Spring Training Game Twenty-Nine – Cubs 4 Rockies 4 – 10 innings
The second to last game at HoHoKam was once again a capacity crowd. This is just a guess but I do not think it had anything to do with the Cubs taking on the Colorado Rockies. Mark Prior was making his final Cactus League start of the year, and of course people came out to see him pitch. But the buzz in the crowd today was of boredom and the same old story….attitude. Spring Training is coming to a close and Kerry Wood will start the year on the DL and Mark Prior, well, he will be starting the season at Iowa. They may have the same story, but for one reason or another the Cubs Faithful have completely different attitudes towards each player. There is still a great deal of love for Kerry Wood, granted there is some frustration, but there is still love. As Prior took the mound today, I sat back and listened to the crowd, there is no love, just frustration with some disgust on the side. The gentleman next to me got out his camera and said, “I better get a picture of Prior quick, who knows how long he will be out there.” He laughed the whole time he took the photo; you know one of those, “what happened to this kid” laughs. I am glad he got his picture, because Prior’s outing did not last too long after all. On to the game…. In the top of the first Willy Taveras worked the count on Prior to 2-2 before he hit a single up the middle. Kaz Matsui then hit a shot to center that was misplayed by Alfonso Soriano and eventually reached the wall. Taveras scored and Matsui was standing at second by the time the ball reached the infield. Soriano did not look good in center today; he had one error but misplayed three balls. I know the desert sun is horrible and it is a new position, but Soriano’s adventures in center could become a nightmare at Wrigley. I know we do not have the “desert sun” but we do have wind, a lot of wind and it can be very difficult to judge a fly ball hit into the outfield….especially for a second baseman turned left fielder turned center fielder. I wish him the best of luck but I think this is going to be a trying year defensively for our $136 million dollar man.
Back to the game….Prior struck out Garrett Atkins and walked Todd Helton, and threw a wild pitch in the process. Matt Holliday flied out to Cliff Floyd, who was really moving to get to the ball, moving so much he could not stop and he tried to pitch the ball to Izturis but threw it away. Floyd was charged with his first of two errors of the day. Finley flied out to Soriano to end the inning and the Rockies led the Cubs 2-0, all unearned runs. I paid very close attention to the pitches that Prior was throwing in the top of the first. I thought the first inning was going to set the table for the afternoon. Granted he made it out of the inning without giving up an earned run, but he went deep into the count with every batter he faced. He did not look horrible, but he did not look like a guy battling for a spot in a major league rotation.
The Cubs’ offense did not do much in the first and looked like their defense on the other side of the ball….lazy. The Rockies’ offense, however, started right up again in the second with a double to right center by Troy Tulowitzki that Soriano and Jones both watched fall in between them. I do not know if they held up because they were afraid of a collision, but you know what they say in football….looks like the alligator arms came out on that one. I am pretty sure Randy Moss and T.O. were not dressed up as Cubs this afternoon. The horrible defense continued, but this time in left. Willy Taveras hit a line drive to Floyd, Cliff dove, misplayed the ball and the ball rolled passed him. He immediately got up and here is where I almost chocked on my incredibly tasty, salted peanut. While trying to get the ball back into the infield he threw the ball directly into the ground….the ball left his hand and went immediately into the ground. So now we have a left fielder AND a right fielder that like to torpedo the ball into the ground….great!!! A run scored on the play but Prior struck out Matsui to end the inning. Rockies 3 Cubs 0.
The Cubs again were silenced in the second. The Rockies did not too much either in the third, but as it turned out, the third inning would be the last work for Prior on the day. He walked Garrett Atkins, Helton flied out to Aramis in foul territory; Holliday flied out to DeRosa and Prior ended his outing by striking out Steve Finley. He also threw a wild pitch during Finley’s at bat, his second of the day. While writing this recap I found out that Prior was sent to Iowa, could this possibly be the end of Prior in a Cubs’ uniform? I do not think they are giving up on him yet, but I do not think we will see him in Wrigley for quite some time.
Hank White jump-started the Cubs’ offense in the third with a double to center that was later ruled a two base error. This would have been a single on last year’s squad but everyone is hustling (besides Cliff Floyd) and Blanco reached second. Prior’s pinch hitter, good ole #93, (Kyle Reynolds) flied out and Soriano hit a two run shot to left center. I forgot about his horrible fielding after his home run, and this is how he will win the heart of Chicago. Izturis and Lee ended the inning with groundouts.
Michael Wuertz took the hill in the fourth inning and walked the first batter he faced on four pitches. During this time I got extremely upset that he was going to take Rocky Cherry’s spot on the roster. Rocky had a great spring and as far as I am concerned he deserves a spot. I talked to him this morning as he as walking back from BP and I asked him if he had any news on breaking camp with the club. He told me he would be optioned to Iowa. I told him I was sorry and he said its ok he will be at Wrigley very soon. I really do hope so, I think we have some holes in the pen and he would be a great addition. My worries were then silenced by Wuertz….as he struck out two and walked just one, getting out of the inning unscathed.
I am going to sum up the rest of the game; I wanted to focus on Prior as I know that is what everyone wants to read about. The Rockies scored one more run in the fifth off of Angel Guzman. Guzman gave up one run on two hits over three innings of relief. He almost lost his hand in the fifth when Helton hit a line drive back up the middle, Guzman tried to catch the ball with his glove hand. The problem was the ball was shot out of a rocket launcher and took Angel’s glove right off of his hand. Literally took off his glove but he recovered and threw out Helton at first. The Cubs scored two more runs in the sixth when D-Lee and Aramis hit back-to-back jacks and tied the score 4-4. And that would be our final after 10 innings of play, 4-4.
There was a lot of sloppy play, and a lot of hustle. Leaving spring training I can honestly say there is way more good going on with this club than bad. I have never seen so much hustle from the Cubs. And I think we all know this is Sweet Lou demanding hard play day in and day out. And I think the most important part of this club that I noticed was patience at the plate. This team is going to hit a ton of long balls, and we need to make sure ducks are on the pond for the big flys. The count can be 0-2 and Jacque Jones will work the count and end up getting a walk, or the count will be 1-2 and Cedeno will get the free pass. Last year they would of K’d with their eyes closed. This team is a lot better; win the division better and make waves in October better. I am not wearing my fan goggles and I did not drink anything blue during the game. I did have one beer and a bucket of lemonade….I swear you cannot get a “cup” of Lemonade, just buckets.
The Cubs play their last game in the desert on Thursday against a split squad of Diamondbacks. The game starts an hour earlier, 2:05pm C.T. (12:05pm). Wade Miller is scheduled to make his final start of the spring against a familiar foe….Doug Davis. Randy Johnson was rumored to be making the start against the Cubs but he will pitch under the lights at Chase Field against the San Diego Padres.
The Cubs head to Vegas for Big League weekend following the game.
PS….Good Luck Prior, get your $*&@ together and play with the big boys.
PSS….Piniella, keep “The Tortoise” aka Cliff Floyd in the dugout and Matt Murton on the field.
Until Next Time….GO CUBBIES!!!