CHICAGO (AP) Alfonso Soriano's bat had come around for the Chicago Cubs. He was running the bases and in the outfield with ease. He was no longer tentative after an early-season calf injury.
Then with one fastball that tailed inside, his season was put on hold again maybe for six weeks and the NL Central leaders were forced to scramble. Soriano landed back on the disabled list Thursday with a broken left hand after being hit by a pitch from Atlanta's Jeff Bennett the previous night.
"There's nothing I can about it because it's part of the game. I cannot control that situation," Soriano said Thursday.
"As soon as the ball hit me in the hand I couldn't move my finger. So I thought it was very bad. We'll see how it is in two weeks. ... They say it's a little broke. They said six weeks, but we'll see what happens. I'm going to do treatment every day, hopefully I'm back soon."
Soriano's .283 average, team-leading 15 homers and 40 RBIs from the leadoff spot will be sorely missed by the club with the best record in the majors.
The Cubs recalled left-handed hitters Micah Hoffpauir and Eric Patterson from Triple-A Iowa on Thursday and both can play the infield and outfield. Patterson got the start in left and was in Soriano's leadoff spot for a series finale against the Braves on Thursday.
The Cubs also signed veteran Ben Broussard to a minor league deal and assigned him to Iowa. Right-hander Mike Hart was optioned back to Iowa.
Earlier this season, Soriano was on the DL with the calf injury and the Cubs went 9-5 without him. After a slow start this season, he finally found his stroke and last month had seven homers during a six-game stretch.
"We are a lot better team with him than without him. And the unfortunate thing is he was starting to run much better," general manager Jim Hendry said.
"He was feeling like he was going to start stealing some bases again and he ran very well the last three or four days, so I feel bad for him. He's really a good teammate and wants to win, but I have a lot of faith he'll heal fine and come back and be real productive the second half."
Other scenarios while Soriano is out include using Reed Johnson in left with Jim Edmonds in center, or moving Mark DeRosa from second base to left and having Mike Fontenot at second.
Last August, a severely strained right quadriceps put Soriano on the disabled list for the first time in his career, and he missed three weeks before returning to hit 14 homers in September.
Soriano was hit on an 0-2 pitch in the second inning Wednesday night and after leaving the field, he immediately went to a hospital for X-rays. He had his fingers taped together Thursday as teammates came to his locker to pat him on the back. He will eventually be fitted for a splint.
"It's a big blow to us," manager Lou Piniella said. "But we have a farm system and that's what it's for. We've brought up some kids and we have a little more left-handed hitting here. Hopefully they'll come up here swinging the bats and help us."
Hendry said the good news is that it was Soriano's hand and not his wrist. First baseman Derrek Lee broke his wrist in 2006 and played only 50 games. And his power numbers dropped off the following season.
After three weeks in the splint, the Cubs will re-evaluate and see if Soriano is ready to start therapy that will eventually lead to the resumption of baseball activities.
"He's already predicting it won't be that long and he is a very fast healer," Hendry said. "But he has a very high threshold of pain so our first inclination last night that it was bad."
Soriano said he would do everything he could to get back quickly.
"It's frustrating because I like to play every day. Now, I'm not available to play," Soriano said. "I'm going to do what the trainer wants me to do so I can come back quick."