|Lou Piniella settles on Chicago Cubs' opening lineup, Kosuke Fukudome stays in fifth spot|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 22 March 2008 12:06|
Those comments came a day after the manager said he might try batting the struggling Fukudome second before camp breaks. But after sleeping on it, the manager gave up on that plan. Having Fukudome bat fifth gives the Cubs a left-handed batter in the middle of the lineup and, Piniella said, more protection for Aramis Ramirez.
``I thought about it last night,'' Piniella said before Saturday's game against the Chicago White Sox. ``I think right now with the way we're situated, Fukudome offers the best protection for Ramirez.''
Piniella, who thinks Fukudome's best spot would be second, had considered flip-flopping him with Soriano. Another option was moving Fukudome up to second and dropping Soriano, Derrek Lee and Ramirez one spot. Either option would give the Cubs five straight right-handed batters, which made Piniella uncomfortable.
``I know that probably the two hole is more suitable for the young man, but right now, the way we're put together, I just feel that Ramirez out of the four hole will get more protection with Fukudome behind him. I talked to my coaches and they feel the same way, so we're going to stay that way unless a deal is made.''
If the anticipated deal with Baltimore for Brian Roberts goes through, the Cubs would have a new leadoff hitter and other adjustments to make. Otherwise, Piniella said the lineup they went with on Saturday is the one that will start the season with one exception - Ryan Theriot will lead off and play shortstop instead of Mike Fontenot.
Soriano batted second and played left, followed by Derrek Lee at first, Ramirez at third and Fukudome in right. Second baseman Mark DeRosa batted sixth, catcher Geovany Soto was seventh and center fielder Felix Pie hit eighth, with the pitcher batting ninth.
``What you see today, outside of Fontenot, is your opening day lineup,'' Piniella said.
Piniella likes what he has seen at the top of the order, but he's not as pleased with the fifth spot.
The Cubs signed Fukudome to a $48 million, four-year contract hoping he can duplicate the success of fellow Japanese stars Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui. It might take a while, though.
Primarily a No. 3 hitter in Japan, Fukudome brought a .205 average into Saturday's game while trying to adjust to a new spot in the order along with a new country. Meanwhile, Theriot was batting .345 and Soriano was at .300.
``I think we've got a lot of guys who can hit in a lot of different spots,'' Theriot said. ``To be honest with you, I don't know that it really matters that much. The fact of the matter is we've got dangerous bats in the lineup.''
It's Piniella's job to find the right mix, although the Cubs might add another ingredient or two.
``If a trade is made, then we'd have to see what we get,'' Piniella said.