Peter Gammons Day at Fitch Park

OK, so it wasn't literally "Peter Gammons Day" (per se), but the Hall of Famer was at Fitch Park today, as the Cubs continued their workouts in preparation for the 2008 season.

Jim Hendry (walking up to Sam Fuld and Peter Gammons behind the batting cage on Fitch Park Field #2): "So, Sam, is this your step-father?"

Peter Gammons (pointing at Fuld and smiling): "One of my all-time favorites..."

Peter seemed to have a really good time, watching the Cubs take "live" BP sessions on Fields #2 and #3. While he spent most of his time talking to Fuld, he also had a lengthy conversation with Cubs manager Lou Piniella and somewhat shorter on-field chats with Cubs GM Jim Hendry, 1B Derrek Lee, and OF Matt Murton.

Today was the day that the Squad "A" pitchers had their pitch counts extended to 35 (some of you may remember the Squad "B" pitchers did that yesterday), and after the usual pre-requisite calesthenics, a game of catch, baserunning practice, infield and outfield practice, and pick-off & "pickle" drills, the "A team" pitchers faced-off against the position players, and it made for some entertaining BP match-ups.

ON FIELD #2:
Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster threw 35 pitches each to a group consisting of Andres Torres, Micah Hoffpauir, Bobby Scales, and Josh Donaldson (with each hitter seeing five pitches before rotating out of the cage). "Z" and Demp both looked pretty good, which is to say they threw strikes and extended their pitch counts without injury (THE most-important thing right now).

Next on Field #2, Kerry Wood and Bob Howry went up against Kosuke Fukudome, Derrek Lee, Matt Murton, Sam Fuld, and Koyie Hill. Woody looked great, as he absolutely blew Fukudome away with fastballs (two takes, two swings and misses, and a feeble foul tip) And Howry threw the ball very well, too, throwing strike after strike.

And finally on Field #2, Michael Wuertz and Edward Campusano faced Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, and Felix Pie (who was absent yesterday but looked fit today, although his timing at the plate was a little off). Wuertz always looks like crap in Spring Training, and today was no exception, Bouncing his slider and getting his fastball turned into line drives to the outfield, Wuertz barely escaped with his life. And then Campusano (who underwent TJ surgery last April while with the Tigers) had what I thought was a very nice session, throwing 35 pitches. His fastball had some life on it, and although he couldn't find his breaking ball and seemed to tire noticeablly around pitch 25 (at which point Soto hammered a few of his offerings to the warning track), I thought he looked OK.

Meanwhile...

OVER ON FIELD #3:
First, Jon Lieber and Scott Eyre faced-off against Andres Blanco, Luis Figueroa, Casey McGehee, Tyler Colvin, and Josh Kroeger. Lieber doesn't have much juice on his fastball these days, and he looks a bit pathetic in PFP drills when he has to cover 1st base, but at least he is able to throw 35 pitches without having to get carted off the field. Scott Eyre threw the ball pretty well after Lieber's outing, but he wasn't exactly facing the "A" team.

Next came Carlos Marmol and Ted Lilly, facing Eric Patterson, Ryan Theriot, and Daryle Ward. As most of you know, Marmol reported to camp in virtual mid-season form (having come directly from winter ball), and he just sliced and diced E-Pat, The Riot, and D-Ward. Lilly looked pretty good, too, although he bounced a couple of breaking balls.

And finally, Jason Marquis and Adam Harben threw to Ronny Cedeno, Alex Cintron, J. D. Closser, Jake Fox, and Mike Fontenot (who seemed none the worse for wear after getting ding-donged yesterday during infield practice). Marquis looked very good, and Harben (who had TJ surgery in November 2006) finally got a chance to throw some "live" BP, although he wasn't particularly impressive.

Mark DeRosa took infield practice, but did not take "live" BP today, and I don't know why not. He did miss at least one other BP session earlier this week, too, so he must have some minor injury that keeps him from swinging the bat every day (possibly a wrist, shoulder, or oblique problem). Henry Blanco and Welington Castillo were the only other position players who did not hit, but they were busy catching in the bullpen and in the "live" BP sessions, and they never got a chance to hit. They did, however, take BP (with coaches throwing) on Field #2 at 12:30 after the "live" sessions were over.

Rich Hill, Sean Marshall, and Chad Fox also should have been scheduled to throw "live" BP today with the "A" Squad, but they did not. It's possible that one or more of them threw an early-morning "side session" in the pit (with a batter standing in the box but not swinging), but I can't confirm that. (Sean Gallagher and Kevin Hart did that yesterday). I do know there was some concern about Fox after his 25-pitch outing on Thursday, as to how his elbow would bounce back two days later. I guess we'll find out eventually.

Also, RHP Mike Smith is definitely not in camp, and never has been. Smith led the Venezuelan League starting pitchers in lowest WHIP for most of the VWL season and was signed to a minor league contract by the Cubs last November with an invitation to ST with the big club, and so he should be in camp right now, but he is not.

The three most-likely scenarios to explain Smith's absence are:

1) He changed his mind about continuing his baseball career and retired.

2) He suffered a significant injury (season-ending and/or career-threatening) while pitching in the VWL and failed his Fitch Park physical on 2/13 and got released (as happened to Bobby Hill a year ago).

3) He suffered a lesser injury (not season-ending or career-threatening) in Venezuela and was advised by the Cubs to report to minor league camp at Fitch Park on 3/1 instead of to the big league camp on 2/13.

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