On the level: Wrigley ready for Opener
Smoother playing field among changes after drainage project
CHICAGO -- It was a strange sight Sunday at Wrigley Field. There was Lou Piniella, in uniform, but wearing a Cubs edition knit cap, running up the bullpen mound from left field.
He did it a few times. An offseason drainage project resulted in a more level playing field at Wrigley, but there are a few tweaks that may need to be made. The slope from the outfield to the bullpen mounds on both sides of the field seems more steep than in the past.
"I asked both outfielders, [Alfonso] Soriano and [Kosuke] Fukudome to check to see if we need to slope the bullpens a little differently because they're right on the foul lines," Piniella said.
Fukudome noticed it.
"As long as I'm aware of where the mound is, I don't think it will be a factor," he said, through interpreter Ryuji Araki. "You don't see that in Japan, so it's going to take more than one game to get used to it."
What was his first impression of Wrigley?
"It's cold," Fukudome said.
It was a chilly 43 degrees for Sunday's workout. The forecast for Opening Day on Monday calls for rain late in the afternoon -- hopefully after the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers are finished.
The Cubs' bullpen also seems closer to the field than before because of the addition of the 71 Chicago Board Options Exchange seats near the dugout. The tarp also has been moved from the left-field line to the right-field side, closer to first base. Derrek Lee will want to be careful with popups in foul territory. Lee did notice the changes.
"It's a lot more level," Lee said of the field. "It's not as drastic a change as I expected in my mind. It's definitely different. I think in the summer, the field will play even better."
That's because the grass is a little short now, and the infield dirt is soft, but the infield grass is much faster than it has been in years past at Wrigley.
"The field is good," Piniella said. "The grass needs to grow a little bit. The cold weather has prevented that. They've done a nice job. From the dugout, you can see the whole field now."
Before, Piniella could barely see the right fielder from his dugout perch. When 5-foot 10-inch Sam Fuld was in right, Piniella could only see his hat.
"They put some padding on the seats in the dugout so it's a little more comfortable," he said of the dark green cushions on top of the wooden dugout bench.
However, there's no padding on the visitor's dugout.
"I like that," Lee said, laughing. "That's good."
Let's see if Milwaukee's Ned Yost notices.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.