Alfonso Soriano might be odd man out in outfield when David DeJesus returns
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com June 28, 2013 11:16PM
Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano, 37, could see a significant reduction in playing time upon David DeJesus’ return from a shoulder injury. | AP
Updated: June 29, 2013 12:58AM
SEATTLE — That new-look lineup the Cubs fielded in the last two games of the series against the Milwaukee Brewers? The one without Alfonso Soriano in it?
That could become a common look for the Cubs in August, regardless of whether the team is able to trade the seven-time All-Star.
The Cubs aren’t saying Soriano could be on the brink of being pushed to the margins, but the handwriting is spreading across the wall with every good game outfielders Ryan Sweeney and Brian Bogusevic have.
Sweeney has looked impressive as David DeJesus’ injury replacement in center field, and manager Dale Sveum likes what he sees so far in Bogusevic, who played left in Soriano’s absence in Milwaukee.
That could mean reduced playing time for Soriano, 37, after DeJesus returns from a shoulder injury late next month, Sveum said.
“We’re going to have to see what happens,” Sveum said. “A couple of them might be part of our future — left-handed hitters that are athletes, two-way players that can hit the ball out of the ballpark. We’ll work that out to figure out the playing time.”
Sweeney, 28, was signed as a minor-league free agent during the first week of the season after being released by the Boston Red Sox. He has been on the slugging tear of his life since being promoted from Class AAA Iowa in early May.
His four homers in 111 at-bats — among his 16 extra-base hits — are two short of his career high from 2009, when he had a career-high 484 at-bats. He also has played exceptional defense in center.
Bogusevic, 29, acquired as a minor-league free agent during the winter, had a torrid spring for the Cubs before being sent to Iowa. After hitting .319 with 27 extra-base hits, he was brought up this week and went 3-for-8 with a walk and an RBI double during victories on Wednesday and Thursday in Milwaukee.
Nate Schierholtz is having a first half that Sveum says is worthy of All-Star consideration.
So when DeJesus comes back — unless he returns in time to regain enough trade interest to move — Soriano might become a platoon player.
“I don’t know if I would call it a platoon or anything,” Sveum said. “But more to figure out how to get these guys at-bats with the matchups and all that kind of stuff, or whoever’s the hottest. Who knows how that’s going to work out? A lot of times those things work themselves out.”
Reduced playing time, regardless of the term, won’t sit too well with the veteran who reinvented himself defensively during a 32-homer season in 2012 and prides himself on wanting to play every day.
He was in the lineup Friday night as the designated hitter, scoring a run in the second inning after singling and hitting a solo homer leading off the seventh. Sveum said DH is where Soriano will be during most, if not all, of this six-game interleague swing through Seattle and Oakland. Sveum added he might use switch-hitting Dioner Navarro as a DH at some point.
Soriano ranks 64th all-time with 380 home runs and has hit cleanup all season.
He also has one year left on an eight-year, $136 million deal and full no-trade rights — which could become significantly less of an issue in the Cubs’ efforts to move him if he’s not happy with his playing time.
“I haven’t decided to do anything,” Sveum said. “I would definitely talk to him about it. You’re not just going to do something like that to a guy that’s had that kind of career. That’s a ways down the road before you think about that.”