SEATTLE – Alfonso Soriano said all the right things, but there’s no doubt he wants to be in the lineup every day. He doesn’t picture himself as a part-time player.
If the Cubs are trying to phase out Soriano, well, here was his answer on Saturday in front of 34,630 fans at Safeco Field: He stood at home plate, flicked his bat and hopped out to begin his home-run trot in the 11th inning.
Soriano crushed a 95 mph fastball from Oliver Perez over the center-field wall. That two-run shot became the pivot point in a wild 5-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners, what he hopes will be the beginning of another hot streak.
Afterward, Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder pulled out a generic Cubs ID card and showed it to a security guard, walking into the postgame clubhouse with team president Theo Epstein and scouting executive Jason McLeod.
Soriano hasn’t discussed his future yet with Epstein, though that could be on the horizon.
“We haven’t talked,” Soriano said. “I don’t expect anything, but who knows? I just come to the ballpark every day and try to do my job. I don’t want to put anything in my mind, because the last couple years there’s always trade rumors and nothing happens. So I just want to focus day-by-day and see what happens.”
On Friday, manager Dale Sveum signaled a potential timeshare in the outfield, which would go beyond simply giving Soriano some days off to rest his legs and deal with Wrigley Field’s day/night schedule.
While holding onto his no-trade rights, Soriano has resisted the idea of becoming a full-time designated hitter. But he’s now hitting .386 (32-for-83) with nine homers and 24 RBI in 25 career games as a DH.
Has this made you rethink the whole DH thing?
“With the Cubs, it’s only like how many more games? Four more?” Soriano said, thinking of the upcoming interleague schedule. “I feel comfortable because it helps my legs. Sometimes being in left field for nine innings is not comfortable at my age. But I’m enjoying it.”
Soriano saved the Cubs (34-45) from wasting another quality start and changed the subject after another bullpen meltdown. Jeff Samardzija allowed two runs across seven innings but wound up with the no-decision.
Remote in hand, Samardzija sat on a black leather couch before the game surrounded by teammates, watching an old DVD inside the clubhouse.
Hat turned backwards, Samardzija looked like he could have been in a college dorm room, watching the 2005 Notre Dame football game where the Fighting Irish went into Husky Stadium and blew out Washington.
“The last time I was in Seattle was that game,” Samardzija said. “So I figured I’d watch it and get a little good ‘juju’ from it and see what happens. It’s kind of funny to watch. It’s kind of funny to see that get older. I still thought I was pretty young, but that’s changing in a hurry.”
Samardzija and Soriano are the only two players left from the 2008 team that won 97 games and created so much energy at Wrigley Field. One is viewed as a building block, while the other is not.
The $136 million man still feels like he has something left at the age of 37, as long as he stays healthy.
“My swing is there now and my hands are quick,” Soriano said. “I feel young (and) I can do a lot of things to help the team.”