Alfonso Soriano out 6 weeks with broken hand

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Alfonso Soriano was sitting at his locker before Wednesday's game against Atlanta when a clubhouse attendant placed a Soriano jersey in front of him and told him Braves pitcher Tim Hudson asked him to autograph it.

"No, that's the guy that hit me last year," Soriano replied, referring to a contentious series between the two clubs at Turner Field last June.

Soriano was joking and eventually signed the jersey.

But a couple of hours later in a 7-2 victory over Atlanta, Soriano was hit on the left hand on an 0-2 pitch by Braves pitcher Jeff Bennett in the second inning, suffering a broken bone that will force him to miss at least six weeks.

"A costly loss," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "No question. He was starting to run the way we thought he would, playing well in the outfield. It's a bad break for us, just an unfortunate thing.

"It's a shame, but those things happen in baseball. We have a farm system, and we'll utilize it. It's unfortunate, but what can you do?"

X-rays taken of Soriano's hand at Northwestern Memorial Hospital revealed a minimally displaced fracture of the left fourth metacarpal, which is located under the fourth finger on his left hand.

Soriano will be in a splint for the next three weeks, at which time the Cubs will have a better estimate of how soon he might be able to come back.

After another rough start, Soriano was hitting .284 with 40 RBIs and a team-leading 15 home runs.

The Cubs will call up Triple-A outfielder Micah Hoffpauir one day earlier than expected on Thursday to take Soriano's roster spot. Ryan Theriot is expected to move into the leadoff spot.

Bennett, who replaced Jair Jurjjens after the Braves starter injured his ankle falling down the dugout steps after Tuesday's game, was not accused of intentionally throwing at Soriano.

"No, the ball just got away," Derrek Lee said. "It wasn't intentional."

Winning pitcher Ryan Dempster said "people don't realize 'Sori' stands on top of the dish" when he bats.

"If you're going to go in, you better go in or it's going to wind up on Waveland [Avenue]," Dempster said. "It [stinks] because we're on the losing end of it. Be we can't let it get us down."

"While he's not here, we're going to have to pick up the slack," Theriot said.

"[Just] don't count on me getting a lot of leadoff home runs." ... 4445.story

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