Lee, Ramirez 'key' for Cubs in second half

Lee, Ramirez 'key' for Cubs in second half

LOS ANGELES -- Derrek Lee did not start Sunday and Cubs manager Lou Piniella is hoping an extra day of rest pays dividends in the second half for the first baseman.

And his left fielder, Alfonso Soriano. And his third baseman, Aramis Ramirez.

Piniella said this is the first time Soriano has not fought him when the Cubs manager suggests a breather.

"If these guys would allow me to rest them a little, we could function more and use our bench," Piniella said.

But time off won't be the key factor in the second half. Both Lee and Ramirez need to rebound from a disappointing first half if the Cubs have any chance in the National League Central.

Lee was batting .233, although he's hitting .253 since June 16 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 23 games. Ramirez has been hotter, going 12-for-25 on this week-long road trip with four homers and nine RBIs.

"They're the key," Piniella said of the pair. "I've always hated to say one player, two players because it's a team. But you know when they do things offensively, our team responds.

"Ramirez has shown some really good signs on this trip and Derrek has done it, not on a consistent basis but he has shown signs, also," Piniella said. "I think the break will do both players good as I think it will do for the rest of our team."

Plus, Piniella said he feels the two will be more accustomed to hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo's approach. Jaramillo is the Cubs' third hitting coach in the last year.

"I've talked to Rudy at length and he feels we'll have a much better second half hitting the baseball," Piniella said. "If that's the case, I think you'll see us winning with more consistency."