The Cubs have the third-fewest runs in the National League. They have the third-lowest slugging percentage, the third-lowest on-base percentage, and they're hitting just .235 with men in scoring position.
How much is Dale Sveum looking forward to having an extra hitter when the Cubs get to Minnesota Friday and can use a designated hitter?
``Quite a bit,'' said the Cubs manager.
And almost as big a benefit for the Cubs as the extra hitter for three days is that their oldest player and hottest slugger - Alfonso Soriano - will get a three-day reprieve from the pounding his sore left knee takes when he plays left field.
``It's coming just at the right time,'' Sveum said of the trip to Minnesota, where he plans to DH Soriano all three days. ``I've been playing him every day. He's that one threat in our lineup, so it's hard to give him days off. And to his credit, too, he doesn't want any days off, and he's not taking any days off from [pregame] work.''
Soriano, 36, for the most part has continued to run hard on the bases and has been especially aggressive in the outfield this year despite pain that requires daily treatment. But it takes him longer to come to a stop because of the balky knee.
``Yeah, everybody sees that,'' Sveum said, ``how painful that knee gets, the [worry] of possibly blowing it out if he comes to a stop too quick. That's something he just deals with himself.''
It's also something Sveum has come to learn about Soriano, and admire, since watching him for years as an opposing coach.
``Looking from the other side of the fence, a lot of people can have a really wrong perception of Soriano. There's no doubt,'' Sveum said. ``And then when you're around him, you're talking about probably having as much admiration for somebody as I've come across in my career. To see how he works, on and off the field, and tries to make himself a better outfielder every day and comes to play. He loves to play, doesn't want days off and just to deal with that kind of pain. ... He's been far and above everything I expected.''
Soriano has nine home runs in his last 21 games, dating to May 15 - more than anybody else in the majors in that span. He had none in the 30 games before that.