Alfonso Soriano looking forward to getting some rest during All-Star break
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org July 8, 2012 7:46PM
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro follows through on a three-run home run in the seventh inning Sunday against the Mets at Citi Field. | Kathy Willens~AP
Updated: August 10, 2012 6:26AM
NEW YORK — Left fielder Alfonso Soriano said he thinks the four-day All-Star break is exactly what he needs to get hot again. Manager Dale Sveum said he thinks Soriano might need a little more than that.
‘‘We know he’s streaky and all that, but just his presence in the lineup brings a lot,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘But I’ve got to find a few more spots to give him days off [after
Soriano played in all but six games before the All-Star break and cooled off during the final road trip after a hot six weeks. He admitted he needs the break.
‘‘Especially for the mental [side],’’ he said. ‘‘My body’s OK. But the way that we played, we didn’t expect to be so many games under .500. It’s good to have a break now to prepare myself mentally for the second half.’’
Soriano matched his pre-All-Star break high for home runs during his Cubs career (15) and has more RBI at the break (48) than he has had since his 40-homer, 40-steal season with the Washington Nationals in 2006.
‘‘After the first six weeks that I didn’t hit a homer and didn’t help the team, I’ve been feeling great,’’ he said. ‘‘Personally, it’s OK. But it’s about the team.’’
The Cubs went 9-4 in their last 13 games before the break but still find themselves battling to stay out of last place in the National League Central.
‘‘Now it’s like a new season,’’ Soriano said. ‘‘I want to go home [to the Dominican Republic] and charge my battery and start [fresh].’’
It might seem contradictory to suggest one of the worst teams in baseball had a most valuable player before the break, much less two. But if it’s possible, Sveum said relievers Shawn Camp and James Russell are his two-man MVP.
‘‘Those guys have been phenomenal all the first half in the [multiple] positions they’ve been put in,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘Without those two guys, we’d have been in a lot of trouble.’’
If nothing else, Camp and Russell were the biggest reasons the Cubs even could function for nine innings early in the season, when Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood and a handful of rookies and castoffs struggled terribly.
Camp, whom the Cubs claimed off waivers from the Seattle Mariners in the last week of spring training, has been a middle reliever, setup man and closer at points this season, producing a 2.80 ERA. Russell, a lefty who has filled setup and closing roles, is at 2.38.
And when each appeared in the Cubs’ 7-0 victory Sunday against the New York Mets, they remained tied for the NL lead with 43 appearances each.
‘‘Without those two guys doing what they’ve done, we’d have been in a lot more trouble than we are now,’’ Sveum said.
Cubs All-Star representatives Bryan LaHair and coach Dave McKay were invited to join the Mets’ All-Stars on their charter flight Sunday to Kansas City, Mo. Starlin Castro took a later flight so he could see friends in New York.
† To make room on the roster for right-hander Ryan Dempster, the Cubs optioned right-hander Chris Volstad to Class AAA Iowa. Volstad made one disappointing start after his recall.
† Left-hander Paul Maholm’s one-inning relief appearance was his first after 201 career starts. Sveum had most of his starters on call for middle-inning duty.
† The start time for the Cubs’ home game Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks has been changed to 12:05 p.m.