So much talk this off-season has been directed towards the Cubs’ youth – particularly in the infield. However, the mention of ‘youth’ in the Cubs outfield is most likely met with laughter, and for good reason.
This season the Cubs outfield will feature four players all above the age of 30.
Headed by the 36 year old Alfonso Soriano, Reed Johnson, 35, newcomer David DeJesus, 32, and the 35 year-old Marlon Bryd will chase down fly balls for the North siders in 2012.
As they say, it’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks - unless that dog’s name is Marlon.
It is no secret that the 36 year-old Soriano isn’t the 40 stolen bases a-year guy that he used to be. Given, with age comes degeneration - Marlon Byrd must have missed the memo.
A stronger, faster and noticeably leaner Marlon Byrd will man center field for the Cubs this season. Gliding and gracefully running down pop fly’s this spring, Byrd looks to be a rejuvenated player.
In the off-season Byrd lost a lot of weight, shedding 40 pounds. According to the outfielder his motivation was found in how last season ended for the veteran.
It was a moment he will never forget.
A rising fastball crashed into Byrd’s cheek and jaw last May, sidelining the then 35 year-old for six weeks. Even wearing a new protective helmet, the once energized Byrd seemed to fade upon his return to action as he hit for a career low .182 batting average down the stretch.
It seems the new-and-improved Byrd has found his groove once more at the plate this spring.
The lighter Marlon Byrd has carried a .302 spring batting average and boasts an impressive .768 OPS - no question, the improved numbers and the weight loss correlate.
That leaves only two remaining questions; will Byrd be able to generate more power with his weight loss? And, if so, will the outfielder even get to display his reenergized game in a Cubs uniform?
Since his arrival to Chicago, Byrd has hit a total of 21 homeruns. A disheartening number as that two-year total is still shy of the homerun numbers Byrd produced in his final season with the Rangers before being acquired by the Cubs. Surely, the fit Byrd is likely to see his numbers improve in terms of power this season – but, will the improvement be done in Cubbie blue?
Byrd’s name has been thrown around quite frequently in off-season trade rumors and it seems very likely that the club will look to deal him at some point with youngster Brett Jackson waiting in his shadows.
While Byrd is sure to improve statistically – his days in Chicago also seem numbered.
But, for now, Byrd is looking past the rumors, focusing on producing for the Cubs in 2012.
“That is just the business of baseball,” Byrd said. “When I was younger that stuff really hurt. Now you just roll with it. I am a Cub, period. I really do not think about the things I cannot control.”