"It's amazing how much you really miss the game when it's taken away from you for a while," Dopirak had told us in January, while he was still on the mend from follow-up surgery on his left foot.
Dopirak's hunger has been evident in his first two games back from surgery this season. He went 3-for-4 at the plate on Friday for Double-A Tennessee, one night after notching two hits in his season opener.
The Cubs' top first base prospect, Dopirak is expected to remain on the right side of the infield for the time being. But don't be surprised if you see him in the outfield a time or two this season. It could have happened last year, Dopirak said, if not for the injury.
"They had kind of thought about moving me around and giving me more options," Dopirak said.
On the pitching front, Donald Veal struggled in his first two starts for Class-A Peoria a year ago. But he went on to share the Cubs' Minor League Player of the Year award with fellow left-hander Rich Hill, and was named the InsideTheIvy.com 2006 Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Veal's (0-1) 2007 debut on Friday was a little like his 2006 debut: short and shaky. The southpaw went just 3 2/3 innings and was charged with five runs. He surrendered six hits.
Tennessee (1-1) was blanked by Jacksonville, 5-0.
With a 15 mph Texas wind at his back all night, Iowa right-hander Randy Wells took advantage of the conditions. Wells (1-0) threw six strong innings on Friday to win his season opener at Triple-A, allowing one run – a solo home run – on two hits. He struck out three and walked two.
"I had pretty good stuff tonight," Wells said afterward. "I located the ball really well and had my changeup going. I wasn't really afraid to throw strikes with the wind howling in the way it was. It seemed like any ball hit in the air was going to be caught."
Iowa (1-1) defeated Round Rock, 6-2.
Cubs pitching prospect Billy Petrick's bullpen debut was hardly what he'd hoped for when he first learned he'd begin 2007 in a relief role last month.
The longtime starter yielded two runs in the bottom of the 11th inning as Brevard County rallied to beat Class High A Daytona (1-1) on Friday, 3-2. Petrick (0-1) gave up five hits and two walks in just an inning and a third.
The right-hander made 10 starts a season ago between Daytona and Class Low A Boise in his first year removed from season-ending shoulder surgery to repair a partially torn labrum midway through 2005. He learned midway through Spring Training from Cubs Minor League Pitching Coordinator Alan Dunn that he'd pitch from the bullpen – at least for now – this season.
Petrick features a hard fastball-slider combo in his repertoire, and last season at Boise he topped out at 95 mph on the radar gun. Since moving to the bullpen, he admits to throwing fewer changeups.
EXTENDED SPRING TRAINING ... Much like his swing, the general consensus with regards to Cubs outfield prospect Ryan Harvey's future is that he'll one day hit it big or miss even bigger.
For the time being, Harvey is in Extended Spring Training in Mesa, Ariz., where he has been slowed recently by a hamstring injury.
Cubs Farm Director Oneri Fleita said Friday that the club expects Harvey to be ready for assignment within the next two weeks. When he is, expect him back at Daytona, where he batted .248 and hit 20 home runs a season ago.
"He didn't get many reps in this spring, at all," one Cubs official said.