The Cubs were on the road against the Rockies and hosting the Diamondbacks at home today. Since it was split-squad, there were some guys sticking around despite having been demoted or assigned to minor league camp. Some of them even played the whole game. I barely paid attention because UNC-Asheville was trying to upset Syracuse, but ran out of steam. That would have been a major bracket-buster for sure. I turned on the Rockies’ feed around the sixth inning but was still distracted by March Madness. As a baseball fan you kind of have to appreciate the unpredictability of a single game even though it’s basketball. The basketball was a lot more exciting than the baseball as the Cubs dropped both contests.
When I did switch the game on, Brett Jackson had just struck out (he tripled earlier though) and Welington Castillo was out on the infield fly rule. Junior Lake killed a baseball to put the Cubs ahead. Looking in the earlier innings, Rodrigo Lopez wasn’t as sharp as he could have been (he did get smacked by a comebacker but stayed in), giving up a two-run homer among six hits over his three innings. In case you were wondering, former Cubs legend Tyler Colvin had a couple of sacrifice flies, including one that tied the game. My feed cut out at some point so you’ll just have to check the box scores. Bryan LaHair figured out something and had three hits, but struck out looking to end the game.
In Mesa against the D’Backs, Ryan Dempster got smacked around for eight hits, including a homer by former Cub Henry Blanco. Carlos Marmol came in for relief and seemed to have settled down, giving up only one hit and one walk and no runs in his inning of work, but Kerry Wood followed and loaded the bases after being plagued by a stream of seeing-eye grounders, which led to a ton of runs. The Cubs offense couldn’t muster anything against Ian Kennedy, who got some Cy Young consideration last season. They didn’t even score until the seventh inning.
Marlon Byrd, Starlin Castro and Geovany Soto were able to get a couple hits each, however. The hits are coming, they just need to string together enough of them to get guys home. The Cubs pitching was terrible in this one; probably still working on something, but giving up home runs is discouraging.
On the defensive side, Bobby Scales was in for the ailing Darwin Barney in Mesa while Adrian Cardenas subbed in for Ian Stewart against the Rockies. Cardenas had a bunch of plays at the hot corner, fielding everything cleanly but just barely missing a couple outs as the Rockies had some speedy bastards who beat out the throws for infield singles. Welington Castillo had a throwing error on a caught-stealing attempt. The little speedy buttholes stole four bases off poor Welington, but he gunned down Troy Tulowitzki so all was not lost. Interestingly, nobody tried to steal while Soto was in the game against the Diamondbacks.
Fun note: Bob Brenly’s son, Michael Brenly hit a solo homer against the Diamondbacks. I’m sure Bob is gushing over the grit and heart his son showed in getting that big hit. He’s probably playing the game the right way.
In another note, it’s really annoying how they keep putting Brett Jackson in a corner spot when he should be playing center field. Yeah, Tony Campana has more range. Yeah, Joe Mather needs to show he can handle it since he’s competing for a bench job. But put the best defender in CF, will ya? I’m sure Jackson can handle all three outfield spots fine without losing his ability to patrol center, but it’s one of those tiny things that irks me.
I can’t say that either split squad played particularly well based on the snippets I heard. I’m more interested in what happens later on in Cactus League play when the rosters shrink more and you see the starting pitchers and position players go deeper into games. That will better resemble games in the regular season. I liked that Cardenas showed he could handle third base, although I don’t think he hits for enough power to be any more than a backup there. They should try him at 2B more. He’s probably not going to make the MLB squad, but might at least encourage the Cubs brass to keep him around as a midseason option if he continues to show on-base skills and that he can play some defense.
The Cubs host the Giants in Mesa tomorrow, which you can hear on MLB.com audio. Will Tony Campana ever get a hit, much less hit a home run? If you think he can, enter our contest and maybe you can win some free swag.