Finally it's the Cubs turn to indulge in interleague play. In fact, the Cubs don't return to National League play until the last day of the month. They also play 3 of their 5 three-game series on the road, which means the Cubs will get a designated hitter.
I've been weighing in my mind for some time how this will affect the Cubs. In general, most NL teams struggle in AL ballparks because the pitchers aren't used to seeing someone who can hit in the 9-spot. Of course the Cubs also get this weapon too, but they have had some pretty good weapons at the 9-spot this season.
So who should be the Cubs DH? We'll find out tonight in Toronto, but it shouldn't be hard to pin down, right? Either way it's critical going up against the best in the Jays' rotation starting with Burnett tonight.
The DH is usually someone who hits for power. Normally, If Soriano were healthy, he'd seem an ideal choice because his defense is not his best quality, though you don't DH your lead-off hitter generally and I doubt Lou would do that.
With Alfonso out, the Cubs everyday power hitters Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Geovany Soto and Jim Edmonds. Looking at those names, none of them look like ideal candidates because they all have solid defense, so you have to look at which of them has the best defensive replacements.
Lee has Hoffpauir in his place. Hoffpauir could very well himself be the answer at DH. While the rookie has good defensive skills, it wouldn't make sense to take your first baseman-one of your most reliable position players-out of the game. Hoffpauir has shown he can hit for power and he's a left-handed bat that might really help the Cubs against the three righties in Toronto.
Ramirez, however, might be one of the Cubs' best options too. Ramirez has been having some defensive issues of late getting hard throws accurately over to first. While Ryan Theriot is far and away the Cubs' worst defender in that regard, Ramirez has had his share of fielding woes and Mark DeRosa could simply move over. That would be, of course, if you want to give Cedeno or Fontenot some playing time.
Soto might be an option once or twice as well. Instead of completely resting him, which Lou likes to do, keep Soto in at DH and then the rest of the lineup (if Lou has found something that works) can stay the same.
Edmonds is the Cubs answer right now in center field on days against right-handers, so his chances as DH are unlikely. However, with Reed Johnson being very familiar with the center field territory in Toronto, Lou could experiment with Edmonds at DH, just for this series, but the more likely scenario is having Johnson play left even if he's not productive against righties. He's not going to be any worse than Eric Patterson, that's for sure.
One thing, however, is for sure: I doubt Pinniela has a permanent answer to who will DH every time he's in an AL stadium. He might have answers for who he wants against right or left-handers, but don't expect the DH to be consistent. As you can tell by yesterday's choice of putting Patterson in immediately at left, Lou likes to give people chances to prove themselves quickly, so don't be surprised to see Hoffpauir in around the 7-spot in tonight's lineup with "DH" next to his name.