By Brady Stiff
Today, in Arizona, pitchers and catchers officially reported to Mesa for Spring Training.
Well, most of them, at least for the Cubs, were already there, but it’s still a big deal for me.
On a day like today, I wouldn’t care if it were -50° in Chicago with blizzard conditions. The fact that baseball season is right around the corner makes me want to buy a bag of sunflower seeds, an Old Style tallboy, and a hot dog.
This coming season is a big one for Geovany Soto. The 2008 NL Rookie of the Year disappointed in 2009, and disappointed is an understatement to say the least. He hit .218 with only 11 homers and 47 runs batted in. He must prove that ’09 was a fluke, and that he can get back to being an offensive force in the middle of the Cubs’ lineup. He’s got a chance to be the starting catcher for this team for a long time to come. I hope that he can get back to form.
The first step for Soto may have been what he did this offseason. He showed up to the Cubs Convention last month looking like a kid again, having dropped something like 40 pounds. Hopefully 2009 was a sobering experience for him, teaching him the value of hard work. I hope it was just a case of Soto thinking he’s reached the top and not doing anything to stay there.
It will be interesting to see new hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo’s impact on Soto. Jaramillo comes over from the Rangers with a good reputation. Ideally, he doesn’t have to do much with Soto. He’s just got to get Soto to revert back to his 2008 form.
On the mound, the Cubs desperately need a bounce-back year from Carlos Zambrano. Big Z only won nine games last year, and was seemingly his own worst enemy at times. That’s been the knock on him for years now. It was the first time he hasn’t won 10 games in a season that he was a full-time starter.
Especially with Ted Lilly being out until who knows when, the Cubs need a strong start from Zambrano and the other guys in the rotation. As a wise friend once told me, the games you win in April and May are the ones you don’t have to win in August and September.
Spring Training games begin on March 4th!