Daily Herald
After knee surgery, Soriano looking forward to recovery
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 2/22/2010 4:36 PM | Updated: 2/22/2010 10:09 PM

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MESA, Ariz. - Alfonso Soriano is finding it an inexact science to judge where his surgically repaired left knee is five months after having arthroscopic surgery.

"I don't know yet," he said Monday at Fitch Park, where rain again forced the Cubs to improvise on workouts. "I've been working hard in the Dominican with my knee to try to be 100 percent. I hope now in spring training to work and feel much better.

"I think I feel like 80 percent, 85. I have like five or six weeks of working here now. I hope it feels much better and ready for Opening Day."

Soriano underwent season-ending arthroscopic surgery Sept. 15 after he played almost the entire season in pain.

In 117 games, he batted .241 with 20 home runs, 55 RBI and an on-base percentage of .303.

Since the surgery, he has been rehabbing in his home country of the Dominican Republic. He said he derives the "80 percent" figure from the fact that he has not yet run hard or played the field in several months.

"I say in my mind I'm 80 percent because I'm not doing anything like playing the field, just more like running and doing some exercises for my knee," he said. "The work that I do in the Dominican is very hard for me. I hope that my knee feels better than I think because I think it's like 85, 80 percent. Maybe when I test it, it's 100 percent.

"I'm just running 75-80 percent, and I don't feel anything at all. When I start running 100 percent, I'm going to know how I feel."

The Cubs will need Soriano to provide power this year, especially now that he has been moved to the No. 6 spot in the batting order after batting leadoff for his first 2½ seasons with the Cubs.

"It's tough to play this game, and when you have something in your mind, it's tougher to play," he said. "I'm not making excuses about my knee. It's part of the game.

"What's more important to me is to stay healthy and be in the lineup. It's a different part of my game. I think they've got some guys that can do a better job than me batting leadoff. If Lou (Piniella) takes that decision, he's the manager. Everybody has to agree with him.

"Now I don't have to worry about answering questions about batting leadoff."

Soriano expressed happiness that he'll be able to work with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, whom the Cubs hired away from the Texas Rangers last fall. The two worked together when Soriano played for Texas in 2004 and 2005.

"We have a very good relationship," Soriano said. "He speaks Spanish so we have very good communication. He likes to work, and I like to work, too."

Soriano also said he welcomes the addition of center field Marlon Byrd, a teammate he played with in Washington in 2006. Byrd replaces Milton Bradley on the roster, and Bradley was blamed for causing a poor atmosphere in the clubhouse last year before the Cubs suspended him.

"He's quite a different guy than Milton," Soriano said of Byrd. "He's a nice guy. Milton is a nice guy, too, but everybody knows what kind of problems he's got. I'm very excited that we got Marlon Byrd."

Like Bradley, Soriano was booed at times when he struggled last year. Unlike Bradley, Soriano let it roll off his back.

"It makes me work harder and try to make (myself) better," he said. "When they clap, that makes me happy, but when they boo, that pushes me to be a better player."