Cubs Get Ready for Cactus League Play
Seven Cubs pitchers continued their preparation for Cactus League play at Fitch Park this morning.
Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Silva essentially threw a two-inning "sim" game on Field #2, at least to the extent that each pitcher threw a certain number of pitches each "inning" (Zambrano 15 pitches each inning - 30 total, and Silva 20 pitches each inning - 40 total) while the other rested on the bench. (A true sim game would usually involve the hitters rotating out of the cage after putting a ball in play, but each batter facing "Z" and Silva today took their normal five-pitch AB even if they put all five pitches into play). Justin Berg followed Zambrano/Silva to the mound on Field #2 with a single 25-pitch inning. Zambrano and Silva faced Sam Fuld, Darwin Barney, Brad Snyder, Derrek Lee, Marlon Byrd, Bobby Scales, Robinson Chirinos, Blake Lalli, and Brett Jackson in their pseudo-sim game, while Andres Blanco, Micah Hoffpauir, Chad Tracy and Kevin Millar faced Berg in his "live" BP session.
Sam Fuld and Micah Hoffpauir had some really nice swings, and Carlos Silva actually looked fairly ambulatory out there on the mound. He doesn't seem to be hurting, although his pitches sure don't fool anybody. It would probably really help his release point and arm angle (and overall health) if he could maybe lose a few pounds around the gut.
Randy Wells (who did not throw today) has been named the starter in the Cubs Cactus League opener on Thursday versus Oakland, while Zambrano is scheduled to start Friday's game versus Arizona and Silva is slated to start Saturday versus the White Sox in a game that will be televised on WGN-TV. (The Cubs are home at HoHoKam Park for six of the first seven days at the start of Cactus League play and for five of the last seven days at the end of the month, but they only play four games at HoHoKam over the 15-day period running from March 11th through March 25th).
Meanwhile, Ryan Dempster (who will start his first Spring Training game next Monday) threw one 35-pitch inning (he will probably throw a two-inning "sim" game sometime later this week), and Carlos Marmol, Jiohn Grabow, and Esmailin Caridad each threw one 25-pitch inning on Field #3. Tyler Colvin, Matt Camp, Bryan Lahair, James Adduci, and Steve Clevenger faced Dempster and Marmol, while Alfonso Soriano, Starlin Castro, and Kosuke Fukudome hit against Grabow and Caridad. Grabow was hit hard, but Dempster looked good, and Marmol and Caridad were absolutely "lights out" (and Marmol didn't even hit anybody!).
Fukudome hit Grabow pretty well, especially considering Kosuke's perceived weakness versus LHP. Along with Tyler Colvin and Geovany Soto, Fukudome has probably been the most-impressive hitter so far in camp, and I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up hitting lead-off and playing RF most every day this year. In fact, this could well be his MLB "break-out" season.
Soriano (somewhat surprisingly) also has been swinging the bat well so far, although he apparently is not yet able to cut loose running the bases.
Andrew Cashner and John Gaub threw an early-morning "live" BP prior to the full-squad work-out.
While Cashner and Gaub were getting in their work, Ryne Sandberg and Alan Trammell were working out Starlin Castro on Field #5 (the "half-field" - infield-only). No question Castro impressed Ryno and Trammell, but especially Trammell, probablly because this was the first chance Trammell had to work one-on-one with the young Cubs shortstop prodigy. Castro is indeed by all accounts a pleasure to coach.
The Cubs will presumably be moving up Center Street to HoHoKam Park tomorrow, where they will likely have a traditional work-out, with BP, infield practice, and some side bullpen sessions. (Piniella doesn't like intrasquad games).
Uncle Lou probably would have liked to have moved his team out of Fitch Park today, but the Cubs were hosting the Cactus League VIP Brunch at HoHoKam Park this morning.
The Cubs minor leaguers will now move into Fitch Park, with pitchers & catchers reporting on Thursday, and all other players reporting next Tuesday. The first minor league Spring Training games will probably be on March 18th.