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Soriano may move to cleanup for Cubs

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MESA, Ariz. (AP)

(Eds: Updates.)

After losing two of their top three run producers from last season, the Chicago Cubs might open 2012 with outfielder Alfonso Soriano as their cleanup hitter.

Spring training games don't start until Sunday, and new manager Dale Sveum said his lineup is still very much a work in progress. But his early thoughts include newly acquired outfielder David DeJesus leading off and either first baseman Bryan LaHair or Soriano batting fourth.

Soriano is ''the most prolific guy in our lineup that's done it before,'' Sveum said. ''He's a big part of this lineup that's got to produce.''

The team lost third baseman Aramis Ramirez (26 home runs, 93 RBIs) and first baseman Carlos Pena (28 and 80) from last year's team.

''Wow,'' Soriano said when told of Sveum's comments. ''I'm ready for anything. If he puts me in the lineup in fourth, it's the same to me as hitting seventh. I just want to stay healthy and do my job.''

Soriano originally signed his eight-year, $136 million contract to be the Cubs' leadoff hitter. He has hit just .196 with two home runs in 14 career starts batting fourth. Soriano, who has three years left on that deal, hit from fifth to seventh in Mike Quade's lineup last season.

Still, he is the only player on the Cubs spring roster with more than 17 home runs in the majors last year, and the only one who has as many as 25 in any season - or 90 RBIs in any season.

Last year, Soriano tied Ramirez for second on the team in homers and was second to Ramirez with 88 RBIs.

Of course, with a spring emphasis on fundamentals like few can remember in Cubs camp - including a camp bunting tournament - Sveum's lineup may not exactly require a prototypical cleanup man.

''With this team you never know,'' Soriano said with a smile. ''Maybe I can be batting fourth and drop some bunts.''

Tagged: Brewers, Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Cubs

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