Theriot candidate for 2010 leadoff spot
Shortstop's speed, newfound patience gives Cubs option
CHICAGO -- About the only thing set for the Cubs' lineup in 2010 is that Alfonso Soriano won't be the leadoff man. That creates an opening for Ryan Theriot.
"Look, I enjoy hitting first," Theriot said. "I think I can do it, for sure. You change your approach just a tad, but it's something I've done in the past and feel very comfortable doing.
"When I'm called on to hit up there, I enjoy it. When I'm called on to hit second or eighth or seventh -- or like I always joke with [manager] Lou [Piniella], I need to be hitting third or fourth. You just kind of adjust and figure it out."
Piniella said the club will likely keep Soriano in the sixth spot next season, when he returns. The outfielder is done for the year after undergoing arthroscopic left knee surgery Tuesday.
Theriot won't be bumping Derrek Lee or Aramis Ramirez out of the middle of the Cubs' order, despite setting a career high this season with seven home runs. But in his past 12 games, Theriot has shown more patience at the plate, getting eight walks, including four on Tuesday against the Milwaukee Brewers, and striking out six times. In 27 games in August, Theriot walked three times.
"We'll see," Piniella said about Theriot being in the top spot in the lineup next year. "If we stay the same, obviously, Theriot would be one of our players to consider. He's had a nice year here. He likes to play. He's leading our team in stolen bases.
"Theriot fits in the one- or two-hole or down in the eight slot," Piniella said of the shortstop, who is batting .299 as the leadoff man. "He's a good little player and we like him a lot. We just have to wait and see what happens over the winter."
Piniella has made it clear he'd like to add more speed if possible.
"Speed helps you get to more balls, especially in the outfield," Piniella said. "It gives you more range in the infield. It also allows you to manufacture, and one of the things we don't do well here is manufacture [runs] that well. Speed is a direct correlation of manufacturing."
Theriot does lead the Cubs with 19 stolen bases, and is the only player in double digits in thefts. Whether or not he leads off full-time will be determined. If he could produce a solid final two weeks, the shortstop could boost his .289 average. He finished last year at .308. Is .300 a goal?
"No, just winning ballgames," Theriot said. "I haven't worried about [average] all year. My goals are always score runs -- get on base and score runs. I think if you do that, you're helping your team win and everything else takes care of itself. However that works out -- walks, or reach on an error, or get a hit or something -- just get on first base."
Sounds like a leadoff man.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.