07/21/09 7:10 PM ET
Piniella seeking lefty hitter with power
Bradley hasn't been able to match Ibanez's '09 numbers
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
The three top players on the market, as most fans recall, were Milton Bradley, Raul Ibanez and Bobby Abreu. You know where each ended up. Heading into Tuesday's game, Ibanez had 25 homers, 68 RBIs and was batting .315 for the Phillies. Bradley had six homers, 21 RBIs and was hitting .201 from the left side for the Cubs, but he was not in the lineup for the third straight game as he continued to work on his swing with Piniella.
It's impossible to say that Ibanez would have put up the same numbers if he had signed with the Cubs, but he is doing exactly what Piniella wanted.
"The only thing I talked about last season," Piniella said Tuesday, "was a need for a left-hand bat in a predominantly right-handed lineup who could hit the ball for power and drive in some runs. Look at our production last year, and it was mainly from the right side. We didn't bring [Jim] Edmonds back and he hit quite a few home runs.
"We needed a left-hand bat, that's it," Piniella said. "That was what I mentioned, that we could use a nice productive left-hand bat in the middle of our right-hand hitting."
The Cubs are committed to Alfonso Soriano through 2014 in left. Could Ibanez have moved to right field?
"He's probably better suited for left," Piniella said of Ibanez. "Right field in Wrigley is not the easiest to play. It's the sun field, it's bigger dimensions, 353 down the line, it's got that unorthodox dip out there."
Then, Piniella paused.
"Look," he said, "we still need a left-hand bat who could hit in our lineup and drive in some runs."
Bradley will be back in the Cubs' lineup Wednesday, and the hope is he will be more relaxed. That's been Piniella's message to the outfielder the past two days. Is it as simple as taking a deep breath?
"Yeah, get out of the box, take a nice breath and relax," Piniella said. "What happens invariably is you create a little tension, and I'm not talking about Bradley in particular, but you start using your bigger muscles and you don't get through the ball. It's the same thing as when you play golf -- the first thing they tell you is to hold the club nice and loose. When you hit the ball, that's when you tighten up. It's the same thing hitting a baseball."
Bradley's biggest problem may be his need to be a perfectionist.
"There's nothing wrong with being a perfectionist," Piniella said. "Don't get disappointed if you're not perfect all the time. You've got to be a realistic perfectionist."
Baseball players get three hits in 10 at-bats and they're considered successful. Bradley isn't alone with his struggles at the plate.
"I've got every confidence that some of the guys who have struggled here will get much better as the year goes on," Piniella said. "I hope it's sooner rather than later."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.