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Alfonso Soriano could be in leadoff spot for Cubs

Chicago Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano gets ready for regular seaswaits for his turn batting cage as spring training continues for

Chicago Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano gets ready for the regular season and waits for his turn in the batting cage as spring training continues for the Cubs at Fitch Park Tuesday February 28, 2012 in Mesa, Arizona. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 2, 2012 4:06PM

MESA, Ariz. – Alfonso Soriano leading off?

Believe it or not, it could be coming back to a North Side ballpark near you soon – at least in cameo appearances.

The Cubs’ most popular lightning rod – whose status as leadoff man from 2007-09 was the subject of great fan angst – could see occasional time in the leadoff spot, new manager Dale Sveum said Friday.

Soriano hasn’t started a game in the leadoff spot since July 3, 2009.

``During the season a lot of things can come up to where, yeah, it can happen,’’ said Sveum, who has Soriano leading off for the ``White’’ team against the ``Blue’’ in today’s intrasquad game. ``You really want Soriano just to be in an RBI spot, that’s what you really want.’’

Sveum said he likes new right fielder David DeJesus as a regular leadoff guy at this point but emphasizes that the Cubs’ roster doesn’t offer an obvious, regular everyday lineup choice.

``The one thing about Soriano is his numbers as a leadoff hitter are pretty good in his career,’’ Sveum said. ``Whether he’s leading off an inning or leading off a game, his numbers are pretty incredible over his career.

``If you want to get into details of why you might come up with something like that, it could be as simple as that. We don’t have the bona fide guys at any position in the order.’’

Soriano is a career .288 hitter as a leadoff man with batting-order bests in on-base percentage (.338) and OPS (.877) at leadoff – where he also has by far the most plate appearances in his career (3,630)

Leading off an inning it’s .331 on-base and .879 OPS. Leading off a game, it’s .350, .970 with 54 homers.

By comparison, he’s 11-for-56 (.196) with two homers and five walks as a cleanup hitter.

Sveum said he plans to have an Opening Day lineup decided by sometime around the middle of the month.

Besides his early thoughts on DeJesus leading off and Soriano or Bryan LaHair as the cleanup guy, he suggested Friday that Starlin Castro could be his No. 3 hitter.

``To be able to do what he’s done for almost two years playing every day, that’s pretty impressive numbers to put up,’’ Sveum said. ``A guy like that should be put in an RBI spot. When and what time, that’s always the million-dollar question with young hitters: Can they handle hitting in the heart of the lineup?’’

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