With pitchers and catchers reporting this week, I sat down and thought about what I am looking for during the 2006 Cactus League...
- Health of starting pitchers? A cause for great anxiety in Cubdom since spring 2004 has been the health of the arms, particularly Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. How will these two do this spring? Will Prior make his starts and be on the Opening Day roster? Will Wood pitch at all in anything greater than a simulated game. And Big Z (see next)
- What impact will the WBC have on the Cubs? Lee, Ramirez, Barrett, Zambrano, & Blanco are set to represent their countries in this inaugural event. I don't have much concern about the position players, I do wonder about Zambrano. Carlos is so competitive. Will he push himself to hard pitching for Venezuela?
- Who's on second? Who will Dusty Baker pencil in as he starting secondbaseman on Opening Day? Todd Walker, Neifi Perez, Jerry Hairston, or a player that's not on the roster. With the way things stand today, it is hard for me to imagine it being anybody but Todd Walker.
- When will Dusty say something stupid? Every spring, it seems to be something with this guy. What will it be this year and how much of a feeding frenzy will it cause for the beat writers--after they have all written their obligatory feel good Spring Training stories.
- Will Baker really give Murton and Cedeno starting jobs? With Marquis Grissom and Neifi Perez waiting in the wings, will the Cub manager be willing to play to youngsters come the regular season if they have good springs? Dusty's track record tells me that he will look for any reason to get "his veterans" playing time.
- The Pierre factor? Since, he came to Chicago prior to 2003 Dusty has only had a professional leadoff hitter for the half season Kenny Lofton was on the roster in 2003. It is no coincidence that it was during that time the Cubs played their best ball under Baker. People familiar with Pierre from his Marlins' days rave about his work ethic and how he rubs off on his teammates. Will Pierre have the impact that Hendry and Baker expect? Who is Dusty gonna hit second behind JP?
- What's the talent like Down on the Farm? I really enjoy going to the early spring training games because I like to see the Cubs minor league talent play on the same field as big leaguers. If you are planning on spending anytime in Mesa this spring take a ride down to Fitch Park in the morning and watch some of the Cubs of the future play.
- Will there be Old Style at HoHoKam? There usually is! This is my list and I'll be looking for it come March 2nd.