Sidney Ponson throwing on the side under the watchful eye of pitching coach Dave Duncan. Just 10 yards away, Ponson was officially named the #5 starter by Tony La Russa in a meeting with the press.
Albert Pujols was a welcome sight taking grounders at first base in preparation for his first post-World Baseball Classic start.
Skip Schumaker continues to make a nice spring showing, taking his cuts in batting practice while hitting coach Hal McRae watches. Skip is hitting .293 coming into the day and is playing solid defense. If So Taguchi wasn't around, he'd have a very good shot at making the team.
Another WBC returnee, Puerto Rican Manager Jose Oquendo, hits balls to Pujols.
In case you haven't been reading the papers, Washington's #12, Alfonso Soriano has caused quite a stir regarding playing outfield. Here he signed autographs for fans, but said nothing, as far as I could tell.
Just for grins, here is a shot of the assembled press waiting and hoping that Soriano or Nationals Manager Frank Robinson would talk about the controversy.
Here is a view directly behind John Rodriguez as he took his cuts in the cage. He has hit just .200 on the spring and went from a sure thing to less than one. Rodriguez is one who has a lot to prove in the upcoming days.
I know this is my second shot of Albert taking ground balls, but it is here because what was happening in front of him captured my fancy. In the distance, you can see First Base Coach Dave McKay and Bench Coach Joe Pettini both working with Pujols. That makes all of the top three non-pitching coaching minds focused on number 5.
Workout done, Pujols joined Ricardo Rincon and Yadier Molina, who had been shagging flies in the outfield. Behind us, dozens of fans on the berm area called out to Albert to sign autographs. To his credit, he did not ignore them, promising to sign "after the game".
Speaking of autographs, I moved to the minor league Field #1 with McRae, where Jim Edmonds was signing for a very enthusiastic group.
Non-roster invitee Scott Spiezio, who is always smiling, shares a moment with McRae. Spiezio has good reason to smile, as he is in good shape in his battle to make the opening day roster.
So Taguchi laughs at something McRae said. That is interesting in itself, as Hal is not exactly a joker.
If Edmonds has a sore elbow, it didn't show in the batting cage.
Duncan (the younger) heads back toward the clubhouse. He has to feel good about accomplishing so much this spring. Duncan still leads the team in home runs (four) and RBI (11).
An always-accommodating Jeff Suppan conducts a television interview.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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