Teammates defend Alfonso Soriano

Updated: June 17, 2012, 9:08 AM ET
By Bruce Levine | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano drew the ire of Wrigley Field fans for his perceived lack of hustle on a line drive in the sixth inning of Saturday's loss to the Boston Red Sox.

On the play, Soriano scalded a ball down the third-base line with two men on and two outs and Chicago trailing the Red Sox 3-0. It initially appeared as if Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks was going to catch the ball, but he was unable to field the play cleanly. While Middlebrooks bobbled the ball, Soriano stood in the batter's box. Middlebrooks then threw him out at first base.

The crowd, which consisted of a large number of Red Sox supporters, was vocal in its disapproval of Soriano following the play. However, both teammates and the opposition were quick to come to Soriano's defense.

"You hit a ball that hard and you see (that) they should catch (it), and you're mad because you just crushed the ball," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "There is not a player that ever played that wouldn't have done the very same thing."

Middlebrooks agreed that Soriano's reaction was natural.

"He hit it hard, about took my hand off,'' Middlebrooks said. "It had good topspin on it.

"When I looked up, he was just standing there. I probably would have done the same thing. The ball went into my glove and came into me, so it looks like I caught it. It was not wrong on his part. Just a hard baseball play.''

For his part, Soriano took the boos in stride.

"(The fans) always come to the game waiting for anything negative or positive," Soriano said. "I think the line drive they thought was negative and that is why they booed, but they always come to the ballpark to find something good or bad."

Support by Soriano's teammates and manager transcends this one play. Universally he is among the most respected and loved players in the Cubs' clubhouse.

"Sori takes a lot of heat for a lot of things," said Saturday's starter Jeff Samardzija. "It is what it is, but there is not one guy in that locker room that has a bad thing to say about Sori. He is a great player and we love him when he is in the lineup, and we love him when he is in the locker room, and we look forward to playing with him every day."

Like many of his teammates, Soriano has been the subject of various trade rumors in recent weeks -- particularly since he regained his home-run stroke in mid May. Numerous scouts, including one of the Baltimore Orioles' top talent evaluators, have been watching Soriano and Chicago's veteran pitchers in advance of baseball's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Soriano is still owed close to $50 million on his contract, which runs through the 2014 season. Soriano signed an 8-year and $136 million deal with the Cubs in November 2006.

ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes contributed to this report.

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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