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Fans appreciate Cubs’ Soriano’s recent play

By Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune –

The left field bleacher bums gave Alfonso Soriano the Andre Dawson “salaam” treatment Tuesday after booing him for most of April.

“They know I’m working hard and trying to do my best for the team,” Soriano said. “I appreciate that … Nothing bothers me. I believe in myself and I love what I do. I understand sometimes this game is up and down. Sometimes you have a bad week, but it’s a long season.”

Soriano made a diving catch to start a double play in the sixth and cranked a 400-foot home run to center in the bottom of the inning.

“His defense, as far as the range he has and as tough a time he has had on his (knees), he has been tremendous all year,” manager Dale Sveum said.

Soriano now has seven home runs in his last 14 games after going homerless in his first 30. He said his knees are feeling better with the warmer weather, and a lighter bat has helped improve his slugging percentage.

“He’s playing as hard as anybody,” James Russell said. “If I were a guy making $125 million, that’s how you should act. It goes unnoticed by a lot of people. He gets the boos and all that from the crowd, but it doesn’t even wear on him.”

Coleman watch: Sveum said former starter Casey Coleman would have been his closer Monday. Coleman wound up pitching the ninth with a four-run lead, the first time he ever has finished a game.

“Except for a few video games,” he said. “I created myself in video games and let myself throw hard and close a few games.”

Shawn Camp and Russell are the top closing candidates, but Coleman said he’s happy to contribute.

“If they feel comfortable with me in the ninth, I’m real happy with that. There’s a little added pressure, but I just want the ball in any situation.”

Mea culpa: Sveum may be nicknamed “Nuts,” but contrary to speculation, he’s not crazy enough to call for a sacrifice bunt in the first inning with wind gusts of more than 30 m.p.h. blowing out at Wrigley Field.

Joe Mather, who did just that on Monday, conceded Tuesday he was bunting on his own, trying to get a hit because the third baseman was playing deep.

“The way we’ve been scoring, I thought it was a good opportunity,” he said.

Even with the flags blowing straight out?

“Yeah, at that point we just needed runs,” he said.

Extra innings: The Cubs activated catcher Steve Clevenger from the disabled list and sent Blake Lalli to Triple-A Iowa. … Catcher Welington Castillo won’t be back for at least two weeks and reliever Lendy Castillo is rehabbing at the Cubs’ facility in Mesa, Ariz.

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