Leadoff role suits Fukudome quite well

Leadoff role suits Fukudome quite well

PHILADELPHIA -- Moving Alfonso Soriano out of the leadoff spot may be the best thing that could happen to Kosuke Fukudome.

In 11 games at the No. 1 spot in the Cubs' order, Fukudome was batting .317 (13-for-41).

"Leadoff spot is better for him," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "It allows him to not try to hit the ball for power. It should allow him to use the whole field to hit with. He can do things he's more suited for. I think he likes the leadoff spot. I haven't talked to him about it, but I think he likes it."

Fukudome does see a lot of pitches, ranking among the top 20 in the National League in pitches per plate appearance. He leads the Cubs in walks and on-base percentage.

"When the season started, we had him in the two-hole," Piniella said. "I'm very comfortable with him in the one-hole."

Fukudome's Japanese hitting coach, Kyosuke Sasaki, joined the team Monday, and was in uniform. He's received video updates of his former pupil since visiting Chicago in May. Piniella wanted to talk hitting with Sasaki during batting practice. Fukudome doesn't need much mentoring. He went 6-for-12 in the four-game series against the Washington Nationals.

"Maybe it was in anticipation of his coach coming," Piniella said.

Pitching matchup
CHC: RHP Rich Harden (6-6, 5.06 ERA)
Harden opened the second half in much better form than he closed it. In his two starts before the All-Star break, Harden gave up 11 runs on 15 hits over seven innings. In his first post-break start, the right-hander held the Nationals to one unearned run on three hits over six innings. He seems to like the road grays. Harden is 5-1 with a 2.17 ERA away from Wrigley Field.

PHI: RHP Joe Blanton (6-4, 4.44 ERA)
Blanton's last start on Saturday was wiped out after 1 1/3 innings because of a postponement at Land Shark Stadium, but instead of losing his turn in the rotation altogether, manager Charlie Manuel figured the 28-year-old could use that as pretty much a bullpen session and start him three days later. Blanton threw 24 pitches -- giving up two unofficial runs -- and will be on 10 days' rest when he takes on the Cubs. The 28-year-old has a team-high 10 quality starts this season, including seven in his past nine outings. Over that span, Blanton is 4-1 with a 2.44 ERA. And he has been especially dominant lately. On July 5, he outdueled Johan Santana with 7 1/3 scoreless innings, and on July 10, he allowed just four hits and one run over 7 1/3 innings. It was the first time he threw more than seven innings in consecutive outings since April 2008.

Ryan Dempster threw 60 pitches in a bullpen session Monday, his second side session since he broke his big toe, and will have X-rays taken Thursday in Chicago. If he continues to make progress, Dempster could throw a simulated game next and then be inserted into the rotation. ... Randy Wells will open the Cubs' series Friday against the Reds and be followed by Kevin Hart and Ted Lilly, the order to be determined. Rich Harden will go Monday vs. the Astros, which is a night game. Harden is 5-1 with a 2.41 ERA in six night games and 1-5 with a 7.38 ERA in nine day games. ... Because Jake Fox is the Cubs' backup catcher, Piniella has to be careful how he uses him, saying, "I can't use him too quick in case something happens." ... WGN broadcaster Ron Santo is missing this road trip because of a kidney infection. Former Cub Keith Moreland is filling in. ... David Macias singled and walked twice in Peoria's 6-0 loss Monday to Clinton. It's the second time the Chiefs were shut out on their six-game road trip. ... On Sunday, Mitch Atkins gave up three runs on five hits over six innings in Iowa's 5-4 win over Nashville. ... Tyler Colvin had two hits in Tennessee's 7-5 loss to Jacksonville. Blake Lalli hit a three-run homer in the first. ... Robinson Chirinos hit a three-run homer in Daytona's 3-2 rain-shortened win over St. Lucie. ... Peoria edged Clinton, 6-5, and Christopher Huseby converted his 12th save. ... Logan Watkins extended his hitting streak to 11 games in Boise's 3-2 loss to Salem-Keizer.

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Up next
• Wednesday: Cubs (Carlos Zambrano, 6-4, 3.36) at Phillies (Jamie Moyer, 9-6, 5.58), 12:05 p.m. CT
• Thursday: Off-day
• Friday: Cubs (Randy Wells, 5-4, 3.00) vs. Reds (Aaron Harang, 5-10, 4.17), 1:20 p.m. CT

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