Soriano a serious leadoff candidate

Soriano a serious leadoff candidate

Soriano a serious leadoff candidate
MESA, Ariz. -- It was only an intrasquad game, but Alfonso Soriano was back in the leadoff spot for the Cubs and may be there during the regular season as well.

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?"