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Notes: Cubs flustered by defensive adjustment

Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012 5:30 a.m. CST

CHICAGO – The Milwaukee Brewers decided they weren’t going to let the Cubs’ big hitters beat them Wednesday.

The Cubs had no answer for the defensive shift Milwaukee utilized throughout the game when four hitters – Alfonso Soriano, Ian Stewart, Bryan Lahair and Geovany Soto – batted. The foursome went a combined 2 for 13 which included four groundouts (one double play).

“For right now, they’ve been getting a lot of ground balls up the middle,” Soto said. “It’s just something we need to adjust to and maybe hit the hole to the right side and the lefties try to hit it the other way.”

The defensive shift on Stewart and LaHair, both lefties, created a huge hole at third base that neither took advantage of as attempts to bunt the ball down the line failed. Manager Dale Sveum said that has to change if the Cubs want to stop opponents from using that alignment.

“Any time you can bunt a hard ball to somewhere around third base – you don’t even have to get a good bunt down – you get base runners on and make the pitcher throw more pitches by basically a freebie if we can just get it down,” Sveum said. “If they’re going to put these kind of shifts on these guys we’ve got to get them out and working on that quite a bit.”

Byrd’s sluggish start: Deciding if and when to bench a struggling veteran is a difficult choice for any manager, one that Sveum may soon face.

Center fielder Marlon Byrd went 0 for 3 Wednesday versus Milwaukee, grounding out three times. He’s 1 for 21 (.048) to open the season including going hitless his last 19 at-bats batting predominately out of the No. 8 spot.

“I think mechanically he needs to get a little bit more linear to handle pitches,” Sveum said. “It’s still early yet. Guys get going a little later than other guys.

“When and what date or whatever, you don’t put a time limit on it but there’s a time where there’s got to be adjustments made. … The bottom line is production is what this job is all about.”

Byrd was lifted for pinch hitter Steve Clevenger in the ninth, a move that likely would not have happened if Byrd wasn’t mired in a slump, Sveum said.

Quick hits: Darwin Barney’s single in the sixth inning extended his hitting streak to five games. … Starlin Castro’s first inning sacrifice fly marked the fourth in four games, the first time they’ve done so since a five-game stretch July 5-13, 2007.

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