The luster off the newly dawned Starlin Castro era and the Cubs riding a 1-6 slide, the lineup shakeups have begun.
Manager Lou Piniella has Kosuke Fukudome (.417 on-base percentage) in the leadoff spot, flip-flopping him with Ryan Theriot (.331 average), now batting second, and backing them up with new No. 3 hitter Marlon Byrd (.344, team-leading 22 RBIs).
Piniella said he’s trying to create more hit-and-run opportunities as he waits for middle-order mainstays Derrek Lee (.211) and Aramis Ramirez (.163) to start hitting.
As for Lee – the guy who last week in Pittsburgh said he’d be surprised to be dropped from the 3 hole – he’s hitting cleanup with Ramirez behind him at fifth.
“It’s not hard,” Piniella said when asked about moving around such key veterans through the lineup, adding, “I don’t know exactly what our choices are. I mean … Soriano’s been swinging the bat well [at No. 6] and we don’t want to disturb that situation. Soto’s doing is job nice in the seventh hole. We’ve got our leadoff people that are getting on base.”
And yet they’ve managed just three or fewer runs in those six losses over the past week. They’re in the top five in the league in hitting, top four in home runs, top four in on-base percentage – but are struggling to rank sixth in the NL in runs scored.
And more importantly seem to score next to nothing when they’re not scoring eight or nine.
They’ve scored three or fewer runs in roughly half their games (16 of 33) – two or fewer in 14 of the 33.
“Now, we’re second in the league in left on base, which tells a little bit of the story,” Piniella said. “But, gosh, I mean, it’s hard for me to believe that we can’t consistently score four or more runs a game, with the people that we have here.”
So now comes the shakeups. And if the slide continues, expect more than some lineup changes.
For now, the lineup du jour:
Fukudome, Theriot, Byrd, Lee, Ramirez, Soriano, Soto, Castro and Wells.
As for Castro, Lou says they said all they needed to the kid about Monday’s three errors after that game and that they’re working more with him on applying tags after missing a couple on would-be caught-stealings Saturday and Monday.
“Everything’s fine,” he said. “We’re just going to grow with him. … Let’s not get too occupied with this. He’s got a learning curve ahead of him and he’s got the perfect guy in [coach Alan] Trammell and he’s got [coach Ivan] DeJesus here to help him. He’s got a wonderful hitting coach [Rudy Jaramillo] to work with. He’ll be taken care of the right way, believe me.”