Piniella's batting order obviously not set in stone

Could it be Fukudome, Lee, Ramirez -- 3, 4, 5?

Published: 2/23/2008 12:27 AM

MESA, Ariz. -- Another day, another non-controversial controversy.

"Is this a story?" asked first baseman Derrek Lee.

As long as manager Lou Piniella continues to think out loud, just about anything is a story in Cubs camp.

One day after addressing the situation at closer, Piniella talked Friday of tinkering with his starting lineup, a lineup he announced with great fanfare at the Cubs convention in January.

That lineup featured Alfonso Soriano leading off, followed by Ryan Theriot, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Kosuke Fukudome.

Now, Piniella appears to be changing his mind, and the centerpiece of that change is Fukudome, who batted third in Japan.

"I've been thinking about our lineup and what makes sense and what we can try," Piniella said after the Cubs finished working out on a cool, dreary day. "But let me warn: It's only Feb. 22 or 23, so there's plenty of time to adjust this thing.

"But I've been thinking of bunching up some speed at the top part of the lineup with Soriano, Theriot and Fukudome, and then move Derrek to the fourth spot, Ramirez to the fifth spot. We'd hit (Mark) DeRosa sixth, (Geovany) Soto seventh and our center fielder eighth. It's just food for thought."

That food seems to be settling fine with Cubs players.

"I like the idea," Ramirez said. "I already talked to Lou, and I'll hit wherever he wants me to hit. I don't have any problem with that. I'm going to be the same hitter. I'm going to be aggressive."

Lee pointed out that he batted sixth in his first game as a Cub, on Opening Day 2004. The Cubs trotted out a lineup that day that began with Mark Grudzielanek, followed by Corey Patterson, Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou, Ramirez and Lee.

"I had a super-informal, casual talk with the hitting coach," Lee said, referring to Gerald Perry. "It was like, 'Do you like hitting fourth? Would you like Fukudome ahead of you?' We haven't even played a game yet. I think Lou probably has 100 lineups in his head."

That's probably true because Piniella used 125 lineups last season. He said that shouldn't be the case this year, but he would like to get more speed at the top of the lineup and more power in the middle.

"We'll stick with it," Piniella said. "I've told you this is not going to be a year that we need to tinker much. We've just got to take a look at it in spring training and see what it looks like. And then we've got to make sure Soriano's running out of the 1-hole, too."

Piniella plans to talk more formally with all his hitters about the lineup. Fukudome seemed easygoing about whatever happens.

"I haven't heard anything about it," he said. "If Lou puts me there, then I will try to do the job that I'm supposed to do. I'm sure it depends on the situation, and it depends on where I hit. But I'm not going to change my approach at the plate."