Well, not really, but the Cubs got lucky with a perfect backdrop today for their kickoff to spring training. While it was snowing steadily at Wrigley Field, the clubhouse crew was loading up the truck (sponsored, of course, this time by MasterCard, as every Cubs activity seems to be sponsored these days) for Mesa. A bunch of kids from a neighborhood school even stopped by to drop off letters to their favorite Cubs and sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
We'll have a story for tomorrow's paper online today, but here are a few tidbits:
--GM Jim Hendry wouldn't close the door on shortstop phenom Starlin Castro making the club out of camp, but he seemed to lean toward giving the soon-to-be 20-year-old Castro at least a little more time in the minors. If my math is correct, Castro was born in 1990. Yikes, where's the time go?
"Some of the best players in history came to camp at 19 or 20 and made it," Hendry said. "I think in a realistic world, he would probably need a little more time."
--Hendry gave optimistic-sounding health reports on left fielder Alfonso Soriano and third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Soriano is rehabbing from left-knee surgery, and Ramirez has been non-surgically rehabbing from the dislocated left shoulder that cost him two months last year.
--Aside from such veterans as Kevin Millar, Chad Tracy and a few other older nonroster players, the big Cubs theme of this year is the number of homegrown players they'll have in camp. That includes the last four No. 1 draft picks: center fielder Brett Jackson, pitcher Andrew Cashner, third baseman Josh Vitters and outfielder Tyler Colvin (who's on the 40-man). Among the others to watch are pitchers Casey Coleman, Mitch Atkins, John Gaub, Rafael Dolis, Thomas Diamond (obtained in a trade last year), Blake Parker and J.R. Mathes, infielder Darwin Barney and outfielder James Adduci.
Should be fun.
UPDATES: Our story is up, so check it out, including the note about a Theriot arb hearing seeming more and more likely:
One more thing. We got a little walking tour of some of the Wrigley Field changes. The removal of the concrete "panels" along the Addison Street (right-field line) side of the ballpark should have a dramatic effect on the "feel" of the Wrigley Field experience. It should make for a more "open" and "airy" feeling to the park. Oh, and yes, the troughs are still in the men's rooms. And fans will get to watch hitters in the batting cages under the right-field bleachers as part of the renovation. Thanks to all on the Cubs who made the impromptu tour possible today.