Chicago Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano has yet to push his leg 100 percent. Soriano told me on Wednesday his goal is strengthen his surgically repaired left knee and then go full bore the last two weeks of spring training.
The Cub outfielder also told me he’s hoping to play in a lot of games this year. He was surprised when I told him he only played 117 last year and 107 in 2008.
“If I’m healthy, I’ll put up some numbers,” Soriano said.
Manager Lou Piniella said Soriano will be held out of the team’s first two Cactus League games. Piniella said Soriano will start against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday in Mesa. The Cubs manager also reiterated that multiple positions are open to win on the team’s 25-man roster.
“There are some jobs to be won here,” Piniella said. “I think as many as five jobs can be won here.”
Piniella needs to fill two bullpen slots, two bench roles and two starting rotation slots, but the Cub manager said one or two of the contenders for the starting pitching spot will most likely end up in the bullpen.
Piniella also said that his lineup is “pretty well set.”
“We do have some competition at second base and we’ll see how that works out,” he said.
Piniella had a quick thought on Soriano and his expectations for the outfielder.
“Hitting in the six hole will save his legs a little more,” Piniella said. “What we need from Alfonso is more power and RBI production and the six hole is a really, really nice hole ... in a National League lineup. I know he’s comfortable with [hitting sixth] because I asked him.”
Piniella was asked about his thoughts on the Cubs’ new spring training facility and how that would affect the work that the players get in on a daily basis.
“First of all, you don’t have two moves to make from [Fitch Park to Hohokam Park, approximately one mile],” Piniella said. “I remember the years I was with Seattle we had four major league fields and we had two minor league fields. We had six fields we could do our working.”
Asked about the Hohokam setup, Piniella said, “It’s limited, but it’s a workable thing. Look, we haven’t [lost] because of the facilities here, but you can get more work done with a newer, more functional complex.”
I asked Piniella if he could imagine Cactus League play without the Cubs.
“Well, they have been an institution here,” Piniella said. “A lot of your Midwestern people come to Arizona because of Cub baseball here, but a lot of Midwesterners go to the West Coast of Florida, too. I know that because I’ve lived there my whole life. Yeah, it would be hard to imagine baseball here without the Cubs being a mainstay.”
Right handed pitcher Randy Wells will start the Cubs’ first Cactus League game on Thursday. The Cubs pitcher has had some productive skull sessions with Greg Maddux, who’s working in camp for the first time as a team executive. "Greg has talked to me about setting up hitters,” Wells said. “He’s talked to me about thinking two or three pitches ahead of where I’m at. It’s been great to have him in camp. He’s been available to all the guys.”