MESA, Arizona — It was baseball weather in the Valley of the Sun Wednesday morning. Sunny. Temperature around 70. And just to make it seem like Wrigley Field in, say, mid-May, it was quite windy, and that’s unusual for this time of year.
That made it a perfect morning to head over to the Sloan Park complex to watch some of the first official Cubs pitcher workouts. While some went and watched a group of pitchers and catchers that included Jon Lester, John Lackey, Wade Davis and Koji Uehara, I went to the back fields to watch three groups of pitchers rotate among three of the four fields doing fielding drills.
I’ve noted this before, but once you have watched these drills for a few minutes, they get kind of monotonous to watch. It’s pitchers doing the same thing, over and over and over. Having a ball hit like a comebacker and throwing to first base. Coming off the mound to field a bunt, or taking a relay throw and then trying to tag a runner at the plate.
These have a purpose, of course, and that’s muscle memory, for these pitchers to do this so many times in practice that when the situation comes up during a game, they can accomplish the play without thinking.
Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop were among the group on the back fields, along with some of the other 40-man roster guys who’ll likely make up the Iowa pitching staff this year and others who are non-roster invitees just trying to stick in the organization, or who are working their way up the ladder.
All of these workouts were done in about 45 minutes, after which I imagine there was probably some batting practice taken in the cages. I heard that some of the early-arriving position players were taking BP at Field 1 (that’s the one closest to Sloan Park itself) before 9 a.m. That certainly shows dedication to their work. I arrived shortly after 10; in photo 4 you can see the schedule that the Cubs helpfully post every day at the back fields along with a map so you can find out what’s going on where.
There weren’t many people watching at the back fields, maybe a few dozen; I didn’t go over to Field 1 but heard there was a somewhat-larger crowd there.
It’s just 10 days before the first games (split-squad) on February 25. The first full-squad workout was originally scheduled for Saturday, but there’s a forecast of all-day rain that day, so that’s been moved to Sunday.
Here are a few short videos of the various fielding drills that Cubs pitchers were taking part in on Wednesday morning. Even though none of these run more than a minute or so, know that these workouts ran maybe 15 minutes each, repeating the same drill.