The Cubs first full squad practice of the spring took place Wednesday on what was a picture perfect, Chamber of Commerce day in Mesa.
After being part of the meeting with Tom Ricketts, I had a chance to catch about 30 minutes of batting practice on the back fields at the Cubs complex. Baseballs were flying all over the fields, and in most cases out of them.
Here are a few observations from Wednesday:
• Joe Maddon loves classic rock and he had all the standards blaring from the PA on Wednesday. From Pink Floyd to Led Zeppelin to Black Sabbath and Queen, the Cubs’ skipper had his players swinging to the classics.
• Field 6 was where a majority of Maddon’s starting lineup took batting practice Wednesday. Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Joe Maddon paid close attention as the players got their work in.
• Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler were part of the group that took BP on Field 6 with Henry Blanco pitching.
• Each of the players had a plan before stepping into the cage. That was easy to see because they were not swinging for the fences. It was batting practice, not home run derby … yet there were plenty of big flies.
• Ben Zobrist hit the ball to all fields from both sides of the plate.
• Kris Bryant also worked to all fields during his rounds.
• Addison Russell is just a special player. He appeared to be concentrating on hitting balls back up the middle. And there were a couple of balls that went out to center. Russell is one of those rare players in which the ball just sounds differently when it comes off his bat.
• Jorge Soler is a beast. And he does look leaner than last season. I could not tell how much he trimmed down, but there is a noticeable difference. Soler did not square up as many balls as Russell, but when he did it had that wonderful sound. Soler hit a bomb out to left, tape measure shot on his last swing of a round. Granted its practice, but that ball got out in a hurry with great loft.
• Only saw Jason Heyward take a few swings, same with Anthony Rizzo. Nothing jumped out, just typical stuff from Heyward and Rizzo … which is pretty good.
• Albert Almora Jr. looked like he put on quite a bit of muscle since last spring. Epstein and Hoyer said he was hitting the ball with more authority and squaring it up more consistently and that was the case Wednesday.
• Kyle Schwarber is very impressive … that’s all. Walked up as he was wrapping up his BP. Just saw the balls end up in the outfield in a hurry.
I am planning on going back Thursday morning before another meeting. I am hoping to shoot video and take photos.