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Thursday, April 15, 2004

Baby Steps

Mark Prior threw off a mound for the first time since late March. He threw about 10 pitches. Prior described his throwing session as "a baby step", as he threw at "t-ball speed".

"Progress is that I at least had a release point where I had an idea of where the ball is going and the long toss felt pretty good," said Prior, rehabbing from an inflamed right Achilles. "My arm strength is getting closer to where I would like it.

"Obviously, I'm not at a point where I can throw in a game," he said, "but I think I can get on the mound and start moving in the right direction."

Monday, April 12, 2004

A Tale of Two Offenses

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom. It was a the age of foolishness.....

Yep, that has been the Cubs offense in the first week of the season. On opening day, it was 7 runs, on 10 hits and 3 walks against the Reds. The keys to the victory were the 5 hits and 3 BBs/HBP which led to the Cubs scoring 4 runs with 2 outs. The team was patient, waiting for the Reds staff to make a mistake. The big blow was the Moises Alou 3-run double after a 6-pitch at bat. On Sunday the Cubs scored 10 runs, on 14 hits, and 3 walks. This time, the Cubs mixed a patient approach with aggressiveness to destroy mistakes early in the count. They jumped on Russ Ortiz and the Braves to the tune of 6 for 9, with 2 HRs, 2 doubles, and 2 RBI singles. Even the 1st pitch outs were positives as Hollandsworth moved Ramirez (who led off the 2nd with a double) over to 3rd with a groundball to the right side, and Kerry Wood got down a perfect sacrifice bunt.

Sandwiched in between these two offensive outbursts were 4 games in which the Cubs scored just 10 runs combined, and went a whopping 4 for 29 when putting the first pitch in play! The lone hit of those 4 to go for extra bases was a gift, thanks to Adam Dunn's matador defense. The 4-game stretch also included 18 innings of just 1 walk against a shaky Cincinnati pitching staff.

Folks, it looks like we are gonna have to get used to "Jeckyl and Hyde" like offense from the Cubbies. The team will struggle and shine together, because the majority of the everyday lineup has the same exact makeup. Most of the regulars fit the same profile: Aggressive fastball hitters, like the ball middle in, very pull conscious, susceptible to breaking balls low and away and fastballs up. Yep, the formula for facing the Cubs hitters is go fastball away early, causing them to roll over and ground to the left side if they swing. If they take the pitch, get ahead and go with the breaking ball down and off the plate, and get the swinging strikeout. If the Cub hitter gets a hit, it will probably be just a single. Only Sammy Sosa has shown the ability to consistently drive the ball to the opposite way for extra bases, and even he doesn't keep the go to RF when he's in a slump. Guys like Gonzalez, Ramirez, Alou, and Patterson should never see a fastball middle in. If an opposing pitcher is hitting his spots, it will be a long day for Cubs batters.

Which team will show up today, when the National League Central Champions return to beautiful Wrigley Field for the first time today?!?!?!

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Achilles, Back, Elbow?

Mark Prior quietly survived a huge scare as an MRI on his pitching elbow showed no damage. The Cubs have been very secretive about Prior's health, as this trip to Chicago's Northwestern Memorial hospital came without warning. This is Prior's second MRI on his elbow of the spring and the 2nd or 3rd time he has experienced soreness or stiffness in his million dollar elbow.

The Cubs are in a wait-and-see situation. They don't want to rush Prior, who still has to go through the arm strength process that all the Cubs pitchers have gone thru in spring training. A watchful eye will be analyzing his every motion, to ensure that Mark isn't putting any extra stress on his arm due to compensating for his sore achilles.

This is the first good news in a while for Mark Prior. No damage was found to the elbow. His doctors believe that his achilles soreness should subside in the near future. And he woke up yesterday without any ill effects of the back pain he suffered from this past weekend.

Once a 5-10 day rest, the best case scenario is now that Prior will be ready by the month of May. Here's to a healthy and speedy return!

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