Depending on the results of one more medical checkup on Thursday, Alfonso Soriano is nearly ready to return to the lineup.
The slugger, who broke his left hand when he was hit by a pitch in early June, will fly from San Francisco to Chicago on Thursday to get an X-ray to determine whether his bones are healing properly. If the results are positive, Soriano will fly to St. Louis on Friday to rejoin the team.
"If there's no change at all in the bone structure, he'll start taking batting practice in St. Louis over the weekend," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "So far, it's all positive."
When Soriano landed on the disabled list June 12, he was batting .283 with 15 home runs and 40 doubles in 51 games. In his absence, the Cubs have gone 8-10, including being swept by the Rays and dropping three straight against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
A career .282 hitter, Soriano is expected to help the Cubs solidify their grip in the National League Central.
To adapt to his return, Chicago will have to make a few changes to its typical lineup -- changes Piniella is happy to make considering Soriano's offensive prowess.
Kosuke Fukudome will drop to the two-hole so Soriano can bat leadoff. Ryan Theriot will likely see time in the eighth spot, while Jim Edmonds will likely find a home batting fifth -- "I sort of like the idea of a left-hander in the five-hole," said Piniella.
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