CHICAGO (AP) -Alfonso Soriano is expected to rejoin the Chicago Cubs' lineup Monday and when he does, he'll be switched from center field back to left field, where he played last season with the Washington Nationals.
Soriano was out of the lineup Saturday for a fifth straight game after straining his left hamstring last Monday. After running in the outfield, he said he was ready to play but was advised by trainer Mark O'Neal to give the injury two more days to heal.
Manager Lou Piniella said putting Soriano in left would take some of the strain off the hamstring. Soriano, who signed an eight-year, $136 million contract in the offseason, said he was all for the move.
``We're going to put him in left field. We're going to leave him in left field, put him in left field,'' Piniella said Saturday before the game against the Cardinals. ``It will be less running. It will be much better for him. ... He's OK with that, I talked to him about it. He understands.''
Soriano initially balked at being moved from second base to the outfield last year in Washington but ended up making the All-Star team and having 22 assists to go with 46 homers and 41 steals.
This time he embraced the idea of changing after just 12 games in center, although the switch is obviously not as drastic.
``I think it is the best idea just because you know I have like a little injury in my leg, so I think that makes me not run too much,'' Soriano said.
``I want to play no matter what position I play. I felt very comfortable that year I played in left field and I felt very comfortable playing center field in 12 games I play with the Cubs''.
Soriano said he wasn't sure if the switch to left was for the remainder of the season or until his leg is completely healed. He said that was up to Piniella.
``I don't know. He told me it is better for me to move to left field just to recover my leg,'' Soriano said. ``After that I don't know if he wants to leave me in left field or move me back to center field. So it's his option.''
If the Cubs keep rookie Felix Pie, who was called up when Soriano was injured, as their center fielder, they'd have a lot of speed in their lineup. And they'd also have a logjam of outfielders with Jacque Jones, Cliff Floyd and Matt Murton all looking for playing time. And Piniella said he wants to go with 12 pitchers instead of 11.
``I think Pie plays a very good center field but like I said, Lou has the last call,'' Soriano said. ``He's the manager. He decides what he wants to do with the team and me and Pie, too.''
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