The Cubs played their third Cactus League game in two days on Friday afternoon at Sloan Park. Joe Maddon’s team faced the Cincinnati Reds for the first time this year. And the record setting crowd at the Cubs Spring Training home was focused on Jon Lester for the first two innings.
Jon Lester was very sharp and went right after the Reds everyday lineup. Lester struck out three of the first four batters he faced. Lester allowed just a broken bat single and faced the minimum in his two innings of work.
Javier Baez and Mike Olt were in Joe Maddon’s starting lineup on Friday. Baez started at short and Olt was at first base. Baez and Olt worked this off-season making adjustments to their swing in order to cut down on the strikeouts that plagued them last season. Both players have extreme power and could help the Cubs win games if they are able to make the right adjustments.
Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora and Billy McKinney are three of the top prospects in the Cubs system.
Schwarber is in big league camp on a non-roster invite less than a year after being drafted. Schwarber made strides last fall with his defense and he is determined to stick behind the plate and make it to the big leagues as a catcher, not an outfielder. The Cubs’ brass liked what they saw from Schwarber last fall and are committed to him being a catcher. Schwarber could begin the season as Double-A Tennessee’s everyday catcher.
Here’s video of Jon Lester, Javier Baez, Mike Olt, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora and Billy McKinney from Friday’s game in Mesa against the Reds.
Jon Lester’s pre-game routine was rather interesting to watch. Chris Bosio, Mike Borzello and Ted Lilly talked with David Ross while Lester stretched. When he started throwing, it was nothing but business.
Javier Baez slipped back into hold habits Friday after a good day at the plate Thursday in which he appeared to apply the adjustments he made during the off-season. Mike Olt looks a lot more comfortable and confident in the box this spring than he did a year ago.
Kyle Schwarber made his spring debut behind the plate Friday with mixed results. Schwarber is a work in progress defensively. And in the video below, Schwarber scorched the baseball and was robbed of hit by the Reds first baseman.
Albert Almora is looking forward to the upcoming season and putting up the numbers at the plate that are expected. Defensively, Almora is ready for the big leagues and he had an opportunity Friday to show Joe Maddon his strong, accurate arm.
Billy McKinney had one of those days. McKinney spent the day with the Major League team and botched a ball in left field that opened the door to the Reds’ five-run inning. McKinney had a nice at bat that resulted in an opposite field single, but was picked off first base with his team down 5-1.