Soler impresses again in home debut

CHICAGO -- Talk to anyone that’s been around Chicago Cubs rookie Jorge Soler, both in the minors and in his first week of his major league career, and three words keep coming up:

“He is strong.”

That strength has propelled him to achieve a feat only two other players have accomplished in the last 100 years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He’s the third to earn at least one extra-base hit in his first five games in the majors after collecting two more in the Cubs' 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in Soler’s Wrigley Field debut Monday. He blasted two balls to right field for doubles, one to the corner and one off the wall in right center.

“He stays inside the pitches really, really well,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said after the game. “And then he stays through it. He really gets extension. He is what you would call ‘short to the ball and long through it.’”

It’s almost an inside-out feel to the swing considering neither pitch was on the outer half of the plate. But that’s not the case. It’s pure strength which propels what might be a simple fly ball for some players to an extra-base hit. Teams may have to start playing him closer to the warning track.

“Not many times have I gone deep over the right-field fence but I have that mental approach, towards the middle,” Soler said through an interpreter.

Renteria likened the finish to his swing to a pitcher’s follow through or an infielder’s motion on a good throw. The finish is what sets him apart.

“He’s a little more advanced than your normal 23 year-old,” teammate Carlos Villanueva said. “And he’s strong.”

There are those three words again. The only question with Soler, according to Villanueva is, ‘can he stay healthy?’ Hamstring issues will limit him some the rest of the season and he did get hit by a line-drive foul ball while leading off third base Monday.

“My thigh,” Soler said. “It’s OK.”

Even though “strength” was the word heard most often in regards to the power Soler generates, it’s still his advanced understanding of the strike zone that might be most impressive. Everyone can see his athletic ability by looking at him, but his know-how is a different story.

“Obviously, he has a lot of power, but I think that approach at the plate that he has, will be the biggest key for him in the future,” Monday’s winner Jacob Turner said.

Soler may not know it, but he’s attempting to become another fixture in right field. Like Andre Dawson and Sammy Sosa before him, he’s off to a good start. A 2-for-4 day and a batting average of .526 after five days in the big leagues will do that.

“Big ovation,” Soler said from the fans. “Feel really good. Right at home.”