Just before the off-day (oooh, more cuts soon), the Cubs hosted the Rangers and sent some B-listers to Phoenix to face off against the A’s. OMG Yoenis Cespedes! Also, Neftali Feliz, who is being moved to the Rangers’ rotation last I checked, started against the Cubs in Mesa. Lots of intriguing stories to follow that aren’t necessarily Cub-related.
Texas sent out most of its B-listers against Ryan Dempster. The only true regular was Mike Napoli, who DH’ed for the Rangers and who probably has a new phone number now. Neftali Feliz was cruising along in the first until Starlin Castro hit a gapper with two outs for what Len Kasper called a “hustle triple”, just beating the relay throw. Castro was left stranded, but the aggressive baserunning continues and could have led to a gift run. Dempster gave up a two-run homer to Dusty Brown the next inning (a couple deep flyouts in this frame!). He was helped by battery-mate Geovany Soto, who gunned down two guys trying to steal second. Soto can’t really help Dempster when he can’t throw strikes though, but Demp only gave up two walks all told.
Feliz was done after three full because of a stiff shoulder but the Cubs couldn’t score against him anyway so it was a decent outing, hopefully he is okay. Former broken Cub Neal Cotts replaced Feliz in relief, and with some excellent baserunning and fortuitous (lack of) defense, the Cubs got on the board on a solid hit-turned-triple by Blake DeWitt that scored Jeff Baker, before scoring himself on a sacrifice fly by Reed Johnson. Cubs might have scored more runs, but Dempster got a couple at-bats and didn’t do much with them, which I’m sure is annoying to folks who hate the DH but also hate pitchers who can’t hit for crap. To his credit, Dempster was able to get his spring ERA under 4 and got through six effective innings, basically a quality start. If I’m not mistaken this is the first time this spring a Cubs starter has gone six innings.
Carlos Marmol pitched the seventh and got a new battery partner in Welington Castillo. Sounds like Marmol still has the huge follow-through after each pitch, and in typical Marmol fashion he had to hit at least one batter, but his outing was cut short when the coaching staff checked on some hand ailment (possibly a fingernail or a blister) and pulled him as a precaution. Carrie Muskat says it was a cramp but he’ll have MRIs just to be safe. Rule 5 pick Lendy Castillo, who might stick on the roster due to his performance so far and his edge given baseball’s transaction rules, got the last out to end that inning but took the loss. Tough to win when you only score two runs.
In Phoenix, the Cubs struck first as Tony Campana doubled (!) to lead off the game and scored the first run on a single by Joe Mather, who’s gunning for Tony’s job. Ian Stewart made a weird error on a foul pop-up but Rodrigo Lopez pitched around that and was generally effective through five innings. I doubt he’ll even make it into the bullpen, so I wonder what the Cubs will do with Lopez. Release? Send to Iowa? Try to trade him to some unsuspecting GM? It’s spring training, of course, but you have to be embarrassed if Rodrigo frackin’ Lopez is striking you out. The Cubs were winning until the last of the ninth when the A’s forced extras.
Anyway, it seemed like third basemen were getting picked on unfairly all day in both locales, lots of dribblers and infield hits rolled towards the hot corner. The Cubs had an easier time scoring against Oakland compared to against Texas despite the away squad being mostly second-stringers. Even Tony Campana had four hits to try to save his job. Baseball is a funny game.
If you were wondering how Cespedes did, he went 2-for-5 with a strikeout, a run scored, and grounded into a double play to end the game in a tie. Exciting.
The Cubs take the day off tomorrow and then are back at it against the Rangers. Maybe we’ll get lucky and see Yu Darvish for a few innings, although he’d only be going on two days of rest so probably not.