Soriano gets second day off to hone swing

Soriano gets second day off to hone swing

CHICAGO -- Alfonso Soriano got one more day off to work on his timing.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Thursday that he was giving the leadoff man a second day off to allow Soriano time to work in the batting cage.

"We need Soriano to hit. Period," Piniella said.

Soriano was batting .230 overall, and was hitless in his last two games. He was hitting .179 in his past 35 games. He has not shown signs of being frustrated.

"He likes to play, he enjoys playing, and he has confidence in himself," Piniella said of Soriano. "He has struggled. You look at what other teams have done like the Red Sox with [David] Ortiz to rest him, the Yankees with Alex [Rodriguez], [Jimmy] Rollins with Philadelphia. We're giving him a few days off to see if we can get him going."

"He's a streaky guy," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said, "and when he gets hot, he can carry you. We always go to the ballpark thinking this will be the day he gets ignited."

Soriano has had bad stretches before, but not for this long.

"It's just timing," Soriano said. "My swing is good, and it's just my timing. I'm working with [hitting coach Von Joshua] every day. I hope I come back Friday and feel better."

Does he have a hot streak coming?

"I hope I save it for this time now and for the second half," Soriano said. "I hope when I get hot, I stay hot for a long time."

His teammates are counting on him.

"He's a guy who can hit 10 home runs in four or five games," Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot said of Soriano. "We've seen that happen. He can catch fire, and we expect him to do that. He's a superstar and big-time player for us, and he's done that for a lot of years. Let's hope when he does, we can follow him."

The Cubs will be getting more parts to the lineup back soon. Aramis Ramirez (left shoulder) and Reed Johnson (back) were to begin three-game rehab assignments this weekend. Ramirez and Johnson will play for Class A Peoria on Friday vs. Kane County and will be in Peoria Saturday and Sunday to play for the Minor League team. Angel Guzman will make his second rehab outing Friday for Triple-A Iowa.

"We've played 75 games to date," Piniella said. "We've had our regular lineup on the field one game out of 75. One. Opening Day. Let's get these guys all healthy and playing and see what we can do. We've had one game all year where we've played our lineup."

The Cubs began Thursday's play trailing Milwaukee by 3 1/2 games. They were 2 1/2 games out when Ramirez dislocated his left shoulder on May 8.

"I hope when he comes back, he's healthy," Soriano said of Ramirez. "I know he'll try to help the team as much as he can."

Soriano, who has not hit a home run since June 7 and whose on-base percentage has dipped to .296, still expects to lead off. He hasn't wavered, and Hendry said that the Cubs haven't talked about moving Soriano.

"The most important thing is to be in the lineup and just play the game," Soriano said.

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