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Cubs pitchers still warming up to new Wrigley Field bullpens

The Wrigley Field bullpens, which used to be on the field near the fans, have been moved under the bleachers starting this year.

It created enough of a foreign sensation for Jon Lester that he had somebody open the door while he warmed up before the Cubs’ home opener Monday.

Cubs relievers lament the loss of their don’t-flinch game they used to play involving hot foul balls to left field.

And then there’s the whole caged-animal feeling.

“It’s like we’re being watched in a zoo,” reliever Justin Grimm said of the new bullpens under the bleachers at Wrigley Field that feature windows for passing fans to peer into.

As part of the ongoing renovations, the most conspicuous change to the playing field this year is the removal of the bullpens from foul territory, leaving only Oakland and San Francisco with that feature.

“I’m going to miss being on the field, for sure,” reliever Mike Montgomery said. “We’ve got to get adjusted to it.”

Three games into the home schedule, pitchers said the best parts about their new bullpen are the warmth, climate control and absence of field conditions and fan noise.

“It’s different,” Lester said. “When the doors are closed, it feels like you’re in an offseason training facility throwing a bullpen [session], with ESPN on the TV. I think it’s going to take a little bit for our guys to get used to it. I know for me it’s going to take a little bit of time.

“It’s nice warming up in the warmer environment than what it was outside. But anytime you have change, it’s going to take a little bit of getting used to.”

The difference in warmup conditions compared to game conditions can affect the pitchers’ grip when he first enters the game, Grimm said.

“You get nice and warm in there, so you’re body feels good,” Grimm said. “The only adjustment you have to make from this bullpen compared to the last one is you don’t have the elements, so the ball is a little more slippery in your hand because it’s hot under there.

“But this game’s about making adjustments. We only have to deal with it for another month or so. It’s going to get warm, and it’s going to be all good.”

The biggest loss, both for fans and bullpen denizens, is the end of the tough-man game bullpen catcher Chad Noble instigated — bullpen guys on their chairs challenged to remain still when foul balls arrive screaming into the area.

“That stinks,” Grimm said. “We can’t take balls off the knees, the face and shoulders.”

If they miss it that much, they always could throw the balls at each other in the new pen.

“I guess we could,” Grimm said. “But now they’ve got a camera down there, so we’ve got to be careful [in] what we do.”

Rondon’s MRI clean

Reliever Hector Rondon, who banged his left knee covering the plate in the ninth inning Wednesday, had an MRI exam Thursday, and the team said the results came back clean.

Rondon, who said he initially felt a “pop” in the knee on the play, threw on the side and felt much better, manager Joe Maddon said.

Maddon said he likely will give Rondon an extra day off.

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.



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