All About the Pitching

Spring Training Game Eleven – Cubs 5 Royals 6
WP – Jason Cromer (1-0) LP – Mark Prior (0-1) Save – Gabe DeHoyos (1)

Not too long ago names like Mark Prior and Angel Guzman gave the Faithful hope for a brighter tomorrow, they were two of a hand full of pitchers that were supposed to lead the Cubs staff for years and in turn the Cubs would be perennial favorites, year after year. Fast-forward to Spring Training 2007 and both pitchers are competing for the same spot in the rotation. On Saturday, they both pitched in the same game with different results….

Buck Coats continued to impress on Saturday at the plate and in the field, as well as Ryan Theriot, who started at 3rd and made a couple of fine defensive plays. Jake Fox hit a 2-run homer in the 9th but the story on Saturday was the pitching staff.

The Cubs used just three pitchers on Saturday, not the parade of arms that is typically on display during an exhibition game. Lou Piniella and his staff have some hard decisions to make soon and unfortunately for Mark Prior his performance did not help his cause to make the team.

Ted Lilly threw the ball well and allowed 1 run on 3 hits in 3 innings of work. He did not walk a batter and has yet to allow a free pass in 5 innings of work this spring, Lilly did strikeout 2. The home plate umpire, Angel Campos, had a very tight strike zone for both teams all day. Several of the pitches Lilly made should have been called strikes; he was around the plate all day and appeared to be locating the ball well. Lilly kept the ball down but due to an error by Ronny Cedeno, he had to pitch his way out of trouble. Cedeno booted a ball off the bat of Esteban German for his 3rd error of the spring. Reggie Sanders then doubled past a diving Ryan Theriot to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with just 1 out. Lilly retired Mike Sweeney and was able to induce a ground ball off the bat of Emil Brown, a routine play to Mark DeRosa, to end the inning.

In the 2nd the Royals tied the game on a broken bat single to center off the bat of Andres Blanco that scored Ryan Shealy. But Lilly was able to induce another ground ball, thanks to a very good play by Theriot at 3rd, to end the inning. Lilly’s fastball clocked in the high 80′s on the afternoon but he showed good location and he was around the plate all day. Several times on the afternoon it was unclear if Lilly was trying to throw the “perfect” pitch or if the home plate umpire’s strike zone was just that small. But the bottom line is Ted Lilly had a good outing in his first spring start.

Mark Prior pitched in the 4th and 5th innings and had a hard time throwing strikes and was touched up for 4 runs in the 5th inning. Prior’s velocity is still down, he was throwing in the mid to upper 80′s and registered 88 a couple of times on the gun. He threw 17 pitches in the 4th, 9 for strikes and his fastball was up. Alex S. Gonzalez (yes that Alex Gonzalez, the one that Prior will be forever linked to) singled off of him in the 4th and one of his 3 walks on the afternoon, John Buck, followed the single by Gonzalez. Prior was able to pitch out of the 2-out trouble without allowing a run. He recorded 2 ground outs and a fly out in the 4th. The 5th inning was an entirely different story.

David DeJesus homered off of Prior to right, the ball was up in the zone, Henry Blanco was setup down and inside….Prior missed badly. He then walked German on 4 pitches, he stole 2nd and advanced to 3rd on a throwing error by Blanco (the ball skipped past DeRosa into center). He walked Mike Sweeney and Ryan Shealy singled to center. Alex Gonzalez doubled off the base of the center field wall to score Sweeney and Shealy. Prior’s performance has to be concerning for the Cubs, he did not look confident on the mound. He threw 22 pitches in the 5th….10 strikes. In his 2 innings of work….39 pitches, 19 strikes.

Angel Guzman took the hill in the 6th and pitched the last 3 innings of the game. In the 6th Guzman threw 14 pitches, 9 strikes and recorded all 3 of his outs on the ground. Other than a infield single and stolen base by Esteban German, the 6th was uneventful for the Royals against Guzman. The Royals scored a run in the 7th on a bloop single by Ryan Shealy over the head of Micah Hoffpauir….the only run on the afternoon Guzman allowed. In the 8th, after a single to left by German, Buck Coats threw out Shane Costa attempting to go from 1st to 3rd on a single to left. Coats threw a perfect strike to nail him at 3rd….the second perfect throw in less than a week by Coats. Guzman did hit one of the Royals prize prospects, Billy Butler, before striking out Graham Koonce to end the inning. Guzman threw the ball well and hit 97 MPH on the gun.

Former Cub farmhand Richard Lewis made an appearance.

Saturday was not about the offense but Ryan Theriot was 2-4 on the day with a RBI and a run scored out of the lead off spot. Theriot played a solid 3rd base and made several good plays. Buck Coats was 1-4 on the afternoon with his third double of the spring. Mike Kinkade was hit in the hand by Brandon Duckworth, left the game and will have his hand x-rayed. Jake Fox had a double and a 2-run home run on the afternoon. He finished the day 2-2 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s. Fox also committed the 3rd error on the afternoon on an attempted throw to 2nd on a stolen base attempt by Ross Gload. The ball sailed into right center….with the way he can hit, the Cubs should find him another position they can utilize him at.

Ted Lilly and Angel Guzman both had good afternoons. They gave up a combined 2 runs on 8 hits in 6 innings of work and struck out 3….while not allowing a single free pass. Guzman’s performance prompted the following quote from Mark DeRosa:

“Maybe this Guzman guy will be our 5th starter with the way he is throwing.”

Box Score from MLB.com

The Cubs will host the Brewers on Sunday afternoon. Jason Marquis is scheduled to make his 3rd start of the spring against the Brewers Claudio Vargas. Kerry Wood is also scheduled to pitch on Sunday.

Quote of the Day

"Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome." - Arthur Ashe
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