Sunday, July 01, 2007

Lee and Sori named All-star reserves

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CHICAGO -- If Tony La Russa needs instant offense for the National League All-Star team, he can call on Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano.
Soriano was named to his sixth straight All-Star Game on Sunday, selected by the player votes. Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee also was selected by player votes and will make his second trip to the All-Star Game, which will be played July 10 in San Francisco and near his hometown of Sacramento, Calif.
Soriano was edged in the fan balloting for a starting spot by San Francisco's Barry Bonds. New York's Carlos Beltran and Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr. are the other starting NL outfielders.
The Cubs left fielder has had an All-Star June, batting .336 with 11 homers and 18 RBIs. He hit a solo homer in each of the Cubs' games against the White Sox June 22-24, and also hit three home runs against the Braves on June 8.
He's not on the same pace as last season, his first 40-40-40 season, when he hit 46 homers and 41 doubles and stole 41 bases.
All La Russa has to do is put Soriano in the leadoff spot and sit back and relax.
The Cubs left fielder was named National League Player of the Week for June 18-24, and posted a slugging percentage of 1.080. Soriano led the NL with 27 total bases, hit four home runs, and tied for first with 12 hits as well as batting .480 that week.
"It was just a matter of time," Chicago's Mark DeRosa said.
"The warmer weather has helped, I think the move to left field has helped," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of Soriano's surge. "The fact that he's acclimiated to day-night games has helped.
"And the last reason is he's a very talented young man who's finally hitting his stride," Piniella said.
Make sure you tune in early. Soriano has taken advantage of pitchers, slugging leadoff homers before most of the fans are settled in their seats. Pitchers know he's a fastball hitter but still throw fastballs.
"The first pitch of the game, that's the best pitch the pitcher has to open the game," Soriano said last week. "It's a little complicated because they know I'm a fastball hitter, but they don't want to throw a first-pitch breaking ball because they don't feel comfortable. I always feel good swinging at the first pitch."
Lee, 31, who won a batting title in 2005, was hitting .340 with six homers and 40 RBIs, second in the league behind Colorado's Matt Holliday. He also played in the 2005 All-Star Game in Detroit and was 1-for-3 with a double.
His home run numbers are down, but the right-handed hitter is a presence in the lineup. Lee is batting .383 with six doubles, a triple, five RBIs and eight walks in his last 17 games after a mini-slump in which he hit .129 in eight games.
Lee is healthy after missing most of last season because of a fractured right wrist suffered in a freak collision with Rafael Furcal, and also ranks among the NL leaders with a .366 average with runners in scoring position.
It's the first time the Cubs have had two representatives since Lee and Aramis Ramirez went in 2005. Carlos Zambrano was the team's lone rep last year but did not pitch.
The 78th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.

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