"Live" from Fitch Park... It's Friday Morning!

It was a cold, blustery, overcast morning in Mesa today, as the Cubs continued their Spring Training work-outs at Fitch Park.

After some really, REALLY hard calisthenics that my four-year old grandchild could ace and a game of Group Catch, the team broke up into five sub-groups, with Squad “A” infielders (Derrek Lee and Daryle Ward at 1B, Mark DeRosa at 2B, Ryan Theriot and Ronny Cedeno at SS, and Aramis Ramirez and Alex Cintron at 3B) practicing the 5-4-3, 3-6-3, 4-6-3 and 6-4-3 DP on Field #3, while Squad “B” infielders (Micah Hoffpauir at 1B, Mike Fontenot at 2B, Andres Blanco at SS, and Bobby Scales and Luis Figueroa at 3B) practiced the same evolutions on Field #2.

CODE:
SQUAD "A" = Chicago Cubs
SQUAD "B" = Iowa Cubs

Mike Fontenot (playing 2B with the “B” Squad) had a rough time, as he first took a “header” after slipping on the wet infield grass, and then a one-hop direct hit on the cup that echoed all around Fitch Park (Trammell yelling at Fontenot: “Get your hair out of your eyes!”... Hendry" "I heard that from inside the clubhouse!"). Fontenot should be OK, although I understand he will be singing soprano with the Cubs Glee Club at the Dodge Theater tonight.

Meanwhile, Squad “A” pitchers were taking BP (including bunting practice) on Field #1 and Squad “B” pitchers were taking BP (again, including bunting practice) on Field #4, and both Squad “A” and Squad “B” outfielders (combined) worked with Bobby Dernier in the far reaches of the outfield of Field #3, practicing playing ricochets off the Green Monster (CF hitting background).

After separate infield practice, outfield practice, and pitchers BP, the two squads of position players had a little “pop-up practice” on Fields 3 & 4, with Squad “B” on Field #2 and Squad “A” on Field #3.

On Field #2 (Squad "B"), Andres Torres manned LF, Eric Patterson and Tyler Colvin patrolled CF, and Josh Kroeger and Jake Fox handled RF, with Hoffpauir on 1B, Fontenot and Scales at 2B, A. Blanco at SS, and Figueroa at 3B, and Koyie Hill, Casey McGehee, Josh Donaldson, and Welington Castillo the catchers.

On Field #3 (Squad "A"), Alfonso Soriano and Matt Murton played LF, Sam Fuld was stationed in CF, and Kosuke Fukudome played RF (Felix Pie didn't take the field today), with D. Lee and Ward at 1B, DeRosa and Cintron at 2B, Cedeno and Theriot at SS, and Ramirez at 3B, and with Geovany Soto, Henry Blanco, and J. D. Closser the catchers.

Using the automatic pitching machine’s capability to shoot balls high into the air, Cubs coaches had the boys practice yelling “I got it! I got it!” as they caught (or attempted to catch) the high pop ups. About one out of every ten pop-ups fell without being caught, including the last three on Field #3. And every pop-up was an adventure for Geovany Soto.

Next came “live” BP, as the “B” Squad pitchers increased their pitch counts to 35. (They threw 25 on Wednesday).

While half of the hitters took “warm-up” BP on Fields #1 and #4 (with coaches and Spring Training instructors throwing the BP) while waiting for their opportunity to hit versus some "live" pitchers, the other half took “live” BP on Field #2 & 3.

Two catchers were assigned to warm-up the pitchers in the bullpen, while two others caught the “live” BP on the two fields. The seven catchers in camp switched around from station to station, although the end result was that Henry Blanco, Koyie Hill, and Welington Castillo didn’t get any swings in the “live” BP sessions.

NOTE: A lot of the "B" squad pitchers have problems throwing strikes, so there were a lot of takes (non-swings) by the hitters.

ON FIELD #2:
Geoffrey Jones and Jose Ascanio threw 35 pitches each to Ronny Cedeno, Alex Cintron, Jake Fox, and J. D. Closser (with each hitter receiving five pitches before rotating out of the cage). Jones threw strikes but didn’t fool anybody, but then he’s a side-armin’ lefty and he was facing only right-handed hitters. Fox took Ascanio deep (and that was the only “live” BP HR hit today) and hit the very next pitch high off the LF fence for a near-home run, and then Ascanio hit Fox on the wrist with a pitch. Hiopefully it's not broken.

Next Neal Cotts and Jeff Samardzija threw 35 pitches each to Tyler Colvin, Josh Kroeger, Andres Blanco, Casey McGehee, and Luis Figueroa. The “marquee” match-up (naturally) was Samardzija versus Colvin, and I guess the Shark won the match, although he did have some control problems along the way. But when he threw strikes, his hard, heavy sinker didn’t go very far when it was hit.

And then Juan Mateo and Billy Petrick threw 35 pitches each to Eric Patterson, Daryle Ward, Ryan Theriot and Mark DeRosa. Both pitchers struggled with their control, and all four of hitters (especially E-Pat) got some real good swings and hit the ball hard against Mateo. Patterson had two near opposite-field home runs.

AND NEXT-DOOR ON FIELD #3:
Esmailin Caridad and Jose Ceda threw 35 pitches each to Alfonso Soriano, Sam Fuld, Geovany Soto, and Aramis Ramirez (with each hitter seeing five pitches and then rotating out). None of the three hitters got good swings against Ceda (who was throwing gas, albeit not always in the strike zone), and Caridad threw hard, too. Caridad is a little guy, but his fastball has some life. (Like Alfonso Soriano and Timo Perez before him, Caridad was developed by the Hiroshima Toyo Carp at the Carp Dominican Academy. He was signed as a FA by the Cubs last December, but I'm puzzled as to how and why the Carp let him get away).

Next came Carmen Pignatiello and Shingo Takatsu, who threw 35 pitches each to Andres Torres, Micah Hoffpauir, and Bobby Scales. All three of the hitters (especially Hoffpauir) crushed line-drive after line-drive off Takatsu. Some of the old-fart coaches throwing BP on Field #1 throw harder than Takatsu does.

And finally Les Walrond and Tim Lahey threw 35 pitches each to Kosuke Fukudome, Josh Donaldson, Derrek Lee, and Matt Murton. D-Lee and Murton hit the ball hard, but both Walrond and Lahey had control problems today, so I think Fukudome swung the bat only once, maybe twice (Kosuke is VERY selective at the plate, even in Batting Practice... I predict he is going to get called out on strikes a LOT).

Once again, Sean Gallagher, Kevin Hart, Mike Smith, and Angel Guzman did not throw “live” BP with the “B” Squad. They didn’t throw on Wednesday, either, and they didn’t throw today. Guzman is rehabbing from TJ surgery, but I don’t know what’s up with Gallagher, Hart, and Smith.

And Felix Pie was the one position player who was absent, although I don’t know why.

Also, for those interested, Eric Patterson has played ONLY CF so far (no 2B), Jake Fox has been playing ONLY LF-RF (no C), Ronny Cedeno has played ONLY SS (no CF), Casey McGehee has been used as a catcher ONLY (no 3B or 1B), and Mike Fontenot is always assigned to the Iowa squad for fielding practice.

Also, Micah Hoffpauir and Welington Castillo (who suffered season-ending knee injuries last year, Hoffpauir at Iowa in August and Castillo at the AZ Instructional League in October) appear to be 100%, and Adam Harben, Edward Campusano, and Angel Guzman (who are in varying states of rehab from TJ surgery) are participating fully in PFPs and BP, but are not throwing any "live" BP.

As a side note, Ron Santo was at Fitch Park today, and he got a loud ovation from the fans as he walked over to the batting cage on Field #3, where he watched the "live" sessions with Lou Piniella and Billy Williams from behind the cage.

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