MESA, Arizona — The first Cubs pitcher/catcher workout of 2018 was far different from last year’s.
First, the 2017 workouts were highly anticipated by everyone, coming off the World Series championship. Last year a couple hundred people showed up at the back fields at Sloan Park to watch the defending champions begin their spring camp.
Wednesday, despite the attraction of seeing Yu Darvish for the first time in a Cubs uniform, maybe 35 people wandered into the back fields area. Maybe it’s because the weather was decidedly non-baseballish: about 60 degrees, cloudy, with a few scattered sprinkles in the area. Thursday’s forecast isn’t much better, and they might wind up moving the Thursday workouts indoors. By the weekend, and certainly by Monday when the first full-squad workout takes place, it’s supposed to be back to sunny conditions and temps in the low 70s.
As I’ve done the last few seasons, I present these photos and short videos to you so you can get an idea of what goes on in camp. Some of the workouts are done in the batting cages and bullpen areas away from public view, but every workout day the team posts the schedule you see in photo 1, so that fans can have an idea of exactly what’s going on each day. The first day was a day for three pitcher drills: bunts, comebackers, and the cover-first drill.
You can sit and watch these as long as you like; on non-game days there’s no parking charge and the back fields are open to the public. After a while, though, you realize that the drills are monotonous and repetitive, and that’s why the videos below are only about 60 to 90 seconds long. Long enough for you to get an idea of the drill, short enough so you won’t get bored. For the pitchers, though, it’s an important way to get muscle memory going so that when these situations happen during the season during games, they don’t have to think, just react.
Darvish was in a group of pitchers that included Jose Quintana, Brian Duensing and top prospect Adbert Alzolay, and I have video below of that group doing all three drills.
Kudos to the Cubs for the sign honoring the creator of Cubs Den, John Arguello, who passed away last summer. I’m honored to have been able to call John a friend as well as a colleague. He spent many summer days at the back fields and was a friend to all who were there, including many players and their families. It’s a nice tribute (photo 2).
Other than those two, the photos are simply to show you various parts of the workout, except for photo 17, which is of the large contingent of Japanese photographers and writers following Darvish around.
Enjoy the videos. Baseball is back!