Defensively Speaking

Spring Training Game Sixteen – Cubs 6 White Sox 7
WP – Bobby Jenks (1-0, BS 1) LP – Carmen Pignatiello (0-1)

Many questioned some of the moves the Cubs made in the off-season not from an offensive standpoint but from a defensive one. This team is going to hit and score runs, there is too much talent and baring injuries, they will put up runs on a daily basis. But some of the players they acquired are less known for their glove than their bat. The defense in the outfield in Tucson on Friday was less than electric….pardon the pun. Cliff Floyd can hit the cover off the ball but his badly miss played ball in the 2nd inning cost the Cubs runs and their fragile pitcher confidence. Felix Pie made a “rookie” mistake….he threw to 3rd instead of hitting the cut off man, which put a runner into scoring position.

Angel Guzman pitched better than his line indicates and the walk he gave up to Juan Uribe was more than earned….Uribe fouled off at least 6 quality pitches from Guzman before drawing the free pass. The Cubs defense cost Guzman at least 3 of the runs he was charged with and started the 3-run 4th inning that Guzman was unable to finish.

Angel Guzman still has a lot of work to do, but he pitched very well against a good White Sox offense. Rob Mackowiak killed Cub pitching all day, including the game winning bloop single to shallow center in the 9th. Juan Uribe and Mackowiak were a combined 6-8 with a walk, 3 runs scored and 2 RBI’s.

Guzman consistently threw in the low to mid 90′s an even reached 96 a couple of times. He had a good curve and changeup and was able to locate all of his pitches. A report on Cubs.com mentioned the fact Guzman needs to learn how to finish off hitters and that is a very fair assessment. Guzman was ahead in the count on most of the hitters he faced but was unable to record a single strikeout. While strikeouts are not the measure of success, being ahead in the count 0-2 or 1-2 to multiple batters must result in at least an out. Of the 18 batters he faced, 5 outs were on the ground and 4 were in the air….1 walk, 1 hit batsman and the rest were hits (7). As mentioned….he threw the ball better than that.

Derrek Lee helped Guzman in the 1st with two very good scoops out of the dirt and Henry Blanco threw out Scott Podsednik attempting to steal 2nd. In the 2nd inning, Joe Crede singled to left to start the inning, Rob Mackowiak singled to center and advanced to 2nd with some heads up base running….Pie tried to throw out Crede at 3rd on a soft single to center, missed the cut off man and Mackowiak advanced. Tadahito Iguchi then hit a sharp single to left, Cliff Floyd tried to make a “shoe string” catch and the ball rolled to the wall for a triple (note the phrase “shoe string” was used very loosely, it was not that close). Guzman settled down and retired Toby Hall on a pop out to Blanco. Uribe walked and Podsednik tried to bunt for a single but Lee threw to Guzman to retire the side.

In the 4th, Mackowiak was credited with an infield single with 1-out. Mark DeRosa made a good play to get to the ball, dove but was unable to come up with the ball cleanly and make a play. He hit Iguchi in the elbow (he left the game). Hall singled to left to score Mackowiak and Uribe singled to center to chase Guzman from the game. Ryan O’Malley replaced Guzman and gave up a sacrifice fly to Podsednik….Guzman’s line on the day: 3 1/3 IP, 7 hits, 5 earned, 1 walk and no strikeouts.

Ryan O’Malley gave up back-to-back walks to Jim Thome and Paul Konerko to start the 5th. Mackowiak singled to right to load the bases. O’Malley exited and Rock Cherry induced a grounder off the bat of Robert Valido, DeRosa made a good play but they were unable to turn the inning ending double play. Cherry retired the Sox in order in the 6th and continues to be the leader in the clubhouse for a spot in the bullpen.

The 7th inning saw the second appearance of the spring for Roberto Novoa. He retired the Sox in order with help from Buck Coats in left. Novoa kept everything away and did not challenge one batter with a pitch on the inside part of the plate. In the 8th, Michael Wuertz made his spring debut and threw the ball well and was helped out of a jam by a 5-4-3 double play. Wuertz gave up 2 hits and struck out 1 in his inning of work.

Lead off walks have cost this organization so many wins….as a staff they have to throw strikes regardless of the defense that is behind them. Carmen Pignatiello walked Jim Thome to start the 9th after the Cubs battled back to win the game….granted it is “just spring training” but how does the saying go….”you play like you practice”? The Sox played fundamental ball and won the game. Konerko singled, Josh Fields sacrificed Sweeney to 3rd (nice bunt) and Mackowiak singled in the winning run….but without the leadoff walk….

Javier Vazquez had the Cubs number on Friday and had (easily) his best out of the spring. He recorded 6 strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings, walked 1 and gave up a home run to Matt Murton. Murton’s leadoff homer in the 2nd was a shot to left….his 3rd of the spring. In the 4th, Jacque Jones singled, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a bad throw from Hall and scored on a single to right by Ronny Cedeno. In the 5th, Theriot singled to right, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and scored on a Derrek Lee single to left field.

The Cubs offense was quieted by a couple of fine defensive plays by the Sox until the 9th and Bobby Jenks. Jenks could not find the strike zone and looked horrible on the mound. He walked Tomas Perez to start the inning and Jake Fox doubled to right center. Fox has had a great week….. Felix Pie walked after laying off a couple of very close pitches. With the bases loaded, Casey McGehee cleared them. A double to right scored 3 and with no outs it looked good for the Cubs. Koyie Hill then lined out to 2nd and a very good, quick play by Robert Valido, doubled off McGehee at 2nd.

The Cubs defense, especially in the outfield, has to be addressed. Alfonso Soriano has done fine in center to this point and Jacque Jones has made a handful of very good catches in right, but Floyd has to improve if the Cubs are planning on playing him at all in the field. Angel Guzman needs to turn the corner he has last two starts of the spring or he will be packing his bags for Iowa to start the season. Guzman showed he has the ability to get major leaguers to swing and miss, now he needs to learn how to finish them off.

Box Score from MLB.com

The Cubs will face Greg Maddux for the second time this spring on Saturday at HoHoKam. Rich Hill is scheduled to start for the Cubs.

Quote of the Day

"It's not that some people have willpower and some don't. It's that some people are ready to change and others are not." - James Gordon
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