Greetings and salutations from Mesa….In a few short hours Pat Hughes will casually utter those words as he has so many times in the past from beautiful HoHoKam Park. Chicago Cubs baseball is on the air and that means just one thing….the 2007 season is upon us, well at least the exhibition season. But the bottom line is, baseball is back and so are the Cubs.
With the mandate set forth by John McDonough on October 1st, the Faithful are more hopeful than any other year before. Is it now time for the “Lovable Losers” to become the “Lovable Winners”? Can Lou Piniella bring it home, if you will? And just think this is only the pre-game warm up before the marathon starts in little over a month. Lou Piniella announced his first lineup as a manager of the Cubs. Jason Marquis is scheduled to take the mound against another one of baseball’s $100 million dollar men….Barry Zito.
- Alfonso Soriano – CF
- Matt Murton – LF
- Derrek Lee – 1B
- Aramis Ramirez – 3B
- Michael Barrett – C
- Jacque Jones – RF
- Mark DeRosa – 2B
- Cesar Izturis – SS
Scheduled Pitchers for Thursday’s Opener
- Jason Marquis – starter
- Les Walrond
- John Webb
- Carmen Pignatiello
- Ben Howard
- Rocky Cherry
- Randy Wells
- Jason Anderson
Piniella has stated wins and losses do not matter in the exhibition season. He believes Spring Training is where a bunch of guys become a team, questions are answered and roles are defined….a good philosophy in this writer’s humble opinion. But the old adage must apply….you play like you practice.
What the Faithful must remember is these are organized practices, plain and simple they are exhibitions. Evidence to this can be found when a player is done for the day he will run along the outfield wall….just try doing that during the regular season. Players perform differently (either good or bad) once the bright lights are turned on. This spring, look for fundamental improvement and for the pitching staff to throw strikes….this leading the league in both strikeouts (1,250) and walks (687) has to be a thing of the past. Piniella talked about the fact the Cubs must throw strikes this season in a report from the Associated PressÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.
“I’ve talked to (pitching coach Larry Rothschild) about that, quite a bit, especially throwing strikes with the fastball. It’s something we’re going to stress. Let’s hope it improves. We’ve talked to our catchers about getting an out on three or four pitches as opposed to working the counts. Not to many good things can come with long counts.”
Piniella realizes the more balls a pitcher throws to a batter, the only outcome will be a negative one. The Cubs’ staff cannot have a repeat performance of last season and expect different results. They have to throw strikes and when a ball is put in play the Cubs defense has to make sure they do their job as well, and in turn pitch counts will be reduced.
Don’t look at numbers to give any indication of how a player will perform once the season starts (remember Nomar in ’05 and Ramirez in ’06). Look for pitchers to throw on their scheduled days and most importantly for everyone to remain healthy and on the field.
The Cubs need this spring to learn how to play as a team and for a way to shake off the lingering nightmares from a season ago….not to mention the last 98 years.
Cubs News from the first day of Camp Lou at HoHoKam
Cliff Floyd…. The Cubs had their first practice of the spring at HoHoKam on Wednesday and according to a report on Cubs.com, Cliff Floyd is not expected to play in the first 7 games of spring training and the medical staff has asked them not to use Floyd as a pinch hitter or DH for 7-10 days. Floyd said he is ready to go and the Cubs are calling it precautionary.
Daryle Ward…. Ward is expected to miss time as well with what team doctors thought was an appendicitis. He did practice on Wednesday.
Michael Wuertz…. Wuertz will miss the first couple of spring training games with a mild strain in his right shoulder. The Cubs are expecting him to throw again on Monday.
Felix Pie…. According to a report from the Chicago Tribune, Pie will start in center on Saturday against the A’s.
Spring Training and HoHoKam Park
Spring Training in Arizona has become big business as Wednesday marked the start of the 53rd Cactus League. While the Cubs and Giants are the biggest draws in the desert, the estimated boost to the Arizona economy is close to what the Cubs doled out this past off-season….$200 million dollars. This year the Cactus League is expected to draw more than one million fans and the Cubs have already sold out a handful of games and are up around 5% from last season.
The 12-team league is also expecting a few additions in the next few years as the Dodgers and the Indians appear to be ready to setup camp in the desert. The Dodgers are having a state-of-the-art facility built in Glendale and are expected to occupy it in 2009, leaving the storied “Dodger Town” possibly without a tenant. For the past six seasons the Cactus League has attracted more than one million fans a year and of the 1.17 million fans that attended games last year around half came from out of state.
A “Little Rumor” from Around the League
While rumors surfaced on Wednesday about a certain owner of a basketball team in Dallas talking about making an offer to the company that owns a team that plays baseball on the North Side of Chicago, the city of Chicago and fans of baseball still discussed the five votes Ron Santo did not receive in order to be inducted in to the Hall of Fame this Summer. (Note that particular owner later denied the rumor)
Spring Training Reports
A little reminder, check back throughout the weekend as there will be first hand coverage of Spring Training, including photo galleries and recaps from the games.
Well, that’s the latest from beautiful Mesa, Arizona….and I’m sticking to it!!!!