Where To Bat Him?

In nine seasons in Japan, Kosuke Fukudome had an on-base percentage close to .400.

The Cubs signed him to a four-year, $48 million deal, and with his combination of speed, power and ability to get on base, he ordinarily would be considered a leadoff prospect.

But the Cubs have Alsonso Soriano batting first, and they figure Fukudome could hit anywhere from second to fifth in the lineup.

The 30-year-old Japanese star has performed well in the No. 3 spot in the lineup in his home country, but he will likely get the nod as the No. 2 hitter with the Cubs, giving the team a front-end portion of the order featuring Soriano, Fukudome, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.

Should the Cubs keep Ryan Theriot second in the order, Fukudome would hit behind Ramirez. But with his potential for a high on-base percentage, it might be wiser to hit Fukudome in front of the sluggers.

Fukudome was introduced to the Chicago media on Dec. 19, and he said that after he decided to leave Japan and join the major leagues, the Cubs were his top choice.

"After I declared my free agency, the Cubs were actually one of the only teams that were trying to get me from the beginning to the end of the whole process," Fukudome said through an interpreter. "I felt they really wanted me and they were also one of the teams that promised me I could play my position -- right field."

The Cubs hope he can be a combination of fellow Japanese stars Hideki Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki.

"I don't know how I compare myself," Fukudome said. "I guess if that's what everyone is saying, hopefully I can be a mixture of those two."

NOTES, QUOTES

--OF Matt Murton could be used as trade bait. Because the Cubs have Alfonso Soriano locked up in left field and Kosuke Fukudome in right, there is no room for him in the starting lineup. The Cubs don't consider him capable of starting in center field.

--RHP Juan Mateo, who pitched with the Cubs in 2006 but spent most of the 2007 season recovering from a shoulder injury, had a 1.35 ERA in his first 6 2/3 innings of work in the Dominican Winter League.

--Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg agreed to manage Class A Peoria for a second consecutive season. Sandberg has aspirations of becoming a major league manager someday.

--Former Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield joined the Cubs as a professional scout.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- Cubs players who started 20 or more games in right field in 2007.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Of course I know (of) Sammy Sosa. I grew up watching him play. To be able to play the same position on the same field is an honor." -- New Cubs RF Kosuke Fukudome.


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