PHOENIX -- Last spring, Alfonso Soriano hit three home runs in 21 Cactus League games. This year, he has three in four games.
What's the difference? Watch his at-bats. Soriano still uses a leg kick as a timing device but it's not as high a step.
"I just thought it would help my timing," the Cubs left fielder said Saturday. "Sometimes I do it too high and have less timing. Now I try to feel more comfortable at home plate."
It looks like it's working. In 2010, he also got off to a slow start and hit two home runs in 21 spring games. So far this year, he's 6-for-11 with all but one of his hits going for extra bases.
"It's something I worked on in the Dominican to see how I feel," Soriano said. "I did feel good. I had a big leg kick, now I have a little one. I started working on it and I've been more consistent doing it.
"What's more important for me is that before, I needed 10 games to start feeling good, but right away, the first two games, I started feeling good," he said. "I think I've found something in my swing and my mechanics that helps me a lot."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said the change should help Soriano because there will be less moving parts to his swing.
"I have a big bat and a big leg kick," Soriano said. "That's less time that I have to time the ball. I think if I eliminate some of the movement, my timing is better."
Soriano will likely bat fourth or fifth in the lineup this year, Sveum said Saturday.
"I know I scared you guys a little bit, putting him in the leadoff spot, but that was goofing around with lineups and getting guys at-bats real quick," Sveum said.
So, who will be the Cubs' leadoff man? David DeJesus.
"He's really our only bona fide on-base guy who obviously can hit, and he hits left-handed," Sveum said. "He brings all the intangibles that nobody else in the lineup brings to the table."
Travis Wood needs to slow things down.
In his first Cactus League game on Friday against the White Sox, Wood gave up one run over 2 1/3 innings but needed help from Randy Wells to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the third. Wells got Paul Konerko to hit into a double play to end the inning.
"[Wells] made some quality sinkers there right when we needed them," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
"He's speeding everything up way too much," Sveum said of the lefty. "The game is getting a little fast for him out there instead of taking time between pitches and making quality pitches. Everything's real fast and he's got to slow down."
Aramis Ramirez played next to Starlin Castro for two seasons with the Cubs. What does the veteran third baseman, now with the Brewers, think of the young Cubs shortstop?
"He's young but he's real talented and he's smart," Ramirez said. "The only downside for him last year was his focus and that's when he made a lot of errors. He's going to get better."I was talking to [Brewers shortstop] Alex Gonzalez today about that," Ramirez said. "He's one of the best in the game defensively and he said in his first year he made 24, 25 errors. "Castro has all the tools -- he's got good hands, good feet, he's moves well. He's just got to concentrate a little better and he'll get the job done. Offensively, he's one of the best hitters right now. He got 200 hits at 21, so he'll get better. Defensively, he has to work a little bit."
Ramirez said he talked to Castro on the field about his focus.
"That's why I say he's smart -- he asks a lot of questions and he wants to work hard," Ramirez said. "That's what the fans don't see or the media -- he works hard. He was out there taking ground balls early every day with Ivan DeJesus last year. I'm sure it's going to pay off."
The Cubs trimmed the spring camp roster by two on Saturday, sending right-handed pitcher Dae-Eun Rhee and catcher Micah Gibbs to Minor League camp. With the moves, the spring roster now holds 57 players.
Paul Maholm will make his first Cactus League appearance on Monday when he starts against the Reds. Jeff Samardzija also is scheduled to pitch. Chris Volstad will start Tuesday against the Giants and Wells on Wednesday.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.