There must have been 50 media members in the New York Yankees' clubhouse Monday at U.S. Cellular Field.
A cozy group of about a dozen wanted to talk to Alfonso Soriano.
Cubs scouting reportCubs vs. Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park
TV: Comcast SportsNet Tuesday and Thursday; WCIU Wednesday
Radio: WGN 720-AM
Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Edwin Jackson (7-11) vs. Kyle Kendrick (9-8) Tuesday at 6:05 p.m.; Travis Wood (7-8) vs. Cole Hamels (4-13) Wednesday at 6:05 p.m.; Jeff Samardzija (6-10) vs. Ethan Martin (0-1) Thursday at 12:05 p.m.
At a glance: This is the Cubs' first set of games against the Phillies this year. The two teams open a series at Wrigley Field at the end of August. The Phillies (50-61) are well out of the playoff race, as are the Cubs (49-62). The Cubs have juggled their pitching rotation to keep Wood and Samardzija on their regular days after Monday's off-day in the schedule. That also splits up lefties Wood and Chris Rusin. Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo will miss 50 games under his recent drug-related suspension. The Phillies entered Monday ranked 14th in team ERA, 13th in runs scored, eighth in homers and 12th in on-base percentage. The Cubs are 26-29 on the road, compared with 23-33 at home.
Next: St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, Friday-Sunday
-- Bruce Miles
The rest were there for you-know-who: Alex Rodriguez.
So Soriano was able to address his old friends from the Chicago media in relative peace. It was 10 days from the time Soriano was traded by the Cubs to the Yankees, so this was a quick trip back, and one Soriano seemed happy to be making.
"It's great," he said. "It's always great to come to Chicago. I love the city. I'm now in a new uni, so I'm happy."
Of course, the main topic of the day, and one that brought media members from across the country to Chicago, was the news that Rodriguez had been suspended 211 games -- the rest of this season and all of next -- for his link to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Rodriguez is appealing the suspension and was in the starting lineup for the Yankees after completing an injury-rehab assignment.
Soriano did not wish to address Rodriguez's situation specifically, but over the years he has been outspoken about his opposition to PED use.
"I'm very upset with the people who tried to do something wrong in baseball," he said. "I know myself I don't like to talk too much about those problems because I've never been, and I don't know about anything else."
Soriano was asked if he was surprised at the names of the 13 players suspended.
"Not surprised at the names," he said. "It surprised me that people keep trying. That makes me surprised because they know that Major League (Baseball) put in those rules and they cannot keep trying. If you try to do something wrong, sooner or later they're going to get you."
Soriano said he understood that the competitive nature of players can lead some to take performance-enhancing drugs.
"We like to compete, but compete clean," he said. "Just compete clean and see what happens. A lot of guys have too much talent, and they don't know. They don't need (PEDs), and they don't have to try to something wrong because God gave them the talent.
"Don't try to be like a super hero or something like that. Just play with the talent God gave you."
Soriano's legacy with the Cubs, in many people's minds, will be the eight-year, $136 million contract he signed in November 2006. The Cubs made the playoffs twice but did not win a playoff game in that time.
Known as a hard worker, Soriano ended up with 181 home runs with the Cubs. I asked him how he felt his time in Chicago should be remembered.
"My answer is all the work that I put in myself to make the team better and try to win championship," he said. "When I signed with the Cubs, that's what I had in my mind.
"I didn't sign just because of the money. I signed to try to give a championship to the city, and that's what I remember."
Soriano said he felt he could play one or two more years if he continues to feel healthy. He also said he'd be open to returning to the Cubs in some capacity, such as helping out at their Dominican Republic academy, once his playing days are done.
I also asked Soriano what team president Theo Epstein said to him when he was traded. "He told me it was an honor to have me," Soriano said. "He had a lot of respect for me, so I have a lot of respect for him, too."
•Follow Bruce's Cubs and baseball reports via Twitter@BruceMiles2112, and check out his Chicago's Inside Pitch blog at dailyherald.com.