"I got it!! I got it!!... I ain't got it"
Ten Cubs pitchers threw their second "live" BP session at Fitch Park today.
Jeff Stevens and David Patton threw to James Adduci, Matt Camp, Tyler Colvin, Bryan Lahair, and Chris Robinson, Casey Coleman and Mitch Atkins threw to Starlin Castro, Steve Clevenger, Kosuke Fukudome, and Alfonso Soriano, and J. R. Mathes threw to Robinson Chirinos, Koyie Hill, Blake Lalli, and Josh Vitters on Field #2, while on Field #3, Blake Parker and Jeff Kennard threw to Darwin Barney, Welington Castillo, Sam Fuld, Bobby Scales, and Brad Snyder, James Russell and Thomas Diamond threw to Marlon Byrd, Brett Jackson, Derrek Lee, Xavier Nady, and Geovany Soto, and Marcos Mateo threw to Andres Blanco, Micah Hoffpauir, Kevin Millar, and Chad Tracy.
Players who didn't get to hit in a "live" BP session took BP on either Field #1 or Field #4, with coaches or machines throwing the BP.
With Greg Maddux standing behind him, Mike Parisi threw "live" BP in an early morning session prior to the full-squad workout. Vince Perkins was scheduled to throw today, and he may have thrown early, too, but I'm not sure.
This was the second "live" BP sesion for the pitchers who threw today (this group threw their first "live" BP session on Wednesday), and pitch counts were increased from 25 to 30, with all pitchers now throwing their full array of pitches (including breaking balls). The hitters know what's coming, so it's noteworthy when a pitcher has a dominating outing in one of these sessions.
No question the best pitcher today was LHP James Russell (he also had the best outing among the 12 pitchers who threw on Wednesday). Facing major league hitters like D-Lee, Byrd, Nady, and Soto (plus 2009 #1 draft pick Brett Jackson) today, Russell looked great, getting lots of swings & misses while breaking a couple of bats. Marlon Byrd let out a hoot on one of his whiffs.
The son of former MLB closer Jeff Russell and the Cubs 14th round draft pick in 2007 out of the University of Texas (the Cubs had to give him "3rd round money" to give up his senior season at Texas), the 24-year old Russell is one of 21 non-roster invitees (NRI) at Fitch Park. This is his first big league camp, and he got the NRI after a strong six weeks in the Arizona Fall League post-2009, where he was the AFL's #1 lefty reliever. Russell isn't really a LOOGY. He's probably more of a prototypical lefty starter, but for some reason, Russell just gets better results working out of the pen (like his old man). If the Cubs decide to move Sean Marshall to the starting rotation while Ted Lilly rehabs from off-season knee and shoulder surgery, Russell might be a candidate to replace Marshall as the other lefty in the pen (with John Grabow).
Two other pitchers who looked especially good today were RHPs Blake Parker and Thomas Diamond. Nobody hit the ball hard off either of them. The Cubs 2006 16th round pick out of the University of Arkansas, Parker (like Carlos Marmol and Randy Wells) is a former catcher, who was converted to pitcher during Extended Spring Training at Fitch Park in May 2007. Parker was a teammate of Russell's at Tennessee, Iowa and Mesa (AFL) in 2009 (Parker has been a closer since he made the conversion to pitcher), while Diamond (a former Texas Rangers #1 draft pick) threw in the AZ Instructional League and in the Mexican Pacific League post-2009 after being claimed off waivers by the Cubs last September. (Diamond pitched for Cubs Assistant GM Randy Bush when Bush was Head Coach at the University of New Orleans).
While Russell, Parker, and Diamond had plus-outings, David Patton (a Rule 5 player last year) struggled with his "out" pitch (spike curve), bouncing most of them in the dirt. It's a tough pitch to throw (and hit), so he might need some time to get it right.
Among the hitters, Bobby Scales mashed a couple of balls off the right-centerfield fence off Jeff Kennard, and Tyler Colvin absolutely ripped Jeff Stevens. Starlin Castro and Micah Hoffpauir also had some solid hits.
Prior to the "live" BP sessions, catchers, infielders and outfielders on Field #2 (Chris Robinson, Blake Lalli, Robinson Chirinos, and Steve Clevenger at catcher, Kevin Millar and Bryan Lahair at 1B, Darwin Barney at 2B, Matt Camp and Starlin Castro at SS, Josh Vitters and Bobby Scales at 3B, James Adduci in LF, Brett Jackson and Tyler Colvin in CF, and Brad Snyder in RF) and Field #3 (Geovany Soto, Koyie Hill, and Welington Castillo at catcher, Derrek Lee and Micah Hoffpauir at 1B, Jeff Baker and Andres Blanco at 2B, Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot at SS, Aramis Ramirez and Chad Tracy at 3B, Alfonso Soriano in LF, Marlon Byrd and Sam Fuld in CF, and Kosuke Fukudome and Xavier Nady in RF) spent about 30 minutes practicing calling for pop ups & (hopefully) catching a few of them. The balls were sent into the air by a pitching machine turned upward, and some of the infield pops were truly towering (I think one just missed hitting a low-flying aircraft).
With the big league club at Fitch Park, Cubs minor leaguers who have arrived early are having informal work-outs up the street at HoHoKam Park under the supervision of Boise manager Jody Davis. As the Boise manager, Davis will also be the manager of both the Boise/Mesa squad at Minor League Camp and the Extended Spring Training team that plays at Fitch Park during April-May-June.
Minor League Camp officially opens at Fitch Park next week, a few days after the big league club moves up Center Street to HoHoKam Park. (The big league club will probably relocate Spring Training operations to HoHoKam Park on either Tuesday or Wednesday).