Soriano's Defense, Cubs' Bullpen a Concern

Cubs manager Lou Piniella is having to handle a couple of situations delicately. One concerns left fielder Alfonso Soriano. The other has to do with his bullpen.

Soriano committed a key error in Sunday's 3-1 loss at Cincinnati and, as expected, Piniella had to field questions at Monday's home opener about lifting Soriano for a defensive replacement late in games.

Piniella did just that in Monday's 9-5 victory over the Brewers, getting Soriano out in the seventh inning. It's been a tough call for Piniella. Soriano is not even halfway through his eight-year, $136 million contract, and the manager has tried to let Soriano play every inning of every game.

But with Soriano coming off knee surgery and his defense clearly slipping, look for him to come out of most games in which the Cubs have a late lead.

"I can get him out for defense with leads," Piniella said. "I've done that a few times in this first week. The secret and the key to this thing is for Alfonso to make the plays, the routine plays. You don't have to make the spectacular plays or the great plays. But make the routine plays. That's expected out of basically any major league player."

As for the bullpen, Piniella is trying to get his starters at least into the seventh. He'd prefer to turn to his veterans, but with three rookies in the 'pen, that's not always possible.

"We've got a young bullpen; we've got to give them a breather, score-wise," Piniella said. "We need to get one of our right-handers to become a little more productive. We've just got to give them the ball and see what happens."

CUBS 9, BREWERS 5: The Cubs got a three-run homer from Xavier Nady and a two-run homer from Jeff Baker in the third to grab a 5-0 lead. Aramis Ramirez added a two-run homer in the fourth. RHP Ryan Dempster didn't have his best stuff, but he gutted out 6 1/3 innings of seven-hit, five-run ball.


--1B Derrek Lee had to leave Monday's game in the fifth inning with what the Cubs called right thumb inflammation. Lee went for an X-ray after the game, and the Cubs said it was negative. He has been bothered by the thumb since the opening series of the season. He's day-to-day. He has reached base in all seven games.

--LHP Ted Lilly threw 25-30 pitches from the mound Monday morning. He'll make a minor league rehab start Wednesday for Class AAA Iowa (Des Moines) and throw about 60 pitches. Lilly is on the mend from November shoulder surgery. He also came down with what he called mid-back tightness last week, and that twice postponed his first rehab start. It's likely Lilly will need two rehab starts before the Cubs consider activating him.

--RHP Jeff Samardzija pitched in his first game in a week, turning in a scoreless inning of relief. Piniella said he had hoped to get Samardzija into Sunday's game at Cincinnati, but a situation for him did not arise. "We're going to have to get him some work, too," Piniella said.

--OF Xavier Nady moved from right field to first base after Lee left the game with a sore thumb. Nady is able to make shorter throws from right as he comes back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He hit his first homer as a Cub in the five-run third. It was his first home run since Sept. 28, 2008, when he was with the Yankees.

--CF Marlon Byrd was 2-for-19 entering the day, and both of the hits were homers. He singled twice and doubled home a run in the home opener, going 3-for-5. "It took awhile to get another hit, but it's one of things where you keep battling," he said. "You get home, and I think a lot of guys on this team like playing at home."

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