As expected, the rain went away.....but the press sure didn't. Also as expected, Bonds was at practice on time, as he always is. The media followed Bonds' every move. It was pretty funny. The pitchers continued to do running and stretching on the main field, while the position players did so on the practice field. At one point, before the full squad was on the main field, the media must have heard that Bonds was coming over to the main field because they all scampered down the right field line, towards the practice field like a bunch of little rats. Apparently it was a false alarm because a minute or two later they all came back to the dugout area with their tails tucked between their legs grumbling "he wasn't there". Sorry....I just couldn't do that for a living.
There were also more fans than I have EVER seen at a workout. 40-50 is usually the maximum.....but at the height today I would say there were 200 fans in the park. At one point a whole bus load of High School players, coaches and parents showed up. One group of 40 or so....all coming into the stadium at once.........another Spring Training first.
As I have observed before......Bruce Bochy is making the guys work quite a bit harder than they are used to, and the first day of full squad workouts was no different. They started late (physicals & team meeting) but they still had a long period of running and stretching. They have been doing a lot of agility drills, much like the old football "run through the tires" drill but a little different. Drills like that really tire out your legs, but after that they do sprints, after which they run the entire outfield, after which they finish with shuttle runs. Not easy.....not easy at all. The practice continued on very late. I left at 1:00 PM and practice was still going strong. That is pretty much unheard of for a Giants practice.......especially on the first day.
Kind of a funny incident. Benitez does not run with the other pitchers. After the pitchers ran the outfield, Benitez came out of the dugout thinking he would stretch with the other pitchers. When the other pitchers had to go run shuttle runs instead of stretching, Benitez left the field and went back into the dugout. He came back out when the pitchers finished the shuttle runs and started stretching. I guess running is too tiring for Mando.
When Bochy said (I read it in the press) he wanted to get the guys started on facing live pitching "as soon as possible" he sure wasn't lying. You can't get much sooner than the first full squad workout.......and that's what he did. The players jumped right into live batting practice......not with BP pitchers......but with REAL Major League pitchers doing the throwing. And the first matchup of the year was worth the price of admission. Barry vs Barry.....That's right Barry Zito facing Barry Bonds, right off the bat (pun intended). Boy did that have the crowd and the press buzzing.
As is always the case in early live BP.....there wasn't much contact made. I don't mean not much good contact......I mean no contact at all. In the first group of Bonds, Roberts, Winn and Aurilia......only Bonds made any contact against Zito. Mostly they just watched the ball go by, without even swinging. Part of it was getting the timing down and part of it was I don't think Zito was in the strike zone much. Bonds hit one weak grounder and a couple of fouls.......but he is the only batter that made contact with the ball at all. As a note.........Zito has completely abandoned the "new" delivery". He was pitching as straight up and down as any pitcher I have ever seen, without so much of a hint of a back step as he began his windup. Apparently much ado about nothing.
The same group then faced Matt Cain. Cain was throwing harder and it seemed more accurately, but there still wasn't any contact being made. Until Bonds' last turn in the cage. On his second to last swing, Bonds took the hardest cut I will probably see all spring and Cain blew a high fastball by him. On the next pitch Bonds cut his swing down slightly and took Cain deep to straightaway RF with the ball landing about half way up grass seating berm. As Bonds left the cage you could hear him say "I'm ready". That remark got a huge laugh from the fans and players.
Cain was followed by Jonathan Sanchez, David Cortes, Brian Wilson and Eric Threets on the mound. There was still not much contact by the batters for the rest of the live pitching. Cortes was allowing more batters to make contact than anyone else. Sanchez and Threets were throwing pretty hard for the 20th of February. Throughout the entire live pitching session, no one other than Bonds came close to hitting it out. Omar Vizquel made the most contact, but only Ryan Klesko and Kevin Frandsen even hit the warning track. It had to be very frustrating as a batter to face live pitching so early. I have never seen live BP so early. As an aside.....Klesko is wearing number 21, I guess he never heard of Candy Maldonado.......please don't slide Ryan. Klesko is in good shape......he doesn't have that belly that I seem to remember last time I saw him play.
After the live BP session, all of the players took a second round of BP, this time facing the coaches as they normally would at this time during camp. The batters fared much better against BP pitchers than they did against the real thing. I left at 1:00 PM when the second group of batters were about half way through their round. Again, it is pretty rare that the players take two full rounds of BP.......especially on the first day of full squad workouts. Bochy at work again.
By the time I left, only Barry Bonds had gone deep in the second round of BP. He hit one of off the light standard in straightaway LF and then bounced one way up off of the picnic area behind the RF bullpens. Bonds looks great, by the way. He appears to be in the best shape he has been in 2 or 3 years. The belly is pretty much gone and his legs and arms look solid. He walked without any sign of the limp he had early last year. I could close my eyes and tell you when Bonds was at the plate. The ball just has a different sound coming off his bat. Not the normal "crack"........more of a loud "crunch".
Another good Barry/Barry story that I must tell. After the first round of batting practice, both Barry Bonds and Barry Zito disappeared into the dugout/clubhouse. A few minutes later, they both came out, side-by-side, each wearing almost identical t-shirts. Both shirts were black with orange printing on them. Both said "Don't ask me, ask Barry". Under the printing there was an arrow......pointing to the right on Zito's shirt......and pointing to the left on Bonds' shirt.......so that the arrow was pointing to the "other Barry" who was not wearing that shirt. Funny stuff......very funny stuff. I was down the line and was unable to get a photo of the shirts.........I am sure it will be in the papers tomorrow (or on the internet tonight). Yep....that Giants clubhouse just has no fun at all.....always at each others' throats.
Anyway......lots of good stuff today. I could write much more.....but my fingers are cramping up and this post has been long enough anyway. Unlike in past years.....I did not see a single position player that looked like he was out of shape. They are all looking lean and mean......hopefully that can translate to good performance. I am hoping that the media/fan crunch will be less tomorrow. I know.....even I fell into the trap of discussing Bonds more than anything else........but tomorrow we go back to a more balanced coverage. This is about the GIANTS team......not about one man.
Because of the late practice and the fact that I took 162 photos today, it will take me some time to upload and catalog the photos I took today. I will post 10 or 12 of the photos later on. As always, if I didn't post one you would like to see, let me know and I will post it if I have it.