We Have Baseball (Almost)!
I haven't enjoyed typing anything as much as this in a very long time:
Per the Sun-Times, here is the Cubs' batting order for Thursday's Cactus League opener at 2:05 Central Time against the now Bonds-less San Francisco Giants:
DeLuca and/or Wittenmyer report that following Dempster's two innings, Sean Gallagher will go for two. Ceda, Cotts, Pignatiello, Ascanio, and Hart will then pitch an inning apiece.
Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez are expected to step into the lineup on Friday, when the Cubs host the Giants at HoHoKam.
From Arizona Phil:
The Cubs moved a half-mile up Center Street to HoHoKam Park this morning for the first time this Spring.
There were about 100 fans in attendance for the "free" preview, and as was the case last year, Manager Lou Piniella opted not to play an intrasquad game to prepare for the Cactus League, instead preferring an extended (90 minute) regular season-type infield practice and traditional BP, followed by baserunning practice.
The position players were broken up into two groups, with the "A" Squad taking its infield practice, BP, and base-running drills on DWP (main field), with the "B" Squad doing the same evolutions on the back field.
This was not "live" BP, but rather "traditional" BP (coaches throwing BP fastballs from in front of the pitchers mound, the kind of pre-game BP teams take during the regular season).
The best pure power performances were by Matt Murton (who hit 'em off the scoreboard, over the scoreboard, and into the lower 40) and Derrek Lee (who hit about a half dozen moon shots).
Kosuke Fukudome also had a nice BP session, hitting ropes all over the field followed at the end by about four or five home runs yanked over the RF fence. Fukudome has had no trouble looking good in "traditional" BP, but he struggled in the "live" BP sessions (with pitchers throwing full speed fastballs, breaking balls, and change-ups) last week at Fitch Park.
Carlos Zambrano took BP with the "A" Squad position players on Dwight Patterson Field, and hit a couple over the fence while batting left-handed, but struggled hitting right-handed.
Again, this was NOT "live" BP, so all that can be gleaned from it is a hitter's power, bat speed, hitting mechanics, etc.
I wasn't able to watch both work-outs at the same time, so I don't know if anybody had an exceptional BP performance on the back field.
GROUP 1 BP
Kosuke Fukudome (raked 'em all over the yard)
Matt Murton (showed tremendous power and bat speed--can N.L. get the DH for 2008?)
GROUP 2 BP
Aramis Ramirez (poor BP outing)
Alfonso Soriano (hit the ball very well)
Geovany Soto (also hit the ball hard, but no HR)
GROUP 3 BP
Daryle Ward participated in fielding practice and baserunning drills, but did not hit, while Zambrano hit but did not participate in fielding practice or baserunning drills