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A Long Fly Ball

We're a little late with the afternoon post today because I needed to stay out on the back fields and watch some BP. And I'm glad I did. Wily Mo Pena put on a jaw-dropping display of raw power, crushing a couple of homers to left that nearly hit the batting cages some 50 feet beyond the wall, then a couple to left-center that nearly reached the parking lot.

Pena was in a hitting group with Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge -- three Jim Bowden acquisitions, three very talented players who were not with this team a year ago.

"We've added more speed and more power," Bowden said. "We had some weak spots in the lineup last year -- particularly center field and catcher, and that along with the pitcher [batting] in our league makes it very difficult to score runs unless you have Albert Pujols or Ryan Howard in the middle of your lineup. So we worked hard to try to add some speed and power, and try to fix two positions that hadn't been producing much offense."

Dukes, meantime, struggled a little bit in the cage, popping a few balls up into the netting and yanking a lot of balls foul down the left field line. But when he connected with one, it was impressive, and I was impressed with the way he rode some outside pitches to the opposite field. Dukes was getting some personalized instruction at the side of the cage from Barry Larkin, who worked with Dukes extensively this winter in Orlando.

Milledge looked good also, particularly during the situational-hitting drills at the start of the BP round, in which the hitters are told to simulate certain situations -- like hit-and-run, moving a runner over, getting a runner home from third, etc. Those are essential attributes for a No. 2 hitter, which is where Manny Acta has said he envisions Milledge batting. The kid has power, too. It's just that anyone who hits in the same group as Wily Mo Pena is naturally going to come off looking wimpy.

By Dave Sheinin  |  February 22, 2008; 1:23 PM ET
 
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