06/04/09 10:49 PM ET
Soto gets 'mental break' from Piniella
Slumping catcher out of lineup for finale in Atlanta
By Guy Curtwright / Special to MLB.com
"I probably should have done it sooner," Piniella said on Thursday.
The reigning National League Rookie of the Year is batting just .209 with a home run and 12 RBIs. Those numbers are a far cry from last season, when he hit .285 with 23 homers and 86 RBIs.
Koyie Hill, batting .271, was in the starting lineup on Thursday for the second consecutive night, though the conclusion of the three-game series against the Braves at Turner Field was postponed by torrential rains.
"If [Hill] plays well, he can basically write his name in the lineup," Piniella said on Wednesday.
But Piniella clarified his catching situation on Thursday, saying, "Obviously, Geo is my No. 1 catcher. I'm just giving him a nice little mental break."
Soto met with Piniella for nearly 20 minutes before batting practice on Thursday. The closed-door talk included a little hitting demonstration, with the manager leaving his office briefly to get a bat.
"We were talking to Geo a little bit about using his front arm a little more, as opposed to being so back-sided," Piniella said.
The meeting, however, was about more than just batting.
"He came in to find out what my thinking was, and I told him I was giving him a little mental breather," Piniella said. "Sometimes with a young player, opposed to fighting it, it's better to get him out of there for a few days.
"Let Hill do a little catching and let this guy relax so when he gets back in, he can start anew."
Hill, a switch-hitter, went 0-for-2 on Wednesday night against the Braves, but the Cubs improved to 8-5 this season when he starts and are 26-14 going back to 2007.
"I'm interested in winning baseball games," Piniella said. "If he swings the bat, yeah, he'll play more than he has, no question.
"The object here is to put a team on the field that can win with consistency."
Before his meeting with Piniella, Soto said that he was confident he would get back on track at the plate soon.
"I'll be OK," Soto said.
Guy Curtright is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.