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Friday, October 03, 2008

Cubs Bench Fukudome For Balance Of NLDS

Lou Piniella has pulled the plug on Kosuke Fukudome for the rest of the NLDS:
"From now on, I don't want to hear about Fukudome anymore as far as whether he's going to play or not," Piniella bellowed after Thursday night's 10-3 loss to the Dodgers in which Fukudome went 0-for-4, making him 0-for-8 in the National League division series.

"I'm going to play Reed Johnson or somebody else, and that's the end of that story. The kid is struggling, and there's no sense of sending him out there anymore."

Before the game, Piniella was asked about Fukudome

"It's a mystery," Piniella said. "I don't have explanations for it. I really don't. What does he say? You all talk to him?"

After a strong first two months of the season, Fukudome struggled badly in the second half, hitting .217 after the all-star break.

"It's been a long time," Piniella said. "I've had as much patience with him as I've had with anybody I've ever managed. We've played him. We've moved him around in the lineup with the thought of, 'Well, this'll get him going. This'll get him going. This'll get him going.'

"It's been a struggle for this young man. I feel for him. He's a good young man, and he plays hard, and he wants to do well."

A reporter told Piniella that Fukudome said that deep down, he knew this might happen.

"He thought it might happen?" Piniella said. "He knows what to expect now. What does he say for next year?"

One option Piniella had Thursday was to sit Fukudome, move Mark DeRosa to right field and play Mike Fontenot at second base. That might happen when the series moves to Los Angeles on Saturday.

DeRosa in right was his best move; DeRosa had been getting more playing time in right lately, and it maybe wasn't a surprised that he clanked a ball yesterday because of all the positional shifts.

Tom Verducci at Sports Illustrated had an interesting observation about this situation (emphasis mine):

Cubs manager Lou Piniella buried his rightfielder, Kosuke Fukudome, after NLDS Game 2, announcing in brutally frank terms that Fukudome would be benched, an unceremonious move that can't go over well in Japan. But the truth is that Fukudome is a big part of what is wrong with the Cubs: They need a legitimate left-handed hitter badly, and he's not close to being the answer. Look at what Dodgers manager Joe Torre did in Game 2: With Fukudome due up, rather than bring in lefthanded reliever Joe Beimel to face Reed Johnson, who would have pinch-hit for Fukudome, Torre brought in right-handed reliever Corey Wade to make sure Fukudome stayed in the game. Fukudome grounded out, extending his hitless NLDS.

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