Jake Arrieta took the mound Friday on Field 5 at the Cubs facility. Arrieta faced hitters for the first time this spring. And his teammates simply did not have a chance.
Arrieta looked great. Miguel Montero caught Arrieta and said afterwards that he was in mid-season form.
Under the watchful eye of Chris Bosio, Jake Arrieta received a lot of “That a boy” and “That a boy, Jake” from Montero. Montero and Bosio had Arrieta make mechanical adjustments as necessary. Montero is like David Ross, a coach on the field. And Montero received praise from Bosio when he did a good job getting around a close pitch and turning it into a strike.
Jake Arrieta was rather impressive throwing to a group that included Albert Almora Jr., Christian Villanueva and Matt Murton. Arrieta made more than one pair of knees buckle Friday. Miggy knows his pitcher and from the outside looking in, Arrieta did appear to be in mid-season form Friday.
All eyes were on Field 6 during defensive drills Friday morning. The Cubs had the first-team defense on the field practicing calling and catching pop ups.
Anthony Rizzo was at first base. Ben Zobrist at second, Addison Russell at short and Munenori Kawasaki was backing him up. Kris Bryant was at third. And the Cubs outfield was Jorge Soler (LF), Dexter Fowler (CF) and Jason Heyward (RF). Javier Baez took turns with Fowler catching balls in center field.
This was just basic practice, but still rather fun to watch. And Heyward can cover some ground in a hurry in right field.
Since the Cubs open the season in an American League park, the way the players lined up on Field 6 is likely the way Maddon goes on Opening Night.
Neil Ramirez threw live BP and he looked good. The Cubs kept radar readings but the numbers were not posted at the field.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer watched a majority of Ramirez’s session. He appeared to repeat his delivery well. Release point was relatively consistent. He lost it a couple of time but got back on track. Tim Federowicz was behind the plate.
Without seeing the radar readings, questions about his velocity were not answered. He broke off several excellent breaking balls, good spin and down in the zone. Ramirez appeared to throw free and easy, in other words he was not fighting himself.
Ramirez recently said he is building up his shoulder strength. Friday appeared to be a positive step forward.
Other Notes from Friday’s Practice
• Jon Lieber was in uniform Friday helping Rick Sutcliffe and Lester Strode with pitchers fielding practice.
• David Ross does not stop. Constant communication with his teammates. It’s easy to see why he is a clubhouse favorite. Just keeps everything light and everyone smiling while focusing on getting better at baseball.
• Kyle Schwarber caught Jason Hammel’s live BP on Friday.
• Jorge Soler appears to have lost 15-20 pounds and is much leaner than last year. Soler says he lost 10 pounds, it appears to be more.
• David Ross caught Justin Grimm’s session on Friday.
• Forgot exactly just how skinny Carl Edwards Jr. is. He is very athletic, moves off the mound well. If the Cubs could get him to put on weight and maintain it, he has the stuff to be a successful starter in the big leagues.
• Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist hit in the same group again Friday. Once again, Russell is just a special player. Nice smooth stroke, hitting balls to all fields with authority. And Zobrist is simply a professional hitter from both sides of the plate. As long as he doesn’t get off to a slow start, Zobrist will be a fan favorite in a short amount of time.
• It was good to see Dexter Fowler back on the practice field and taking BP. Fowler was all smiles every time I saw him Friday.
• And Joe Maddon really doesn’t go anywhere without his fungo.