Spring Training Game One – Cubs 2 Giants 9
WP – Barry Zito (1-0) LP – Jason Marquis (0-1)
The scene was the same as years past when the Cubs opened their Cactus League schedule on Thursday. HoHoKam Park was as beautiful as always, the grass the perfect shade of green and it made everyone in attendance forget it is still winter in most places of the country. The park had received a few changes over the past 12 months, most notably an improved PA system. But that was not the only change something was different than in previous years, the atmosphere was more business like than the recent opening days of spring.
While the outcome was not what Lou Piniella would have wanted with the team committing 3 errors and allowing 7 unearned runs, the projected starters looked good in the field but left a lot to be desired at the plate. A trio of Giants pitchers, including Barry Zito and Russ Ortiz held the Cubs offense to just 2 hits in the first 6 innings while not allowing a single run. Alfonso Soriano hit in the leadoff spot and he went to the plate swinging. Soriano battled Zito to start the game and fought off several quality pitches, 8 to be exact, before striking out swinging. Soriano was 0 for 2 on the day along with Matt Murton. Murton however made both outs to the right side of the field and looked as if he were practicing hitting the ball to the opposite field. Derrek Lee recorded the first Cubs’ hit of the day, a broken bat single to center but he was stranded at first when Aramis Ramirez flied out to deep right (just missed it) after getting ahead of Zito (3-0) in the count. The only other starter to record a hit was Cesar Izturis in the 3rd on his only at bat of the day.
The Cubs offense looked rusty to say the least but Barry Zito did look sharp in his Giants debut. The Cubs runs came in the 7th and 8th inning after all of the starters had been removed in the top of the 6th. The Cubs should have scored one more run on the day but Mike Quade held Felix Pie on a single to right by Brian Dopirak. While Theriot scored the second run of the day, the speedy Pie should have been sent home. Daryle Ward pinch-hit and with the bases loaded he flied out to shallow left to end the inning.
Geovany Soto had the Cubs offensive highlight of the day when he tripled off the wall in center to score Jake Fox in the bottom of the 7th.
There were several defensive highlights on the afternoon. Mark DeRosa made an excellent diving stop to his left to rob Omar Vizquel of a single and threw him out from his knees. Also in the 1st, DeRosa kept a bouncer up the middle in the infield and did not allow a run to score from 2nd (the run later scored on a sacrifice fly) and started a 4-6-3 double play to end the 2nd inning. The exchange from DeRosa to Izturis was seamless as well. Jason Marquis did help his own cause by settling down and getting several ground ball outs (4 ground outs, 2 fly outs).
Marquis looked pretty good on the mound after obvious nerves in the 1st inning. He fell behind Dave Roberts and Vizquel, before inducing the grounder to DeRosa. All in all it is safe to say Jason Marquis had a successful first outing for the Cubs in his limited work. Les Walrond entered the game in the 3rd and John Webb in the 4th. Both held the Giants scoreless and were effective on the mound. Carmen Pignatiello took the hill in the 5th and allowed just a walk in his inning of work. After the 5th inning is when the game, for the Cubs, became very sloppy from a defensive and pitching standpoint.
While Scott Moore’s throwing error started the 3-run 6th inning, Ben Howard was throwing batting practice. He gave up just 2 hits but every ball was hit hard, including one off of him. The base clearing double by pitcher Russ Ortiz sealed the game for the Giants and Howard’s line does not tell the story of his day on the mound.
As mentioned, the Cubs starters looked good in the field. Aramis Ramirez made a difficult play look routine and Jacque Jones made the two terrific catches in right center. Alfonso Soriano played very shallow and was aided by Jones’ ability to cover a lot of ground. Soriano did an adequate job but it was easy to see he has never played the position before….Jacque Jones helped him on a couple of occasions with positioning as well. Soriano did break on the ball but Jones was able to get there first and make the play, both times. With Soriano and Jones the Cubs have a tremendous amount of speed, which will help once the games actually count.
Tyler Colvin made his Cub debut in the bottom of the 3rd when he pinch-hit for Les Walrond and grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. Lou Piniella did play a lot of his bench on Thursday. Ryan Theriot (2B), Ronny Cedeno (SS), Buck Coats (LF) and Angel Pagan (RF) also received playing time. Randy Wells, Jason Anderson and Rocky Cherry each saw an inning of work as well.
Ferguson Jenkins threw out the first pitch in front of a crowd of 8,079.
While the Cubs fundamentals leave a lot to be desired there is a definite difference and its name is Lou Piniella. For an example, both Matt Murton and Alfonso Soriano took extra batting practice in the cages with hitting coach Gerald Perry just before game time. The team seems very focused and structured not as free flowing as in years past. Piniella and his staff have their work cut out for them but the talent is there and they just have one little thing left to do….become a team.
Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to take the hill on Friday against the Angels and another southpaw….Joe Saunders at HoHoKam Park.