MESA, Ariz. The Cubs fans who are tired of watching Alfonso Soriano would love to see Dale Sveum bench their 136 million man for not sprinting out of the box.
You should have seen the ball that slammed off the left-field scoreboard at HoHoKam Stadium. Yes, Soriano is feeling very good at home plate.
Soriano smashed two home runs during Tuesdays 11-4 win over the Colorado Rockies, a reminder that he can still be a force, even at the age of 36. Soriano who was batting cleanup as the designated hitter doubled and homered while leading off an inning.
I just prepare my mind to be 100 percent, Soriano said. It doesnt matter leadoff, fourth, fifth, sixth. I just want to be in the lineup and be healthy and help the team win.
My goal (is to) show the fans, my teammates and the coaches that Im here to play the game.
A new Cubs front office with a deep background in statistical analysis knows the lineup debates are just noise. Bill James, the sabermetrics pioneer and Red Sox advisor, was asked years ago about the importance of batting order during a chat with ESPN.com.
There is no real evidence that it matters, James wrote. What matters is having good hitters. Who hits second and who hits sixththere is little evidence that it makes any difference.
Soriano generated 26 homers and 88 RBIs last season and still got booed at the Cubs Convention. He started hitting in January and focused on an agility program at the teams academy in the Dominican Republic. He said it usually takes about 25 at-bats in spring training before he starts feeling comfortable.
His manager is going to do everything he can to make Soriano feel that way. Batting leadoff or cleanup could boost Sorianos confidence. And Sveum knows that he needs Soriano to produce in a lineup that is mostly unproven.
We know 162 games is out of the question, but its vital to keep those legs as fresh as possible to where he can do things like he did today, Sveum said. (Well) give him those day games after night games (off), when we fly back home and then have a day game, things like that. (Its) vital (when) your legs arent what they used to be. But that bat still plays, so its important to give him those breathers.