Chicago Cubs Should Stay the Course with Kosuke Fukudome

Alex WalshCorrespondent IApril 8, 2009

SAN DIEGO - MARCH 17: Kosuke Fukudome #1 of Japan stands in the dugout after being three runs down to Korea during the 2009 World Baseball Classic Round 2 Pool 1 Game 4 on March 17, 2009 at Petco Park in San Diego, California. Korea defeats Japan 4-1. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

There was a bit of a surprise in store for the not-so-casual Cub fan at the end of the game on Monday night.

Lou's decision to send in Joey Gathright as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the ninth inning was a predictable one. But it was surprising to see who Gathright ended up replacing.

Going into this season the assumption was that, with a late lead, the Cubs would replace the infamously fragile Milton Bradley with a more defensively capable outfielder. Instead, on Monday night, Bradley was kept in the game.

Kosuke Fukudome, the man who posted one of the best defensive seasons in right field for the Chicago Cubs in recent memory, was benched.

The move had nothing to do with offense; the Cubs were in the bottom of the ninth inning away from home. Furthermore, if the Houston Astros were to make a comeback and tie the game up, Fukudome would be the next hitter due up.

The move is, unfortunately, understandable. Kosuke often looked lost in center field on Monday, lacking the "killer instinct" that his counterpart Bradley showed in a handful of outstanding plays. At the plate, he wasn't much better.

Of course, there's really only one way to solve this.

Lou has to keep Kosuke in the game.

There's still a really good chance that Fukudome can contribute this year. It's not that he's never played center before (he had tons of experience there in Japan), and it's not that he can't hit major league pitching (he had an outstanding first half last year). As far as this writer can tell, Kosuke is suffering from a lack of confidence.

The best remedy: Hit behind Soriano and in front of Lee. That way Fukudome will see lots of good pitches to hit, hopefully connect on a few of them, and get himself going. I imagine the defense will follow the offense in this case.

Give him a chance, Lou. I think this guy's still got something left.