Piniella sits Edmonds, Fukudome; Cubs may see more lineup changes
CINCINNATI -- With the Chicago Cubs' losing streak up to six games and the batting order failing to produce, manager Lou Piniella shook up his lineup Saturday, giving center fielder Jim Edmonds and right fielder Kosuke Fukudome a day off.
And, maybe more than one day.
Piniella held out the possibility of more lineup changes as the Cubs try to hold onto their NL Central lead. They were four games ahead of Milwaukee heading into the second game of their series Saturday night against the Cincinnati Reds.
"I'm open to production," Piniella said. "We've got 21 games left, right? The people that are getting the job done, they're the ones that are going to get the bulk of the playing time. I'm talking about pitching-wise and hitting-wise.
"I have been fair. I've given everybody opportunity all year. This is the time now where the people that are getting the job done are the people that are going to play, plain and simple."
The Cubs have been in first place since May 11. They've already matched their victory total from last season and have the best record in the NL at 85-56, but the last week has been ominous. Top starter Carlos Zambrano is missing at least one start because of a sore shoulder, and Rich Harden is missing one start because of discomfort in his arm.
On top of that, the offense has gone into a slump, setting up the Cubs' longest losing streak of the season.
"The main thing is we've got to get our bats going," first baseman Derrek Lee said. "We've fallen asleep the last week. The other times [the offense struggled], we've found a way to win one here or there. This time, we haven't."
The September slump has fans worried about Chicago's chances of reaching the World Series on the 100-year anniversary of the last time the Cubs won it. Lee said the players don't sense any more pressure because of the losing streak.
"We don't feel it," Lee said. "No one is coming up to us and saying, 'We're panicking, get a win.'"
Piniella doesn't want the losing to go on any longer. He put Micah Hoffpauir in right and Reed Johnson in center on Saturday. Hoffpauir made his big-league debut in May and is in his fourth stint with the Cubs, batting .368 overall. Johnson is batting .379 since July 12.
Fukudome made the All-Star team in July, the highlight of his first season in the majors following nine years with the Chunichi Dragons in Japan. He went into deep slump in August (.193), and has batted only .218 in his last 61 games.
"The first year, it's an adjustment of sorts," Piniella said. "You know, at the same time, from talking to a few people who have been here awhile, sometimes the first year with the Cubs is an adjustment, period, in itself. I think he's going to be fine."
Edmonds is batting .189 in his last 14 games, prompting Piniella to give him a day off.
Besides the problems with Zambrano and Harden, reliever Chad Gaudin has a sore back and hasn't pitched since Aug. 29. Piniella said he'll return to Chicago on Monday for more tests.
"I mean, let me tell you: When it rains, it pours," Piniella said. "Well, it's pouring right now, let me tell you."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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