Cubs’ Alfonso Soriano on HR binge, but doesn’t see himself as DH
By GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com August 31, 2011 11:04PM
Alfonso Soriano gets a high-five from Marlon Byrd after his tape-measure blast against the Giants on Tuesday. “That’s the best one I hit this year,” he said. | Thearon W. Henderson~Getty Images
Updated: November 4, 2011 7:51PM
SAN FRANCISCO — Alfonso Soriano showed Tuesday night he still has power, hitting what some locals called the longest home run to left field in the 11-year history of AT&T Park.
‘‘That’s the best one I hit this year,’’ said Soriano, who also hit one the night before against two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum — and who is tied for the Cubs’ lead with 24.
He said he can maintain his power into next season, as he turns 36, and even as the speed in his once-swift legs have long abandoned him, and even if his on-base percentage is a career-low since he became a full-time player.
‘‘My hands are there — quick hands — and I feel strong,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s not like I lose my power.’’
But who can use that power next year? In what lineup? What ballpark? And in what role?
Soriano isn’t sure what the answers are to any of those questions, but he’s well aware he could be in his final month as a Cub with sweeping changes coming in the next few months.
And if that means he winds up a designated hitter — as many suggest is the only way to find a taker — then Soriano is open to that. His seven errors are most among major-league outfielders, and his reaction-time issues were apparent on Chris Stewart’s sixth-inning double 30 feet off the line Wednesday that allowed Mike Fontenot to score from first.
‘‘I don’t see myself as a DH. I haven’t thought about it because my legs have been feeling good, and I’ve made progress in left field,’’ he said. ‘‘But who knows? They have kids [in the minors], if they want to do something. So let’s see what happens.
‘‘If [the Cubs] don’t want to win next year, and they want to put a young team [and rebuild], next year I’ll be 36, and I want to win,’’ he said. ‘‘I want to be on a team that has a shot to make the playoffs. If it’s not here, and they want to trade me, they could trade me to a good team that has a chance to make the playoffs, so it’s good.’’
Soriano, who has three years and $54 million left on his eight-year, $136 million contract, has no-trade rights but repeatedly has said he won’t block the Cubs from trading him.
Even if it means he winds up primarily as a DH.
‘‘Yeah, it’s fine,’’ he said. ‘‘DH and play left field, too. So both. I’d like to play here, to finish here. But who knows? I’m not the GM and not the owners. It depends on them.’’
The Cubs escaped a big scare in the third inning Wednesday when NL hits leader Starlin Castro suffered a hamstring cramp sliding into second on a steal and popping up quickly to run to third when the ball sailed into center. After a few moments with the trainer, he stayed in the game, and said afterward he was fine.
† Cubs infield prospect Matt Camp, who was in big-league spring training this year, was suspended 50 games (most next season) for a second drug-testing offense.
† The Cubs finished August with the eighth-best team ERA in the majors (3.74) for the month — better than three first-place teams (Boston, Detroit, Texas) and the two wild-card leaders (Atlanta and the New York Yankees).