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Leadoff spot open for competition in '10

Leadoff spot open for competition in '10

CHICAGO -- The leadoff spot in the Cubs' lineup has been a revolving door this season, and the picture for 2010 is not any clearer at this point.

Alfonso Soriano began 2009 as the club's go-to option in the No. 1 spot and started 70 games there, but he has given way to Kosuke Fukudome and Ryan Theriot. Fukudome has batted first in seven of Chicago's past nine games heading into Saturday's tilt against the Reds, but manager Lou Piniella would not commit to keeping him there next season.

"That depends on what the club does over the winter," Piniella said. "We'll see."

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Fukudome draws a lot of walks and has a career on-base percentage of close to .370, which makes him an effective table-setter. He is not a prolific base stealer, however, which is something that might lead the Cubs to explore the free agent market in the offseason.

There are not a lot of players out there who would fit the team's needs, but one possibility could be the Angels' Chone Figgins. The versatile Figgins has an on-base percentage around .400 this season and has stolen more than 30 bases in six consecutive campaigns. He also can play second base, one of the few positions where the Cubs could have space next season.

"I like [Fukudome] at the top part of the lineup," Piniella said. "I don't know about specifically the leadoff spot. The way we're put together here, he and Theriot are basically our best options. Depending on what happens over the winter, we could stay that way. But if we got somebody who ... was capable of stealing 30 or 40 bases, that would change, obviously."

Even if Chicago does not bring in a free-agent leadoff man, Soriano will not return to the role, according to Piniella. Soriano has never been a prototypical leadoff man due to his free-swinging approach that results in a lot of home runs but few walks.

"That's over with," Piniella said of Soriano's time batting first. "We're not going to do that."

Pitching matchup
CHC: RHP Randy Wells (10-8, 2.84 ERA)
Wells had another stellar outing on Sunday at Citi Field, holding the Mets to seven hits and two runs (one earned) in six innings. Wells' start was foiled, however, by an unearned run in the sixth and a lack of run support. He is making his fourth start of the year against the Reds. He is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in the previous three, and the Cubs have won all three games. In his one home start against Cincinnati, Wells gave up three runs on seven hits in six innings. No current Reds player has an extra-base hit off Wells, though Brandon Phillips is 3-for-8 against him.

CIN: RHP Johnny Cueto (9-10, 4.39 ERA)
Cueto allowed three hits and a run over six innings at Atlanta on Sunday, striking out nine in the no-decision. He walked two and hit two batters, throwing 107 pitches in his second start since coming off the disabled list. Cueto got a victory against Pittsburgh on Aug. 31 to snap a six-game losing streak. He worked into the sixth in that game, the only run scoring on a homer to lead off that inning. Cueto gave up just two other hits and struck out five while walking one.

Tidbits
Double-A Tennessee dropped the first game in its best-of-five North Division semifinals to Huntsville, 4-2, on Thursday. ... Class-A Peoria also lost a playoff game Thursday, as the Chiefs' season ended when they gave up two runs in the ninth inning and fell, 9-8, to Cedar Rapids. Peoria was swept in the best-of-three Western Division semifinals.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• CSN

On radio
• WGN 720

Up next
• Sunday: Cubs (Ted Lilly, 11-8, 3.17) vs. Reds (Homer Bailey, 5-4, 5.60), 1:20 p.m. CT
• Monday: Cubs (Ryan Dempster, 9-8, 4.03) vs. Brewers (Jeff Suppan, 6-9, 5.05), 7:05 p.m. CT
• Tuesday: Cubs (Carlos Zambrano, 8-6, 3.77) vs. Brewers (Yovani Gallardo, 12-11, 3.59), 7:05 p.m. CT

Andrew Simon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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