Sunday, March 16, 2008

Alfonso Soriano Struggles With Lingering Leg Injury

Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano looked uncomfortable and out of form Saturday as he struggled to make contact in the batting cage at spring camp in Mesa, Ariz., then failed to make the trip to Tucson for a much anticipated tilt with the White Sox.

Again and again Soriano was unable to make clean contact, fouling off coach Gerald Perry's soft batting-practice lobs into the overhead netting or behind the plate. Though Alfonso may have gotten past a broken finger tip earlier in camp, it appeared clear that he continues to baby his sore quadricep, in which he has diminished confidence since tearing it last season.

Though Soriano is hitting .320 in 25 appearances this spring, he has only one homer and no stolen bases. His turn in the batting cage looked all the more feeble compared to teammate Derrick Lee's swings, as Lee smacked the ball sharply to all fields and hit two moon shots, one an estimated 440-footer.

Soriano, who hit leadoff last year, likely will be moved down in manager Lou Piniella's fluctuating, experimental batting order in an effort to spare Alfonso's legs by reducing his compulsion to attempt steals or take extra bases. The move will also help the Cubs overcome Soriano's poor onbase skills.