Based on casual conversations among media at Cubs camp the past few days, some of the shine seems to have worn off new guy Kosuke Fukudome. Whether it's Lou creating a few more expectations by slotting him third in his projected lineup or just the fact we've all seen the guy every day for two weeks now, more skepticism seems to be creeping into the talk. Will he be able to hit those ``moving fastballs'' he says he's not used to seeing? Can he handle the hype and pressure that comes with batting third in his first year in the majors? And what kind of power does he have?
But just one day after Piniella publicly mentioned that he hadn't shown much power in early-spring BP and suggested that might take awhile to come, Fukudome yanked three balls over the fence Monday in BP.
Don't think for a minute this guy isn't paying attention to every detail in camp. Or that he isn't a serious enough and smart enough hitter to make an impact out of the gate. Despite modestly telling Japanese reporters that Monday's shots went out because of the wind and telling me that he only hit them because he happened to get some pitches in his wheelhouse, it seems pretty clear he made a point. And I wouldn't be surprised to see him go back Tuesday to slapping the ball to all fields and working on getting ready for this week's exhibition opener.
It reminds me of the story Piniella tells about Ichiro's first spring with Seattle. After watching Ichiro spend his first couple of exhibition games slapping balls down the third-base line with enough monotony that the third baseman and left fielder started hugging the line, Piniella asked Ichiro's interpreter whether the former Japanese star could pull the ball.
Next at-bat: Ichiro lined a ball over the right field wall. And uipon returning to the dugout, before Piniella could say anything, Ichiro said, in English, ``Happy now?''