Cedeno In Trouble?

Shortstop Ronny Cedeno is off to a sluggish start offensively in Cactus League play, and that may hurt his bid to become the team's No. 2 hitter. He hit .250 in the Cubs' first six exhibition games.

Cedeno, who hit .300 in 41 games as a rookie last year, likely will open the season as the No. 8 hitter but eventually could work his way up in the lineup.

Currently, it appears that the winner of the second base derby (Todd Walker, Jerry Hairston Jr. or Neifi Perez) will open the season as the second hitter between Juan Pierre and Derrek Lee.

"I don't know if Cedeno is quite ready," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "I know down the line I think he could be as good a No. 2 hitter as there is around.

"But that spot is the most unselfish, probably smartest, spot in the lineup. Knowing when to take, when to swing, when to let a guy steal. You have to be able to handle the bat. It's also a position that probably won't run as much as you would like them too because they'd just walk D. Lee. You got to keep the bat in D. Lee's hand, and it's a position most of time for a more established, accomplished veteran player."

But Cedeno, who hit .355 both at Triple-A Iowa in 2005 and in winter ball during the offseason, is just 22 years old and could grow into the role.

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