Soriano is on the 15 day DL, after injuring his calf hopping in the air after making a catch. That’s all – just hopping one time. BOOM! 15 days.
But since he is hitting .175 in the leadoff spot, with an OBP of .230, I’m not sure how his coming absence can do anything but help the team, at least offensively. Last night, after he got hurt in the top of the 1st, manager Lou Pinniella shifted DeRosa from second into Soriano’s defensive spot in left field, and inserted Mike Fontenot at second base and batting in Soriano’s leadoff spot. In so doing, you’re swapping out a right handed guy with a .230 OBP for a left handed spray hitter — with some pop — and a .333 OBP. Of course, Fontenot hasn’t been compiling those stats as an everyday leadoff hitter, so time will tell. But I just don’t think Soriano is the answer at leadoff, so I’d like to see Fontenot get an extended look in the that spot. We’ll see who gets the leadoff spot tonight.
But the bigger picture here is two players that weren’t on the team last year: Kosuke Fukudome, and Geovany Soto. They are both having great springs so far: Fukudome leads the team in OBP at .448, and Soto is third at .377. Soto is second in RBI with 9, and has 6 extra base hits out of 13 total. Fukudome has 10 walks already, and is obviously a very smart and disciplined hitter; last night, late in the game, he worked the count until he got to two strikes, and then he slapped a single into left field like it was batting practice. Certain hitters on this team could use a little of that discipline.
UPDATE: Cubs win 12-3. Fontenot batted lead-off again, and was 1 for 5 again with 2 K, just like last night. Not too great. But he did score a run and drive one in. And the Cubs scored 12 runs in spite of the lead-off man going 1 for 5. Fukudome got on base 4 times (2 for 3 with 2 walks) and drove in two runs. Soto had 3 RBI on 1 for 5 (a double). Both D. Lee and Zambrano had 3 hits to lead the team. The Cubs as a team drew SEVEN walks. A nice outing for Zambrano: seven innings, yielding 2 runs on 8 hits, while striking out 5 and walking only one.
UPDATE #2: Cubs lose series finale 9-2 on Thursday. Fontenot is now 2 for 15 in his three games as leadoff guy. Yuck. Had the golden sombrero today, 0 for 5, no walks, no runs scored, no nuthin’. Reed Johnson, though, was 4 for 4 with a double, but no RBI or runs scored, probably because the hitters behind him (8,9,1) were 1 for 12. Starter Ted Lilly had a decent outing, if you could ignore the two hits he gave up to Joey Votto, a 3 run double and a 2 run homer: 6 innings, giving up 5 runs, all earned, on 6 hits and 3 walks.