Jorge Soler checked off another big league "first" Saturday.
The 23-year-old slugger hit leadoff for the first time in his brief MLB career in Cubs manager Joe Maddon's attempt to get Soler going at the plate.
Standing at 6-foot-4 with a 215-pound frame, Soler looks more like a linebacker than a leadoff guy, but Maddon thinks this move could help get Soler back on track.
"I've been debating on this one," Maddon said before Saturday's game against the Brewers. "I've done it in the past with different guys, just to have them think differently.
"It's not about changing your mechanics or trying new things — it's just to think differently. And I'm all about when a hitter is not going as he can, the last thing you want to do is change up his mechanics. You want to change your mental mechanics first.
"So right now, he sees his name in the leadoff spot, he's got a different vibe about him, probably a little more carefree — I would think — about the day."
Soler leads the National League with 35 strikeouts, having played in all 21 of the Cubs' games this season.
Since going 2-for-5 with a double and two runs in the Cubs' win over the Pirates on April 21 in Pittsburgh, Soler has been in a slump at the plate, hitting just .133 with a .424 OPS — and that includes a 2-for-4 game Friday.
In the last eight games, Soler is 4-for-30 and has seen his average fall from .327 to .259 on the season. He also has struck out 17 times in that stretch.
Soler has made 14 career starts in the No. 2 spot in the order, but is hitting just .250 with a .270 on-base percentage and .603 OPS in that slot. He has failed to hit a homer in 60 at-bats while batting second.
Maddon thinks the switch can help put Soler at ease, and he wants the rookie to go up there with a different approach, worrying more about setting the table than cleaning it up.
"The whole job I want to get across from him is — you're out there to score runs," Maddon said. "Don't worry about home runs. Don't worry about hits. Go out there and score runs."
In order for Soler to lead off, Maddon had to bump Dexter Fowler down to the two-hole. Fowler has been doing his job this season as a tablesetter, with a .367 on-base percentage and 12 runs on the season.
Fowler is in the midst of a six-game hitting streak in which he's 10-for-21 (.476 average) with a 1.046 OPS.
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Maddon isn't concerned that a different spot in the order will affect the veteran centerfielder much.
"I told (Fowler) I just wanted to try to unearth the other guy," Maddon said. "I wasn't worried about Dexter; I think he's going well.
"This is more designed to Jorge specifically to see if we can get him to feel a little bit better about himself."