This is the point of the baseball season when things are as casual as they will ever get, Cubs players are having fun…sure they’re working and focused but with a definite upbeat feel. That was never more evident than today when a series of drills had the players laughing and kidding each other as well as entertaining the onlookers at Fitch Park.
One of the early drills had pitchers fielding with a special “Incrediball” a kind of a soft rubber coated ball that really moves when hit. This helps the pitchers reflexes and fielding, and makes for some interesting viewing. This fauxball moves so fast and looks like a regular baseball that some players natural “pull your head away” defense mechanism kicks in. Early on Carlos Marmol had trouble fielding these shots but came around, then at the end of the drill Jeff Samardzija had some issues and needed several repetitions until he got it right. One of the players who stood out in this drill was Esmailin Caridad, he was like a hockey goalie with amazing reflexes…It may be easier for Caridad to get down low for this drill being only 5’10″ as opposed to the taller pitchers.
While waiting his turn to field Big Z briefly showed some of his soccer moves using one of these spongy balls for bouncing maneuvers (think Hacky Sack) with his feet and was quite good at it.
The pitchers then got a chance to do some bp. Even though Big Z says he’s willing to give up his pinch hitting this season, don’t ask him to give up time in the cage. Z also gave Carlos Silva some encouragement during bp as Silva coming from the A.L. has a grand total of 27 MLB at bats in his 8 seasons. Greg Maddux was behind the batting cage while some of the pitchers took bp and at one point kept tossing a baseball into the chain link fence. I think Maddux is an excellent addition to the Cubs coaching staff and will help in many capacities but I got the feeling he really misses playing.
Ryan Theriot was practicing like normal today after being hit in the hand by a pitch yesterday, even drawing a compliment from Ryne Sandberg after a good round of bp.
Another fun to watch drill had baseballs being shot out of a machine from home plate to areas between players so the fielders had to call for it with a loud “I got it”. A truly simple but valuable drill and I only saw one “near” collision…Some of the guys were giving Andres Blanco a bit of crap because Blanco seemed to call nearly every ball on the diamond. I did notice that the CF’s (guys rotated in) who called “I got it” going towards left field really didn’t have to call it…Soriano wasn’t usually close and probably not running full speed yet…Or maybe he was, sometimes it’s hard to tell.
My photos from today.
Z focused on Incrediball
2008 First round pick Andrew Cashner
Marmol awaits Incrediball
Caridad with the glove save
Mad Dog pitching it off the chain fence
Maddux and Dempster
You want more spin?
Chad Tracy waits
Hoffpauir makes running snag
A-Ram on the move