The Cubs will give Alfonso Soriano the first crack at the starting center field spot in spring training.
Officials have said for weeks that Soriano likely would end up in right field with either Jacque Jones
(who played in right in 2006) or rookie Felix Pie
taking over in center. There was also talk the Cubs were looking at trading for Washington's Ryan Church
. Manager Lou Piniella
also said the Cubs would take a look at infielder Ryan Theriot
as a possible candidate.
That all changed. Soriano told a crowd at the Cubs Convention winter gathering that he wanted to play center. Last year in Washington, Soriano balked at moving from second base to left field and sat out an exhibition game in protest.
But Soriano, who inked an eight-year, $136 million contract in November, said he would play wherever the Cubs need him, and it appears their biggest need will be in center field.
"Look, I've been intrigued by that idea," Pinella said. "When we recruited Soriano, we didn't mention center field. We mentioned a corner. When I tell a player something -- I don't lie to players. So I didn't want to start changing the theme. I wanted to talk to him in spring training to see if it was agreeable with him.
"Now that he mentioned it -- yeah, it makes a lot of sense."
Soriano doesn't have experience in center, but his speed and powerful arm make him the best candidate.
"He has athleticism and a real nice throwing arm," Piniella said. "He has real good speed. We have a real good outfield instructor in (third base coach Mike Quade) who can help him learn the routes. It makes perfect sense to try.
"It puts Murton in left field and it puts Jones in right field, and we go play."
LHP Glendon Rusch, who was owed $3.25 million this year, was released on Jan. 25. The starter/reliever discovered a blood clot in his lungs in September and didn't figure to pitch in 2007.
Thanks for the memories. (Getty Images)
OF/1B Cliff Floyd signed a one-year deal, $3 million with incentives and a mutual option on Jan. 24 and likely will open the season platooning with Matt Murton in left field. But there is a chance he could move to right if the Cubs trade Jacque Jones.
RHP Mark Prior, who started just nine games in 2006 because of a shoulder injury, threw off the mound in front of team officials at Northwestern University on Jan. 19 and said he felt good. Prior said he is hoping to get in quality work in spring training and be ready to open the season healthy. Prior is a leading candidate for the No. 5 spot in the rotation along with Wade Miller.
RHP Kerry Wood threw off the mound in front of team officials at Northwestern University on Jan. 19, and manager Lou Piniella said reports on Wood are positive. Wood, who has had plenty of shoulder miseries over the past two seasons, will work as a reliever this year, and Piniella said Wood would work slowly in spring training to build his strength back up. Wood lost more than 30 pounds during the offseason.
RHP Carlos Zambrano, who is seeking $15.5 million this season in arbitration, said that if the Cubs want to offer a multiyear deal, it must be done before the start of the 2007 season. He said he would refuse to talk about his contract after the start of the campaign. He likely will look for a deal that would pay $18 million per season.
BY THE NUMBERS: $2.5 million -- The signing bonus for Notre Dame RHP Jeff Samardzija as a part of a five-year, $10 million deal. Samardzija, who has a no-trade clause in his contract, said he would give that money back if he left the Cubs before the end of the contract.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I have no sadness about leaving football -- not even close. It's an excitement for baseball. That's how you have to look at it. If there was a sadness for leaving football, then I obviously haven't made the right decision." -- RHP Jeff Samardzija, a Notre Dame wide receiver who gave up football despite the fact he was projected to be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft.