Full Squad! (In Color)
Today marked another milestone in the annual Cubs Spring Training ritual, as the "full squad" took the field together at Fitch Park for the first time (which is to say Aramis Ramirez finally arrived) under sunny skies and temperatures in the high 50's, and under the watchful eyes of The Brain Trust (Jim Hendry wandering from field-to-field with a cell-phone glued to his ear while patting players on the back, Lou Piniella with a cup of coffee in hand schmoozing with the fans, Randy Bush and Oneri Fleita following Hendry around, Gary Hughes tooling around in a golf cart, Carrie Muskat feverishly taking notes, et al).
While the pitchers are getting into shape by throwing "side sessions" (only) at this point, they also engage in daily "Pitchers Fielding Practice" (fielding bunts, covering 1st base on a ball hit to first-baseman, et al) and pick-off drills, except now all of the infielders are available to assist.
The pitchers are still in the same groups and sub-groups they have been all ST, with Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis, Rich Hill, Jon Lieber, Ryan Dempster, Bob Howry, Kerry Wood, Carlos Marmol, Michael Wuertz, Scott Eyre, and Sean Marshall (plus Chad Fox, Adam Harben and Edward Campusano) in the same group, and (naturally) because it's the group that consists of the likely Cubs Opening Day pitching staff, it's the group most of the fans want to watch. (Angel Guzman participated in PFP with the other pitchers group today).
Once PFP was completed, the pitchers retired to the pit to get their side sessions in, and a three-field BP session was held, with each position player assigned to a group of hitters on one of the three fields, with two sub-groups of hitters on each field.
FIELD #1 (S/W)
1st GROUP :
FIELD #2 (N/W)
NOTE: This group attracted (by far) the biggest crowd, as everybody (and a plethora of Japanese cameramen) wanted to watch Kosuke Fukudome take his swings
Alex Cintron (who is wearing #6, and a pressure sleeve over his right elbow)
J. D. Closser
I did not see Daryle Ward or Mark DeRosa take BP with any of the groups on any of the three fields, although both did participate in infield practice during PFP. Ward and DeRosa may have hit in a batting cage, but I don't know that for sure one way or the other. Perhaps they had an early tee time.
Because the pitchers are not yet ready to throw "live" BP, the coaches and ST instructors threw BP from just in front of the mound. It is what is is, but a couple or three things can be gleaned from these sessions, like bat speed, pure power, and bat control.
The three hitters showing the most impressive pure power today were Derrek Lee, Josh Donaldson, and Jake Fox (Donaldson hit about five over the fence), and Kosuke Fukudome had the most-impressive all-around session, hitting line-drives all over the place. Alfonso Soriano and Matt Murton also hit the ball very hard. I find it hard to believe that if it was indeed offered, that the Texas Rangers wouldn't be all over a Matt Murton for Marlon Byrd deal.
Again, this is all just preliminary stuff, but at least nobody got carried off the field on a stretcher.
And no offense to any of you who may be holed up in the Windy City, but you better believe I'd rather be here than in Chicago right now. I only wish you could all be here with me!