A McLoss

Spring Training Game Seventeen – Cubs 3 Padres 7
WP – Andrew Brown (1-2) LP – Will Ohman (0-1)

Rich Hill had a rough start but settled down and retired the last 10 batters he faced. Marcus Giles greeted Hill with a leadoff triple on his first offering of the day. Jose Cruz, Jr. hit a 2-run homer in the 2nd inning that accounted for the other 2 runs Hill allowed on the day. Hill had problems with location early but as mentioned settled down and pitched 5 innings, gave up 3 runs on 3 hits struck out 4 and for the third start this spring, he did not give up a free pass.

Derrek Lee drove in all three Cub runs on the day on a monster home run to left that actually left the park on a bounce. Lee finished the day 2-4….the other hit, a double. The offense had opportunities but could not cash them in and every pitcher, with the exception of Carlos Marmol, allowed at least one run on the day.

Rich Hill froze Brian Giles twice and the veteran accounted for half of Hill’s strikeouts. The Padres hit Hill hard early as he struggled with his location. Hill had trouble keeping the ball down and the Cubs recorded a lot of fly outs while he was on the mound (7 fly outs to 4 ground outs). The Cubs defense helped Hill early, Mark DeRosa made a couple of good plays and showed off the range he did early in the spring….Aramis Ramirez made a couple of fine plays as well and Jacque Jones made a great diving catch on a ball Soriano lost in the sun. After the homer by Cruz in the 2nd Hill just allowed a pinch hit single by Paul McAnulty and appeared to get stronger as the game went on.

Will Ohman took over in the 6th and gave up a lead off triple to the other Giles brother….Brian. Jacque Jones tried to make a diving catch (he came close) and the ball rolled all the way to the fence in right. Ohman was able get the next 2 outs (ground out to short by Geoff Blum and a strikeout by Todd Walker) but Kevin Kouzmanoff singled in the go ahead run. Ohman settled down and after a stolen base by Kouzmanoff (he advanced to 3rd on a bad throw by Michael Barrett that hit him) he struck out Cruz to end the inning.

Carlos Marmol pitched the 7th and had location problems. He gave up a double and a 2-out walk before he was done for the day. Marmol will benefit from time in the minors and could figure into their future plans in the pen. Marmol has electric stuff but he has yet learned how to throw strikes on a consistent basis….despite his bad location he was the only Cub pitcher to not allow a run on the day.

To say Neal Cotts has struggled this spring would be an understatement….and his problems continued on Saturday. Granted this is spring training but after the year he had with the Sox and all indications in the off-season were the Cubs were planning on him competing for the 5th spot in the rotation, one would expect Cotts to have thrown the ball better in Mesa. Cotts has gotten shelled and of the six batters he faced on Saturday, he pitched from behind in the count to five of them. In 8 innings (5 games) he has given up 12 runs, 8 earned, on 19 hits. His first walk of the spring scored on Kuzmanoff’s home run just to the left of straight away center….the biggest part of the park. The pitch from Cotts had little to no movement and was right down the proverbial main street. Cotts finished his outing with a strikeout of Josh Howard. On the day Cotts pitched one inning, gave up 2 runs on 2 hits, walked a batter and struck out a batter.

Les Walrond pitched the 9th and gave up a run on 2 hits and should be among the next round of cuts. The Padres hit Cub pitching extremely hard all day in the hot air of Mesa, of the 10 hits they recorded, 6 of them were for extra bases (2 doubles, 2 triples and 2 home runs).

The Cubs offense had plenty of opportunities and left 10 on base. The new approach of the Cubs at the plate this spring is very refreshing to say the least and was a topic of conversation during the game with hitting coach Gerald Perry. The Cubs walked 5 times on the day and one of the free passes (Soriano in the 1st) scored. Cesar Izturis walked 2 more times and could end up being a very good 8-hole hitter for the Cubs….he has walked a team high 7 times this spring in 10 games.

The only runs on the day for the Cubs came in the first after Alfonso Soriano led off with a walk, Matt Murton hit behind Soriano and singled to right. Murton has done an excellent job this spring hitting to all fields and taking pitches; he hit the ball in the hole vacated by Todd Walker with Soriano on 1st base. Derrek Lee then gave the Cubs the brief lead. Other than a very good at bat by Jacque Jones later in the inning and a double by Derrek Lee in 3rd the offense was non-existent.

As the exhibition season draws to an end, roles will start to take shape and the regulars will play later in the games. Rich Hill is scheduled to pitch the 2nd half of he game against the Padres in Peoria on Thursday with Mark Prior scheduled to start the game. There are still a lot of questions surrounding the pitching staff. While the likes of Carlos Zambrano, Jason Marquis, Ted Lilly and Rich Hill have done a good job to this point, there are holes in the bullpen that needs to be filled.

Box Score from MLB.com

The Cubs travel to Tempe on Sunday to face the Angels. Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to throw against John Lackey.

Quote of the Day

"There are places I remember. All my life though some have changed. Some forever not for better. Some have gone and some remain. All these places have their moments ... " John Lennon/Paul McCartney