Notes: Lee returns to lineup, bats fifth

Notes: Lee returns to lineup

PITTSBURGH -- The Chicago Cubs activated first baseman Derrek Lee from the 15-day disabled list and optioned infielder Buck Coats to Triple-A Iowa on Monday.

The 30-year-old Lee had been on the disabled list since July 24, with post-traumatic inflammation of his right wrist. It was his second stint on the DL. He was sidelined from April 20 to June 24, after he fractured his right wrist in a collision with the Dodgers' Rafael Furcal on April 20, in Los Angeles. Lingering pain forced Lee back on the DL a month after his first return.

"I feel good," Lee reported. "I'm excited to get back and on the field and try to get some at-bats in."

Lee is batting .261 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in 34 games this season. He batted .227 with four doubles, a home run and four RBIs in 20 games between trips to the disabled list.

"It's tough to sit out period," Lee explained. "You know I'd rather be on the field. It's no fun being hurt and in the trainers' room all year. It's nice to be back."

Cubs manager Dusty Baker had Lee penciled in his lineup at first base for Monday night's game in Pittsburgh, batting fifth, and will use him with caution.

"It depends on how he feels," Baker stated. "Right now, the plan is a couple days playing and one day off. It depends on how he feels, and he's agreeable to that right now. If on that third day he feels good he'll probably want to play, knowing him. That's his leash right now."

The Cubs have struggled mightily with Lee out of the lineup -- limping into Monday's contest with a record of 54-76. Lee's return prompted Baker to muse about what might have been had Lee been able to play.

"You can figure he can make up 10, 12 or 15 games by himself," Baker lamented. "Our offense would have been in a lot better situation. He's a Golden Glove and Silver Bat guy; yeah he would have made a tremendous difference. You think about it, but you deal with what's at hand and what you have to work with right now."

Baker has been under a microscope, and rumors that he may lose his job because of the Cubs' poor play are making the rounds, which disturbs Lee.

"It's been a rough season and we haven't played well," Lee said. "We've had injuries. It's just one of those years when nothing has gone right. We have to learn from it and get better from it. It's not all the manager, and everyone knows that. I think it's one of those things, for the media, it's easier to pin it on one guy than 25 guys. It's not fair. The players are the guys out there on the field playing the game, and we need to be the ones taking the blame."

Cedeno sits: Shortstop Ronny Cedeno is being given some time off in this series. Ryan Theriot got the start at shortstop Monday.

"We'll give him a couple of days off," Baker said, "just to get him back in the proper alertness and frame of mind. He's been mired in a slump for a long time, and these things can wear on your mind, and you're not as alert as you'd like to be. So, tonight and tomorrow we'll [give him] a time-out just to sit on the bench with [Cesar] Izturis and some guys and just have a thought process where you think things out in advance before they happen."

Cedeno was hitless in 13 straight at-bats before a single on Sunday night in St. Louis. He is batting .241 with five home runs and 31 RBIs.

"He played pretty good in Triple-A last year," Baker explained. "What did he hit -- .355 or something like that? It's not all about batting average, it's about playing the game and its many phases, and it's tough on a young shortstop.

"I'd say the toughest positions to have your young people [play] are shortstop and catcher, because they're in every play and they have to be on top of every play. They're in most cutoff and relay situations and most double plays, and involved in almost everything that happens on the field. Plus, you are under more scrutiny than if you were in Iowa. Everything that you do good or bad is highly scrutinized.

"I don't know if it's overwhelmed him. He started out so very well and then other teams made adjustments, and now it's up to him to make adjustments in return."

On deck: The Cubs face the Pirates in Game 2 of the three-game series in Pittsburgh at 6:05 p.m. CT on Tuesday. Right-hander Carlos Zambrano (14-5, 3.31) will be on the hill for the Cubs. The Pirates will counter with lefty Paul Maholm (6-10, 4.82).

George Von Benko is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.