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Lee trying to rediscover hitting groove

Lee trying to rediscover groove

HOUSTON -- Derrek Lee doesn't take early hitting very often, but he was out with the rest of the Cubs on Monday at Minute Maid Park more than four hours before game time trying to find his swing.

"Obviously, I haven't been getting any hits," said the Cubs first baseman, who went 7-for-41 on the homestand and is 2-for-25 in his last six games. "Sometimes you have to get a few extra swings to try to get that groove back."

Lee got off to a good start, batting .371 in April. He's hitting .171 in May.

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"I don't feel great, but I don't feel bad," Lee said. "I'm just kind of not putting the right swing on certain pitches. I'm seeing the ball OK. I just need to take better swings."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella has hinted that he will give Lee a day off, and was leaning toward Wednesday in the series finale against the Houston Astros. That would give Lee both Wednesday and Thursday off before heading into Pittsburgh for the weekend.

"I don't make the lineup," Lee said. "I don't need a day off, I don't want a day off. It's up to him. I respect his decisions."

Piniella admitted it won't be easy to convince Lee to take a breather.

"I'll have the batting coach tell him," Piniella said. "It's just hard to play every day. Outside of Derrek, the rest of the team is pretty well rested.

"Let's see how he swings the bat. He had a good session, hit the ball left-center, right-center. Let's hope he gets hot."

Lee is the only Cubs player who has played in every game.

"There's no way I'm worn out," Lee said. "It's May. I'm definitely not tired."

What was encouraging for the Cubs is that they went 8-2 on the just-completed homestand, even with Lee struggling.

"Usually when the middle part of your lineup is a little cold, you think the team will struggle," Piniella said. "The front part of the lineup -- [Alfonso] Soriano was on fire -- and we got some nice production out of the middle and end of it."

On fire? Soriano was red-hot, and won National League Player of the Week honors after batting .525 with seven homers, including consecutive two-homer games Friday and Saturday.

"Soriano's hitting enough for four people," Lee said.

Micah Hoffpauir was added to the roster on Sunday, and helped boost the Astros' attendance on Monday night. Several friends and family members came to the game to cheer for Hoffpauir, who lives in Jacksonville, Texas.

While the Cubs hope Lee gets hot, they hope to contain Houston's Lance Berkman, who has hit in 17 straight games and was batting .399 with 16 homers and 44 RBIs heading into Monday. What do the Cubs' scouting reports say?

"Pitch around him," Piniella said.

Reminded that the Cubs have a pretty hot player, too, in Soriano, Piniella smiled.

"I don't mind my left fielder being hot," Piniella said.

Lee hopes the Astros don't pitch around him.

"You'd rather stay more even," Lee said. "I've had a rough three weeks. It's still a long season. It's not like I'm never going to get another hit. You don't like it to be so prolonged."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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