MESA, Ariz. (AP) -Partly out of excitement but mostly out of relief, Lou Piniella raised his arms toward the heavens and exclaimed: ``Soriano!'
Reporters had not yet even asked the Cubs manager about Alfonso Soriano, who used Thursday's final spring game at HoHoKam Park to awaken his bat from what had been a six-week slumber.
``That made my day. I can enjoy a nice margarita tonight,' Piniella said after Chicago's 2-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies. ``Three for three, hit the ball hard, two-run homer. Had a little skip in his jump. Yeah, made my day.'
Soriano, coming off a bad, injury-filled season, flipped his bat to celebrate his sixth-inning shot off Colorado reliever Matt Daley.
The $136 million outfielder entered the game batting .235 with only one home run and three RBIs. Had Piniella been concerned?
``No, no, no,' Piniella said. ``It's like I remember when I played with the Yankees. Billy (Martin) was the manager and he'd always tell a guy: 'Let me just see it once or twice and I won't bother you any more.''
Soriano also singled twice off Rockies starter Jeff Francis, who had his own reason to celebrate: five scoreless innings, with only three hits allowed.
``Whatever I was looking for,' Francis said, ``I found it out there today.'
After winning 17 games and helping Colorado take the NL pennant in 2007, a hurting Francis went 4-10 the next year. The left-hander then had shoulder surgery and missed all last season. This spring had been mostly frustrating. He went into Thursday with a 7.27 ERA and allowed 10 runs in his previous two starts.
``Things weren't going the way I'd want them to and I couldn't figure out why,' Francis said. ``The kind of things I've done between this start and the last, I felt more like myself. My head was clear. I could throw the ball, and for the most part it was going to the glove.'
Francis will start Colorado's second regular-season game, next Tuesday at Milwaukee. He said ``it means a lot' that his final spring outing was his best.
``Especially against a lineup like that, it's nice to go out and have some good results,' he said. ``Hopefully I can take what I did today and keep pitching that way.'
Chicago's Carlos Silva matched Francis' five shutout innings, demonstrating why he earned the No. 4 starter spot.
Acquired from Seattle for Milton Bradley, Silva finished the spring with a 3.80 ERA.
NOTES: Though each team has broken camp, each has exhibition games Friday and Saturday. The Rockies play the Seattle Mariners in Albuquerque while the Cubs meet Arizona at the Diamondbacks' Chase Field. ... Cubs C Koyie Hill replaced Geovany Soto in the fourth inning because Hill hadn't caught Silva this spring. ... The Cubs led Arizona-based clubs in attendance for the seventh consecutive spring, averaging 10,892 fans. ... Finesse pitcher Francis on following hard-throwing Ubaldo Jimenez in Colorado's rotation: ``Well, a lot of guys can get people out with 97 (mph) like he's got. Try getting people out with what I have.'
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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