Kosuke Fukodome is back with the Chicago Cubs in Mesa, Arizona. He is expected to play in his 1st spring training game on Friday against the Chicago White Sox.
Fukodome had been playing with Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic prior to joining the Cubs this week. He had only 4 hits in 20 at-bats during the WBC, but did draw 7 walks for a .407 on-base percentage.
After having a great start to his rookie MLB season in 2008 (.300+ batting average during the first 40 games of the season), Fukodome struggled in the 2nd half – hitting only .217 after the All-Star Break.
For the 2009 MLB season, Manager Lou Pinella has indicated that Fukodome will likely split time in center field with Reed Johnson and bat 2nd in the lineup against right-handed pitching.
Fukodome is the big “X Factor” for the Cubs this year. If he can show that he consistently hit major league pitching during the course of the year, the Cubs lineup with be vastly improved. If he continues to struggle, we might start seeing Fukodome play in late-inning situations only where his defensive abilities could help preserve some Cubs wins.