Sveum revealed the method to his madness before Sunday’s Cactus League opener, a game in which Soriano was batting in the No. 1 spot for the Cubs. Soriano last batted leadoff in a regular-season game in 2009.
“Certain guys you might not want them out there six or seven innings [in spring training] to get their three at-bats,” Sveum said. “You’ll put some guys at the top of the lineup to get their three at-bats really quick and they only have to play five innings in the field right now.”
Sveum remembers vividly from his playing days, especially later in his career, the grind that spring training can become. So while he says he still hasn’t ruled out using Soriano in the leadoff spot at some point during the regular season, his primary intention right now appears to be a slower pace in Arizona for his 36-year-old left fielder.
“You try to gradually build into those seven innings on the field, nine innings on the field,” Sveum said. “You don’t really like giving guys starts without getting three at-bats. Most guys want three at-bats when they start. That’s kind of the basics of that right now.”
David DeJesus, who is expected to wind up as the leadoff hitter, was in the No. 6 spot in the lineup Sunday. His 32-year-old legs will have to be subjected to the potential of a few more innings, for now anyway.
DeJesus figures to be in the leadoff spot more consistently by March 15, the deadline Sveum has set for establishing his Opening Day batting order.