CINCINNATI -- Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum was looking for a chance to give Alfonso Soriano a day off. With Bronson Arroyo scheduled to start for the Cincinnati Reds in the first game of their three-game series against Chicago at Great American Ball Park, Friday seemed like as good a day as any.
Not only did Soriano go into that game hitting a mere .225 (25-for-11) with two home runs and 11 runs batted in against right-handed pitchers this season, he is hitting just .200 (10-for-50) in his career against the veteran Cincinnati right-hander.
"You just pick a day to give him off," Sveum said before the game.
Ryan Sweeney made his third start of the season in left field. Sweeney also has made two starts in center field.
Soriano, who has hit .277 with 13 homers and 33 RBIs in his career at Great American Ball Park, also is in the mix of Sveum's planning for the upcoming resumption of inter-league play. The Cubs are scheduled to play a four-games-in-four-days series against their crosstown rivals, the Chicago White Sox, starting on Memorial Day with the first of back-to-back games at U.S. Cellular Field. That means the teams can use the designated hitter, and with the White Sox listing two left-handers, Jose Quintana and Chris Sale, as their probable starting pitchers for the games, Sveum is pondering using Soriano as the Cubs' DH.
Soriano went into Friday's game hitting .339 (19-for-56) with two homers against left-handed pitchers.
"It depends," Sveum said. "I could decide to put (switch-hitting catcher Dioner) Navarro in as the DH and play Soriano. One option is Navarro -- or (catcher Wellington Castillo), for that matter."
After joining the Cubs in 2007, Soriano didn't see any DH duty until 2010, when he went 0-for-4, according to ESPN Stats and Information. He was 3-for-12 in 2011 before starting to look more like Boston's David Ortiz last season, when he hit a robust .360 (9-for-25) with four homers and eight RBIs.
'Good to go': Shortstop Starlin Castro's right ankle appeared to be slightly swollen, but it wasn't going to keep him out of Friday's lineup against the Reds.
Castro injured his ankle trying to stretch a single into a double in the sixth inning of the Cubs' 4-2 loss on Thursday at Pittsburgh. He stayed in that game and was in his usual second spot in the batting order on Friday.
"Good to go," Castro reported when approached before the game.
Castro went into Friday's game with a streak of 242 consecutive games played, the longest active streak in the National League and second in Major League Baseball only to the 389-game streak put together by Detroit's Prince Fielder.
Desperate times call for …: Anthony Rizzo was virtually unrecognizable when he walked into the visitors' clubhouse at Great American Ball Park before Friday's game.
The struggling first baseman, who has started each of the Cubs' 47 games this season, was hitless in his last 17 at bats, had straightened out his normally curly hair.
"Something happened to my hair," he said, a bit sheepishly.
Homecoming: Left-hander Travis Wood makes his second start at his former home ballpark in just over a month when he faces the Reds on Saturday at 3:10 p.m. in the second game of the three-game series.
Wood, traded by the Reds with outfielder Dave Sappelt and infielder Ronald Torreyes to the Cubs before the 2011 season for left-handed relief pitcher Sean Marshall, left with a no-decision in a 5-4 Chicago loss to the Reds in Cincinnati on April 22. He allowed two runs on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
Ironically, for the second time this season, the Reds placed Marshall on the 15-day disabled list on Friday with shoulder problems.
Wood might look forward to hitting more than pitching at Great American, which is famous (among hitters) and infamous (among pitchers) for yielding home runs. Wood hit his first homer of the season while going 1-for-2 in his last start on Sunday against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field.
"I think Travis looks forward to hitting anywhere," Sveum said with a smile. "That's why he was out here taking early batting practice and hitting home run after home run."