Perry fired in third season with Cubs

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs fired hitting coach Gerald Perry after 2½ seasons on Sunday in an attempt to spark a sputtering offense that ranks among the National League's worst.

The Cubs had high expectations after winning back-to-back NL Central titles, but with a 29-30 record and a .246 team batting average before Sunday's 3-2 win over Minnesota, general manager Jim Hendry decided to make a change. So he let Perry go and promoted Von Joshua from Triple-A Iowa.

"Obviously, we've been struggling for a long time," Hendry said. "I think sometimes you need a new voice. Von's had a lot of success with our guys on the way up. We have really, really struggled offensively for reasons that go beyond Aramis [Ramirez] being gone for a while.

"Everyday, we have five guys in the lineup who have been in the All-Star Game. For whatever reason, they're not performing anywhere close that they all have performed at throughout their careers."

The Cubs batted .278 last season -- their best average in 71 years -- while scoring an NL-leading 855 runs, but they've struggled at the plate all season. They ranked 13th in batting average and 14th in runs (250) after Saturday's 2-0 loss to Minnesota -- the third time in four games they scored one run or less.

Alfonso Soriano (.233) and Milton Bradley (.226), their top offseason acquisition, have struggled, as has 2008 Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto (.209). Derrek Lee (.273) has come on after a slow start, but Kosuke Fukudome entered Sunday's game in a 3-for-32 slide that dropped his average to .272 and brought back memories of last season's collapse.

Losing Ramirez to a dislocated shoulder last month certainly didn't help, but Hendry said the problems go beyond his injury.

"You never feel good about the coach taking the blame," Hendry said. "I'm trying to do what's best for the organization."

A 13-year major league player, Perry joined the Cubs in November 2006 and reunited with Lou Piniella -- Seattle's manager when he served as hitting coach from 2000 to 2002.

"It's tough on me because I've been with Gerald for a long time," Piniella said. "Six years. We've had success together."

Perry also spent three seasons in Pittsburgh, where he worked with Ramirez, and a year in Oakland before coming to Chicago.

"When things went good, everybody's happy," Soriano said. "It's part of the game. Last year, nobody said nothing. We had the best team offensively. He was the best hitting coach. This year, we have a little problem and now he's the worst."

Ryan Theriot said Perry "did everything in his power aside from going up there and hitting for us."

"Its unfortunate," he added. "He's a coach and a friend. We'll miss him. But you got to move on and see what happens. Hopefully things will get better."

Theriot also called Joshua "a very dear friend" who will "do a great job."

An outfielder who spent 10 years in the majors, Joshua served as the Chicago White Sox's hitting coach from 1998 to 2001 but has spent most of the past 26 years coaching in the minors.

"I think we've got a lot of good people," Hendry said. "I think they're disappointed in themselves. I don't think they need to be challenged anymore than they're doing, themselves. I know they're very frustrated."