Soriano eyes Thursday for return

Soriano eyes Thursday for return

HOUSTON -- Alfonso Soriano took batting practice Friday for the first time since July 5 and barring any setbacks, he could return to the lineup on Thursday night against the Florida Marlins at Wrigley Field.

Soriano, who has been on the disabled list since June 12 because of a fractured left hand, was initially scheduled to hit off a tee and throw soft toss, but felt well enough after those exercises at Minute Maid Park to try hitting against pitching.

"I think I'm looking to come back next Thursday," Soriano said. "My hand feels great, like nothing happened before."

Soriano took 15-20 cuts with the second group of Cubs without incident. He could begin a rehab assignment on Monday in Arizona.

"I think a few games, to get some at-bats, will be all," Soriano said. "We'll see how it goes."

The Cubs aren't taking any chances with their leadoff hitter. He will be evaluated regularly and won't be activated until he's ready to return to the starting lineup.

"Sori is going to hit here for all three days and if that goes well, he'll go with us to Arizona and work out at the [Mesa] complex and possibly get a lot of at-bats in an extended game Monday and then play with the Iowa team on Tuesday and Wednesday in Tucson," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "So he can double up on Monday and then come out and work out with us before the game [against the Diamondbacks] after playing in the morning. We'll just see how the next couple of days go -- that's the plan if it goes well."

Soriano has missed 41 of Chicago's 95 games. Entering Friday night's game, the Cubs were 15-14 since Soriano has been out of the lineup.

Getting their All-Star left fielder back could give the National League Central-leading Cubs a second-half boost.

"We've struggled with this injury bug the first half," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "[Soriano] is only a few days away from probably going out for a rehab unless there's a setback."

Jim Molony is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.