Fukudome understands situation
In just a few short months, Kosuke Fukudome has gone from being an international sensation to a defensive replacement - and a very expensive one at that.
Fukudome was not in the Cubs' lineup Tuesday night. It marked the ninth time in 12 September games that manager Lou Piniella decided not to write Fukudome's name on the lineup card.
During a 1-on-1 interview, Fukudome said he can't blame Piniella.
"I just have to accept the fact that it is, and I have to keep working on it," said Fukudome, who entered Tuesday batting .125 (2-for-16) in September. "It's all Lou's decision, and I would probably do the same thing if I was the manager."
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry signed Fukudome to a four-year, $48 million contract last December, and early this year Fukudome set a new tone for the Cubs' offense, with his patient approach at the plate and his high on-base percentage.
But he has struggled mightily in the second half of the season - he was voted onto the NL all-star team - and Piniella has turned to Mark DeRosa and rookie Micah Hoffpauir in right field.
"We'll see what we do," Piniella said. "I'm interested right now in putting the best offense that I can on the field. All year I've played everybody. Now I'm going to play the people I feel can help us the most offensively.
"He'll get back in there, but I'm looking to win baseball games right now. This is no longer a situation where you can experiment too much."
Piniella denied being "disappointed" in Fukudome, who was a star in Japan before coming to the Cubs.
"I'm not disappointed in anybody," he said. "It has nothing to do with disappointment or anything else. I've always adhered to the philosophy that the first five months of the season, you can experiment a lot, you can do a lot of things. You can play everybody.
"But, boy, I tell you, when it gets down to it at the end, you're going to play the people that you feel, offensively, can give you the best chance of putting runs on the board.
"I've been using his talents at the end of baseball games by putting him in the outfield because he's a superior outfielder as far as defensive goes. But we've got to score runs. We're playing for a championship. If I get him in there and he swings the bat, you're darn right I'll keep him in there."
When it was pointed out that the Cubs didn't sign Fukudome to be a defensive replacement, Piniella replied: "I don't have an answer for that."
Fukudome said through his translator that he still was happy to be a part of the Cubs and wasn't "homesick" because his family is here.
"I didn't expect everything would go perfect for my first year," he said. "I still enjoy baseball, and I still feel the same as the beginning of the season.
"I'm not too concerned with my personal stats. The fact that the team is winning, that's the first. For that, I'm enjoying the time in Chicago."
Fukudome will return to Japan after the season. He said he's "not doing anything drastically different at the plate," but that the results haven't been there. As far as off-season adjustments, he said he hasn't thought about them yet.
"We've still got a lot of season left to go," he said. "I still haven't decided anything for the off-season yet. Our goal is not to be in the playoffs, but to win the world championship. We can't be satisfied being in the playoffs. You have to accomplish more."