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Given to Fly

July 21, 2007

Given to Fly: Piniella has it right; Soriano should stay at top of order

TERRE HAUTE — Manager Lou Piniella recently experimented with moving Chicago Cubs hitter Alfonso Soriano down to fifth in the lineup, hoping to spark his team’s struggles to produce against left-handed pitching.

Soriano went 0-for-8 with three strikeouts. By the way, his career numbers are basically the same against right-handed and left-handed pitching — .283 against right-handers and .279 against left-handers.

Not a fan of the results, Piniella said the experiment is finished.

“We tried it,” Piniella said in Friday’s Chicago-Sun Times. “But I’m going to leave Soriano in the one hole. That’s where the young man belongs.”

As soon as the Cubs signed Soriano, critics have popped up trying to move Soriano into the middle of the Cubs order because of his home-run power.

Soriano has hit in the lead-off spot in 2,591 of his 4,622 career plate appearances, and the 31-year-old should stay there.

While Ryan Theriot — the Cubs shortstop for the next 10 years and potentially the lead-off man in a few years — is on pace to steal more than 30 bases and can be a spark at the top of the lineup, Soriano is more comfortable leading off. As the cliché goes, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

Easily the best player on the Washington Nationals last season, Soriano was moved from lead-off to third for 18 games during the 2006 season. The results: a .152 average (11-for-72) with four of his hits being home runs.

The Texas Rangers were more adventuresome with the Cubs’ left fielder, batting him in the three hole in 115 games during the 2004 season. Soriano hit 22 homers and collected 77 RBIs, while hitting .328 (148-450). With 200 more at-bats at that pace in the three spot, Soriano would have reached 32 homers and 112 RBIs. Those are obviously good RBI numbers but they could be better with his ability.

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