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Are Soriano’s games numbered with Cubs?
SEATTLE – That new-look lineup the Cubs fielded those last two games of the Milwaukee series? The one without Alfonso Soriano in it?
That could become a common look for the Cubs by sometime in August – whether the Cubs are able to trade the seven-time All-Star or not.
The Cubs aren’t saying Soriano is the brink of being pushed to the margins, but the handwriting’s 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.
And the manager said that could mean reduced playing time for Soriano, 37, after DeJesus returns from a shoulder injury sometime late next month.
“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 the first week of the season after being released by Boston and has been on the slugging tear of his life since being promoted from AAA Iowa in early May.
His four homers in 107 at-bats – among 15 extra-base hits entering Friday’s late game in Seattle – are just 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, who was acquired as a minor-league free agent over the winter, had a torrid spring for the Cubs before being sent to Iowa. And after hitting .319 with 27 extra-base hits there, he was brought up this week and went 3-for-8 with a walk and RBI double in victories in Milwaukee Wednesday and Thursday.
Nate Schierholtz already is having a first half 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 start taking on the look of 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 thing work themselves out.”
Reduced playing time, regardless of what it’s called, won’t sit well with the veteran who reinvented himself defensively during a 32-homer season in 2012 and prides himself on playing every day.
He was in the lineup Friday as the designated hitter, where he’ll be during most, if not all, of this six-game interleague swing through Seattle and Oakland, said Sveum, who added he might use switch-hitting Dioner Navarro as a DH at some point during the trip.
Soriano ranks 64th all-time with 379 home runs and has hit cleanup in the Cubs’ lineup 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.”