MESA, Ariz. -- It's settled -- at least, as settled as a Lou Piniella lineup ever is.
Newcomer Kosuke Fukudome will bat fifth, Piniella proclaimed on Saturday after several days of tinkering with and pondering his lineup. Shortstop Ryan Theriot will be the Cubs' leadoff man, former leadoff man Alfonso Soriano will bat second, followed by first baseman Derrek Lee, third baseman Aramis Ramirez, Fukudome, second baseman Mark DeRosa, catcher Geovany Sota and center fielder Felix Pie.
"Right now, the way we're situated, Fukudome offers the best protection to Ramirez," Piniella says. "I know the two-hole is probably more suitable for the young man, but right now, the way we're put together, I feel Ramirez has more protection with Fukudome behind him.
"I talked to my coaches, and they feel the same way. So we're going to start this way."
Piniella juggled his lineup all season last summer but would prefer not to do that this year. Having a better handle on things entering his second season in Chicago and with better players in place -- the emergence of Theriot, the addition of Fukudome -- he should be able to accomplish that. Though he is notoriously impatient.
"We're going to be more prone to a set lineup," Piniella says. "I said we'd play around during spring training, see some things. The problem is, if something's not working, I get paid to find solutions. Then you've got to tinker some.
"But I'd prefer to stay as constant as possible."
Saturday was a gorgeous day at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, with a packed house for a spring game between the Cubs and White Sox. I spent some time in the Cubs' radio booth talking with Ron Santo about 45 minutes before game time, and it was quite a sight. You can walk up to the press box windows from the stands at HoHoKam, and a steady stream of autograph seekers lined up to get Santo's signature.
In 10 minutes I saw him sign baseballs, tickets, programs, a large white sneaker with a Cubs' logo, a baseball key chain, caps and many other items. One woman simply handed him a cell phone and asked him to say hello to her mother. Actually, it was more like she told Santo to say hello. It would have been incredibly awkward had he declined, but he didn't miss a beat.
"Hello, Rose," he said. "I wanted to say hello to you."
The only thing I saw Santo decline was a girl who asked him to sign her arm. He was gracious, but essentially said he doesn't sign body parts. I'm not kidding -- it was like Mick Jagger or Keith Richards or something. People love their Cubs.
"People have asked us to leave outgoing messages on their answering machines," says Pat Hughes, Santo's partner in the booth. "All in a day's work."
Likes: Ron Santo is just the sweetest man. He and broadcast partner Pat Hughes are terrific people, pleasures to be around. ... A couple of Cubs folks keeping watch over manager Lou Piniella as he met with the media Saturday on the field, perched precariously close to the steps of the Cubs dugout. Piniella is a notorious rocker as he talks, sometimes disarming people by leaning back and then taking a couple of steps backwards. Fortunately, no tumbles into the dugout Saturday. ... That game-winner by the Western Kentucky kid against Drake on Friday was the shot of the NCAA tournament, huh? What a great, great play. And I felt terrible for the poor Drake kids. ... When it comes to takeout pizza, give me Papa John's. Had that and worked in the room Friday night watching the NCAA games, and that's as fine a night as there is. ... My friend Ollie called to check in the other day after the Bull Pennings blog about Felix Pie's twisted testicle and reminded me that he did not have to have surgery, it healed on its own. ... Happy Easter.
Dislikes: Getting close to the time when I've got to turn in that Pontiac Solstice convertible I've been driving around here in Arizona. Fun, fun car.
Sunblock day? Heck yes. Temperatures into the upper 80s, where they're supposed to remain on Easter and the rest of this week.
Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:
"There's a cut upon my brow
"Must have banged myself somehow
"But I can't remember now
"And the front door's open wide
"Lately I've let things slide"
-- Nick Lowe, Lately I've Let Things Slide