," said Szczur who played at Class A Daytona and Peoria last season. "That's my first one ever, probably since Little League. I never had one in high school or college."
Brett Jackson hit a leadoff homer and RBI double and Tony Campana had three hits and scored three runs for the Blue team, which was managed by Spring Training guest coach Rick Sutcliffe.
"It's been two weeks that we've been at it down the street and to come up here and get into a game is refreshing," Jackson said. "I think we're ready to play games every day rather than go through a hitting routine every day on four fields.'
Szczur credited the extra work this spring on baserunning for his ability to score from second on the sacrifice fly.
"[Coach] Pat [Listach] on third base was rounding me in," Szczur said. "I guess [right fielder David DeJesus] went back and went back into the fence and [Listach] saw it and capitalized on it.
"I cut down on my corners [running the bases]," Szczur said. "I think that's what helped a lot, I cut down my corners. I think that helped me out. I think that's why Tony scored, too. He made an awesome turn. it helped out -- baserunning does help."
Travis Wood, battling for one of the two openings in the rotation, started for the White team, and gave up six runs on six hits, including the two homers, over three innings. Randy Wells, also competing for a starter spot, gave up three runs on four hits over three innings for the Blue squad.
The Cubs will play another intrasquad game on Saturday at HoHoKam Park, starting at 1 p.m. MT. It will be open to the public and admission is free. It will be the final tuneup before Cactus League play begins Sunday.
Campana trying to bunt for hits
MESA, Ariz. -- Every day this spring, Tony Campana has been practicing his bunting, and it has nothing to do with the Cubs' bunting tournament.
"I'm out there more working on base-hit bunting than sac bunting," Campana said Friday. "I'm trying to kill it and keep it close to the line."
Campana, who was upset in the first round of the bunting tourney by catcher Steve Clevenger, is trying to take advantage of his speed and get more bunt base hits. Cubs manager Dale Sveum has stopped by to offer some tips.
"I just tell him certain things to think about when you're bunting for base hits," Sveum said. "The guys who run that fast, sometimes they think about deadening the ball, being too perfect. When you can drag the ball to the first-base side, you're bringing three [defensive] players in to screw the thing up.
"More than anything, [we're trying to] get him to understand about bunting the top of the ball," Sveum said. "Some of these fields are so hard in front of home plate. If you can get a bounce out of your bunts, you've got three or four steps by the time the ball comes down and it's a very difficult bunt to field when you get some air on your bunt after the first bounce."
Campana said he's appreciated the extra advice. But he joked that his speed wasn't the key factor in why he was batting ninth on Friday in the intrasquad game. Campana was listed as the designated hitter for one of the teams.
"Power, baby," he said, smiling.
For the record, he has one home run in both the Major Leagues and Minor Leagues, and that was an inside the park dash last year with the Cubs.
There's a new chef in town
MESA, Ariz. -- Imagine having to make breakfast for 110 hungry men. That's chef John Droghetti's task every day at Cubs camp, and his goal is to make the meals beneficial for the players. No red meat. No fattening foods.
"We try to stay as fresh as possible," said Droghetti, the head chef at Cubs camp who works for Cookin' on Wood, which provides breakfast and lunch each day in Spring Training.
On Friday, the first day the Cubs were at HoHoKam Stadium, Droghetti and his sous chef, Lee, were set up partly outside the clubhouse with a grill to handle banana walnut pancakes and oven to cook the turkey bacon and turkey sausage. There were four omelette stations and a machine to make smoothies inside. In the past, clubhouse manager Tom Hellman and his staff have handled the food.
"[Hellman] came up to us after the first few days and said, 'Man, we have a lot more time,'" Droghetti said.
Of course, Hellman's staff then realized how much more work they have to do.
Droghetti, 23, said the response has been favorable.
"Everyone has open minds and open mouths," he said. "I try to get as much feedback as possible."
Some of the players have asked for menudo, and Droghetti said he'll try to accommodate them. There's an emphasis on vegetables, and Droghetti said one of the lunch time favorites is roasted zucchini, yellow squash, red onions and peppers sprinkled with oregano for an Italian flavor.
"I'm surprised at how much vegetables these guys eat," he said.
The company handles about nine Major League teams in the Phoenix area, and Droghetti started with the Reds and Indians. But when he heard the Cubs were looking for cooks, he applied.
"I've been a Cubs fan ever since I can remember," the Michigan native said.
Hoyer supportive of expanded playoffs
MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer supports expanded playoffs, which was announced on Friday by Major League Baseball. The 2012 postseason will feature a 10-team format that includes two Wild Card teams and an elimination game in each league prior to the Division Series.
"I think it's great for the game," Hoyer said. "I don't think we know all the ramifications yet, such as will there be fewer players available at the [trade] deadline. I think how it plays out will be interesting."
There will likely be more teams looking to add players rather than part with them at the trade deadline.
"I think the new system will change a lot of the dynamics, and how that evolves will be fascinating to watch," Hoyer said. "I like the fact that there will be a lot of teams involved. October baseball is a great thing and I do think they did a good job in that now winning the division means that much more and there's a clear advantage in that.
"It gives a lot of teams a lot of hope, and when you have a 162-game schedule, hope is a good thing," he said.
• Dale Sveum beat Ryan Dempster to reach the Sweet 16 of the Cubs' bunting tournament on Friday. Sveum led 400-380 going into the final round, and then picked up 240 points. Dempster had to try to go for the 100-point spot to win and failed. Others to advance on Friday included Paul Maholm, Jeff Baker and David DeJesus.
• It's tight quarters in the Cubs' clubhouse at HoHoKam Park and the lockers for Micah Gibbs, Marco Carillo and Dae-Eun Rhee are temporary wooden ones in the middle of the room. There is one leftover from Carlos Zambrano's days with the Cubs. Alfredo Amezaga's chair is marked on the back, "El Toro 38."
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.