7/21 Ibanez vs. Bradley
This past offseason, Raul Ibanez, Bobby Abreu and Milton Bradley were the three top left-handed hitting free agent outfielders available. Heading into Tuesday’s game, Ibanez had 25 homers, 68 RBIs and was batting .315. Bradley was hitting .239, including .201 from the left side, with six homers and 21 RBIs. He was not in the Cubs lineup on Tuesday as he continued to work on his swing in the cage with Lou Piniella.
It’s tough to predict if Ibanez would put up the same numbers he has now if he had signed with the Cubs, but he’s doing exactly what Piniella was looking for.
“The only thing I talked about last season,” Piniella said Tuesday, “was a need for a left-hand bat in a predominantly right-handed lineup who could hit the ball for power and drive in some runs. Look at our production last year, and it was mainly from the right side. We didn’t bring [Jim] Edmonds back and he hit quite a few home runs. We needed a left-hand bat, that’s it. That was what I mentioned, that we could use a nice productive left-hand bat in the middle of our right-hand hitting.”
Ibanez is playing left field for the Phillies. The Cubs are committed to Alfonso Soriano through 2014 in left. Could Ibanez have moved to right field?
“He’s probably better suited for left,” Piniella said of Ibanez. “Right field in Wrigley is not the easiest to play. It’s the sun field, it’s bigger dimensions, 353 down the line, it’s got that unorthodox dip out there.”
Then, Piniella paused.
“Look,” Piniella said, “we still need a left-hand bat who could hit in our lineup and drive in some runs.”
Bradley will be back in the Cubs’ lineup on Wednesday, and hopefully, more relaxed. Is it as simple as taking a deep breath?
“Yeah, get out of the box, take a nice breath and relax,” Piniella said. “What happens invariably is you create a little tension, and I’m not talking about Bradley in particular, but you start using your bigger muscles and you don’t get through the ball. It’s the same thing as when you play golf — the first thing they tell you is to hold the club nice and loose. When you hit the ball, that’s when you tighten up. It’s the same thing hitting a baseball.”
— Carrie Muskat