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04/16/07 8:30 PM ET

Piniella checks in on Soriano

Slugger says center field not to blame for slow start

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Lou Piniella met with Alfonso Soriano before Monday's game to make sure the $136 million outfielder is happy.

Soriano made the switch from left to center field this season and was batting .234 after 11 games. If the position switch was the reason for the drop-off in Soriano's offense, Piniella wanted to know.

"I had a nice conversation with Soriano today," Piniella said. "He feels very comfortable in center field. What we want Soriano to do is hit and generate offense for us. I brought him in, and we had a nice conversation. He said, 'I feel very good in center field.' I said, 'Look, we'll move you. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to feel comfortable at home plate and take that load off.'

"He said, 'No, I feel good,'" Piniella said. "I haven't been displeased with his play at all. The only thing I say is we brought him in here to hit and if center field is causing a problem, we want to eradicate that. He feels very comfortable in center field and was adamant about wanting to stay there, so we left him there."

That doesn't mean the other outfielders stayed put. On Monday against San Diego, Matt Murton and Jacque Jones traded places, with Murton starting in right and Jones in left.

"We're just changing things up a little bit, nothing more, nothing less," Piniella said.

Back to Soriano's situation. The conversation was not prompted by any displeasure over Soriano's play. But pitcher Carlos Zambrano has hit more home runs than the Cubs' highly paid 40-40 man, and that's a little worrisome.

"I think he's just trying to do too much," Piniella said. "I think he's trying to do too much, and all he needs to do is relax and let his natural ability take over. He's got a plethora of ability. Let him use it.

"My conversation with him was more about helping him relax and maybe move him back to the position he played than playing center field," Piniella said. "He feels good about the position, he likes it. That's all. I think he's just trying to overdo, and he doesn't have to. He can help us in so many ways.

"I think if he wasn't comfortable out there, he would've told me," the Cubs manager said. "He's going to hit. It's just a question of when and how soon, and obviously the sooner, the better for our offense."

Piniella has no reason to doubt Soriano. If he says he's happy, he's happy.

"I believe him. I believe the kid," Piniella said. "He's a professional. He comes to the ballpark ready to play, and he plays hard. He's gotten off to a little bit of a slow start with the bat. He's not the only one. We'll leave that situation alone."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.