Baseball officially kicked off yesterday as Travis Wood took the mound for the Cubs. Up to this point, it’s been really hard to get too excited about practice. Christian Villanueva’s injury was some bad news earlier this week, but most of what has been happening has not been riveting. I don’t think a 70s pimped out van is too exciting, but some do. Schwarber’s home run into a windshield was not really that exciting either, unless you are just starved for Cubs news, which many, including myself, are. I was actually excited to see the “Bryzzo” pictures on Instagram and Twitter. To me, those was exciting.
Anyways, Clark is currently out in Mesa and taking some pictures along with some video. He filed a report yesterday and was on Periscope for most of the game. He will be there today and tomorrow as well.
The big news this week has been that minor league camp began, Javy Baez is playing all over the field, and there are a sea of blue players everywhere, which warms my heart. Pitchers throwing live batting practice, usually about 25 pitches, gets me going. Wherever the eye can see, baseball is all over Mesa and online.
Shane Victorino’s appearance in video wearing a #8 uniform said more than anything else the Cubs released on Wednesday. See what I am talking about at the 12-14 second mark.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) February 29, 2016
The single digit gives an indication of what management thinks of his chances. It addition, Victorino also announced that he would be switch hitting again, and that he feels that he’s in very good shape. I kind of like the defensive aspect of what he can bring in late innings. It’s something we talked about the last two weeks. Victorino can play all three outfield spots and should be a solid veteran bench player who understands his role. I think that’s a nice advantage and allows Maddon to mix-and-match late in games.
The other thing that I like from what I’ve seen and heard this week has been that Javier Baez has taken to the outfield like a fish to water (He did get turned around on a fly on Wednesday). And I think Baez’s ability to play the outfield and infield basically turned him into a super utility guy, which Jared wrote on earlier this winter. But it also means that Tommy LaStella is close to being an odd man out. Combined with Victorino’s emergence this spring, it’s a definite indication that LaStella will be going to Iowa, as he has three options left.
The Cubs really only have four spots on the bench, considering the fact that Joe likes to break camp with some extra pitchers, and those position bench spots will go to a backup catcher, a backup infielder, and two outfielders which in this case would be Soler/Schwarber and Victorino. That leaves Baez as a much more potent and powerful bat off the bench, which is really what the Cubs need more than they need in LaStella. Baez would back up all four infield spots.
I think one big story over the next three weeks, aside from the games, will be how the relief pitchers perform in those games. The other item will be how Kyle Hendricks, Jason Hammel, Adam Warren, Travis Wood, Trevor Cahill, and Clayton Richard perform in those games. Yesterday, Wood threw two innings but gave up a run. Hendricks gave up 1 run in 2 innings but struck out 4, and Richard went one scoreless.
As for the minor-league camp, Eddie Martinez arrived. What shocked me about his physical performance or physical nature is the size of his forearms. They are huge! He did take BP and some outfield and I think he’s going to be just fine. It looks like they’re going to have to smooth out his swing a little bit, either that or he was just getting a lot of high pitches (See video below by John Arguello). I was pretty excited to see him in camp.
And the other big story that I think is gonna be the biggest story of the summer is Eloy Jimenez. The 19-year-old showed up and put on a batting practice display of fireworks with home runs on Wednesday equal to the big boys. Needless to say, if he keeps that up, it is going to be a great summer in South Bend.
Stay tuned to the site, and on Twitter, as Clark (@ClarkInChicago) will have more reports from Mesa along with some video and pictures. We also will have some new cards this weekend based on pics from Clark and John Arguello. If you have not given our facebook page a like, please do so. We have moved most of the baseball cards over there.