Daily Herald
Defensively, focus will be on Cubs' center fielder
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 3/10/2009 12:22 PM

Fourteenth in a series

Editor's note: As the countdown continues toward the April 6 opener for the Cubs, Daily Herald Sports Writer Bruce Miles will offer his analysis of each position on the team and the key issues facing the club this season.

Q. With Alfonso Soriano in left and Milton Bradley in right, how crucial will the play of Reed Johnson and Kosuke Fukudome be?

Miles: It'll be especially crucial, with Johnson and Fukudome having to cover a lot of ground.

The Cubs have talked up Bradley's defensive ability. He played on only 20 games in the outfield last year for Texas, so we'll have to wait and see.

Q. A lot of people complain that Ryan Theriot is only OK defensively. How do you view his defense and the overall defense of the Cubs' potential double-play combos?

Miles: Talking with scouts, they term Theriot "average" at short, and that's probably right. He doesn't have great range or a great throwing arm, and I'm sure people don't like him dropping to the ground. But just as he does at the plate, he finds a way to get things done.

He and second baseman Mike Fontenot know each other well from their days at LSU, so maybe they can rekindle some of that magic. Aaron Miles is an average fielder, as well.

What you really want is for each of these guys to make the routine play, and all are capable of that.

Q. Outside of Derrek Lee, which infielder is the best defensively?

Miles: Nobody has much range in this group. Although he took a small step backward on defense last year, Aramis Ramirez plays a pretty decent third base. He's improved in all aspects of his game since coming over from Pittsburgh in 2003.

Q. Who will Lou Piniella turn to as his main late-inning defensive replacement in the outfield?

Miles: When Fukudome doesn't play, it will be him. Johnson can come to play left and center, and Joey Gathright probably can play all three spots and add a huge dose of speed in the outfield.

Q. How much has Ramirez's defense improved since he arrived here in 03?

Miles: I won't say exponentially, but maybe "leaps and bounds" covers it. Improved footwork has helped. Staying healthy also is another big factor.

• Got a question about the Cubs for Bruce Miles? Visit his blog, Chicago's Inside Pitch, to share your questions and comments.