MIAMI, FLORIDA (AP) - Following Thursday's 5-3 loss to the Miami Marlins, Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum announced to the media that he plans to build upon the success of his 2012 Spring Training "Bunting Tournament" by holding a "Pitchers' Fielding Practice Tournament" during the 2013 Spring Training session.
"I think it is a no-brainer. Clearly our pitchers have some problems with the tasks of catching and throwing a ball," he said. "It's not something you want to harp on during the season, so we'll just ride it out this year and work on it in the spring."
Sveum said that the tournament will ask pitchers to cleanly field balls hit back to them without getting hurt, to not try to catch balls with their bare hands, to cover the bag in a timely fashion on a ball hit to the right side of the infield - with bonus points for not falling over en route, and to throw the ball to the first baseman without endangering the lives of season ticket holders sitting nearby.
"I think it will be a lot of fun," said pitcher Matt Garza, who will undoubtedly be a No. 16 seed. "Assuming I am here next year, I am really looking forward to it. But until then I am just going to work striking guys out and having them hit the ball to any of the seven competent fielders behind me - or six, if Sori (Alfonso Soriano) is playing left."
When asked why a tournament, rather than just working on the drill in practice, Sveum said it was an easy decision. "It keeps the guys engaged, gives the media something to write about," he said. "Plus, look at how well we are bunting as a team after that bunt tournament. If we get a guy on base with less than two outs, there is nearly a 50-50 chance that we can move him along to be stranded at second."