04/11/12 3:59 PM ET
Soriano shows noticeable improvement in left
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"He's been working his butt off every single day trying to get better on hitting and defense," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "He's been doing a great job. The legs aren't going to allow him to do a lot of things, the speed, but as long as he catches what he's supposed to and throws to the right bases, that's all anybody can ask for.
"He's in there for his bat, and Dave's done a great job with him, working with him and positioning him and making sure nothing gets over his head, and he's deeper, and we keep slugging percentage down to make teams get two or three hits instead of one hit."
Soriano made a diving catch of Carlos Gomez's fly ball during Wednesday's game against the Brewers, a day after making a nice grab of Aramis Ramirez's fly ball at the wall in the second inning of Tuesday night's 7-4 loss. He also made a good running catch of Adam LaRoche's fly ball on Sunday.
McKay says he doesn't have to ask Soriano if he wants to do any extra work. The outfielder usually seeks out the coach during batting practice.
Sveum was going to give the 36-year-old outfielder a day off Wednesday after Tuesday's night game, but Soriano was ready to go.
"I talked to him about it, and he said his legs are feeling great and he said, 'I want to play,'" Sveum said. "It's still early in the season and too early to be worried about guys being tired."
Soto introduces levity with young Dolis
CHICAGO -- At one point in the seventh inning Tuesday night, Geovany Soto made Rafael Dolis laugh.
The Brewers were threatening to add on after Dolis walked the first two batters. Soto, the Cubs catcher, went out to the mound to talk to Dolis, who was making his second appearance this year and third of his career, to make sure the right-hander was breathing.
"I told him, 'Feel like you're playing Wiffle ball in the Dominican and it's cold because we just had a hurricane and there's no power,'" Soto said Wednesday. "I was trying to get his mind away from [the game]. Maybe he's feeling a little pressure or is nervous or is cold. I was trying to get him away from that so he could regroup."
Telling Dolis there's a hurricane sounds like an odd way to expect him to relax.
"I told him the power is out, the conditions are really bad," Soto said. "We can only be outside playing Wiffle ball. I said, 'This guy's got two homers off you, so you want to strike him out with Wiffle ball.' He's looking at me, like, 'Are you kidding me?' I just tried to calm him down. When you're calm and feel comfortable, that's when your talent comes out. I wanted him to feel like he was at home. He has unbelievable talent and an unbelievable fastball that I want to come out."
Dolis, who is from the Dominican Republic, has seen his share of hurricanes. But he laughed again when asked about Soto's efforts. The right-hander did give up a run in the seventh and ended the inning by striking out Nyjer Morgan. The Brewers went on to win, 7-4.
Soto also spent some time on the mound Tuesday night with Lendy Castillo, 23, who pitched the ninth. Castillo spent last season at Class A and is making a huge leap to the big leagues.
"It's going to take a little bit for these guys," Soto said. "I remember my first time when I was in the big leagues and my knees were shaking a little bit. It goes like that. You can't teach experience. You just have to go out there and play."
Home-plate umpire Gary Cederstom had to break up a few of Soto's conversations on the mound. The Cubs catcher didn't share his joke with the umpire.
"I just told [Cederstrom], 'Give me a couple seconds here to calm him down a little bit,'" Soto said.
It's only been five games, but Cubs center fielder Marlon Byrd has gotten off to a slow start, going 1-for-18 entering Wednesday's game against the Brewers. When does a player's struggles force a manager to make a switch?
"When and what date, you don't put a time limit on it," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "There's a time when there have to be adjustments made, and whether that's a week, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks into the season, the bottom line is production is what this job is all about, and we have to make adjustments. That's how people survive in the big leagues."
Sveum planned on having dinner Wednesday night with some of his friends on the Brewers, including announcer Bob Uecker.
"It's like any other team. You have relationships over there," Sveum said. "On the field, you're not doing a lot other than playing another team."
The Brewers have changed their signs since Sveum was on the coaching staff, plus Wrigley Field isn't conducive to spying.
"This isn't the easiest place to pick signs up because you can't see anything in the other dugout," Sveum said. "They're a team that you know is going to do things. Their pitchers are very, very capable of handling the bat in any capacity, whether it's slash hit and running, or hit and running, or safety squeezes. They're very capable of doing things like that and doing things like that on breaking balls. It's difficult unless you're pitching out all the time. It's execution, and they have five starting pitchers who handle the bat really well."
The Cubs began a stretch of five straight day games on Wednesday, including three on the road in St. Louis.
"Most of these guys are used to a lot of day games," Sveum said.
But when Sveum was with the Brewers, he had mostly night games. Is he a morning person?
"I am now," he said. "It'll be forced on you. Coming out of Spring Training, you're in that mode anyway, so you fall right into it, so it's really no different."
His alarm was set at 4 a.m. in Arizona.
"I'm getting to sleep in now a little bit," he said.
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.