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Soriano to hit second as Piniella shuffles lineup
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/13/2008 12:12 AM

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Cubs manager Lou Piniella denied he had a "surprise" in store for Wednesday's game against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium.

But Piniella did add a new twist to the Cubs' ever-evolving starting lineup: left fielder Alfonso Soriano moving from the leadoff spot to No. 2, beginning Friday.

That would move shortstop Ryan Theriot to first and right fielder Kosuke Fukudome to fifth, a move Piniella signaled Tuesday.

"We're just going to look at it; that's what spring training's for," said Piniella, who has been bemoaning his offense's lack of production. "We want to keep Soriano nice and healthy and strong all year. It seems to me that maybe out of the leadoff spot, he'll want to do too much, run too soon. We'll see. Just take a look at it."

Last year, Soriano missed five games with a left-hamstring strain in April. In August, he went on the disabled list for the first time in his career, missing three weeks with a severely strained right quadriceps.

"Put it this way: Out of the 2-hole, it might be easier for him to not have to run as much," Piniella said. "We've just got to look at it. My thought on this basically is for his own good and actually for the team's good because keeping him in that lineup is important to us."

Soriano batted leadoff Wednesday and hit his first homer of the spring in the fifth inning. He will get today off before batting second Friday.

As he always has done, Soriano voiced a willingness to go along with Piniella, even though he prefers to bat first. Last year in the third spot, Soriano was 5-for-28 (.179). He was 0-for-8 batting fifth, but he was a .308 hitter batting leadoff.

"I don't know," he told reporters after being forewarned of the move by Piniella. "Whatever he feels is good and works for the team, I'm OK. If he's thinking batting second that I can help the team more so, I'm OK with that. He's trying to protect my legs. I think I'll be fine with my legs, maybe a couple more games. I feel more confident with my legs.

"I'm going to be the same guy, still very aggressive at home plate and try to swing at strikes."

Of course, with Baltimore Orioles scouts watching the Cubs every day, the move might to a prelude to Brian Roberts leading off, if the teams can ever reach a deal.

"This gives us a sneak preview," Piniella said, maybe only half-joking.

Getting better: Center fielder Sam Fuld appears to be settling down after a slow start in the Cactus League. Fuld had fallen behind Felix Pie in the battle for a job in center.

Lou Piniella had attributed Fuld's struggles to dealing with his first big-league camp.

"I think it was probably a factor to some extent," Fuld said. "I try to play as relaxed and loose as possible, but I think there's only so much you can do. Nerves probably played a part at some level.

"I think it was a combination of that and not really feeling comfortable as it is. A lot of time, at-bats in the spring can be a struggle. It's your first swings and your first time seeing pitches in a few months."

Fuld made a pair of sparkling catches late last season for the Cubs. He doesn't have a big-league hit, but he was the MVP of the Arizona Fall League.

Rangers 5, Cubs 4

Cubs' record: 5-10

At the plate: Alfonso Soriano hit his first homer, a 2-run, opposite-field drive in the fifth. DH Daryle Ward picked up his fifth straight hit in Surprise, a first-inning single. Matt Murton had an RBI single, and nonroster first baseman Micah Hoffpauir hit his second homer.

On the mound: Lefty Ted Lilly worked 4 innings, giving up 7 hits and 3 runs. Jose Ascanio, who is struggling to make the team, gave up a homer to Michael Young in the fifth. Bob Howry (0-1, 11.81 ERA), working on back-to-back days, was the loser, giving up a homer to Gerald Laird. "Howry just struggles early, what I can I say?" manager Lou Piniella said. "Just keep getting his work and getting stronger."

Next: The Cubs return to HoHoKam Park to play the San Diego Padres. Jason Marquis pitches for the Cubs against Greg Maddux.

-- Bruce Miles