The Big Z and Murton Show

Spring Training Game Two – Cubs 6 Angels 9
WP – Nick Green (1-0) LP – Clay Rapada (0-1) Save – Ryan Aldridge (1)

zpitchpub.jpg The second game of the spring training schedule for the Cubs had the same result as the first but with a couple of different storylines. The Cubs’ offense was much improved from the day before despite an 0-3 performance from Alfonso Soriano. Carlos Zambrano was masterful, gave up just 1 hit and struck out 4 of the 7 batters he faced. Zambrano showed why is the ace of the Cubs staff in just 2 innings of work. Matt Murton was dropped in the order to the 5th spot and went 3-3 with a home run and 4 RBI’s; two of Murton’s hits was to the right side, including the home run and the other was to center….of Murton’s five at bats so far this spring, he has yet to pull a ball.

While the game was the main attraction of the day, the back filed at HoHoKam on Friday featured appearances by both Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Wood threw a batting practice session for all to see. The day started with Mark Prior running along the warning track on the practice field behind right center field.

prior2007pub.jpg Prior did several laps back and forth and between one of his laps he stopped long enough to talk to a few kids and even signed a few autographs for them. Mark Prior has been under a microscope for so long, it was nice to see him take the time for the kids….after all isn’t that what baseball is all about.

wood20072pub.jpg Kerry Wood on the other hand had business to take care of. A report on Cubs.com mentioned Wood threw around 40 pitches on Friday and of those 40 pitches, this writer had the opportunity to witness a little over half. While Wood’s weight loss has been scrutinized, several spectators did not realize that it was in fact Wood on the mound. He threw to Jake Fox and Chris Walker (from the left side) and Casey McGehee stepped in against him. Wood threw strikes and appeared to hit his spots….Fox hardly had to move his glove. A couple of his pitches hit the dirt and he repeated his delivery with Larry Rothschild standing near by (behind the protective net to be exact). Only two of Wood’s pitches had contact made with them, one each by Walker and McGehee. He appeared to be throwing well, free and easy and showed a good fastball and changeup.

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Friday’s atmosphere was a little more relaxed than on Thursday and the performance on the field showed. Carlos Zambrano received a huge ovation from the crowd as he emerged from the dugout. The scene around the bullpen was a buzz as fans young and old all hovered around to watch Zambrano loosen. When he took the mound, he picked up where he left off from last season with one exception….he threw strikes. Of his four strikeouts on the day, three were swinging. Chone Figgins recorded the only hit of the day off of Zambrano, a single to left and stole 2nd on the fourth pitch after reaching 1st base. Z was what the Cubs Faithful have become accustomed to seeing and looked like he was in mid-season form.

The rest of the staff….well, other than Bobby Howry, Neal Cotts and Will Ohman will likely spend their season in the minors anyway. Neal Cotts threw the ball extremely well to the first two batters he faced but after he recorded the 2nd out is when the Angels did their damage. Now whether Cotts lost his command or concentration is up for debate but the end result was not a good one. Of the 3 runs and 4 hits allowed by Cotts, all came with 2 outs and a Cesar Izturis error. But has bad as Cotts’ outing was, Clay Rapada’s was worse.

rapadapub.jpg To say Clay Rapada was shelled would be an understatement. He gave up 5 runs on 5 hits in 2/3 of an inning. Of the 5 hits he allowed, all were for extra bases….2 doubles and 3 home runs that included a monster shot from Vladimir Guerrero that traveled an estimated 430′ just to the left of the centerfield wall. On a side note, all 3 home run balls were thrown back. Rapada could not complete his scheduled frame of work and Angel Guzman threw one pitch to end the 5th.

Several reports this spring mentioned Guzman was throwing the ball like he did before his arm trouble and while his warm-up in the pen looked good, his outing was less than positive. Guzman gave up a run on a single hit and looked a lot like the 2006 version that made his major league debut. He threw a lot of pitches and missed his spots to say the least but did record 3 groundouts and kept the ball down. Sean Gallagher threw two good innings after Guzman and allowed 2 hits but kept the Angels off the board. He got himself into a little trouble but pitched his way out of it and of the 6 outs he recorded, 4 were groundouts.

Bobby Howry and Will Ohman threw on Friday as well. They looked solid, threw strikes and did not allow a hit or a run.

Murtonhomepub.jpg Matt Murton was the offensive star of the day for the Cubs but all in all Lou Piniella should be happier than he was on Thursday. The projected starters looked much better at the plate. Derrek Lee and Cesar Izturis picked up a couple of hits each and on during a regular season game, the three might have supplied enough offense with Zambrano on the mound. The hitters timing is off as most of the balls went to the right side of the field, either that or Gerald Perry is having a larger impact on the offense than anyone would have imagined.

Friday’s Starting Lineup:

  1. Soriano – CF
  2. Izturis – SS
  3. Lee – 1B
  4. Ramirez – 3B
  5. Murton – LF
  6. DeRosa – 2B
  7. Blanco – C
  8. Pagan – RF
  9. Zambrano – P

Angel Pagan had a solid day in the field and at the plate. He made two nice catches in right and went 1-3 with a stolen base. Tyler Colvin replaced Pagan in right. Colvin made a couple of nice catches, his first in big league camp. Felix Pie was challenged in the field and made a strong accurate throw to the cut-off man. Pie is major league ready in the field and showed it again on Friday but offensively he is nowhere near being ready.

Eric Patterson went deep to right in the 9th and the ball landed not too far from this writer and a friend of the site, who dove for the ball but came up empty (by the way, thanks to Matt Murton he won free airfare on Southwest Airlines earlier in the day, so it is a little hard to feel bad for him).

Buck Coats (LF), Mike Kinkade (1B), Koyie Hill (C), Daryle Ward, Ronny Cedeno (SS), Tomas Perez (3B) and Brian Dopirak all appeared in Friday’s game.

The Cubs projected starters had a much better day but it would be nice to see Soriano shed his 0-for-being-a-Cub before the end of the weekend. The way Cotts could not retire the side in order after sitting down the first two was a little concerning but after all this was just the second game of the spring.

Box Score from MLB.com

Wade Miller is scheduled to make his spring debut in Phoenix on Saturday against the A’s and Dan Haren. Jeff Samardzija is scheduled to make his Cub debut on Saturday as well. Felix Pie and Daryle Ward will start on Saturday in the place of Soriano and Lee.

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Tyler Colvin

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Ryan O’Malley takes time for the CCO

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Sean Gallagher

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Bobby Howry

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The MVP is Back

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Clay Rapada

Click here for the CCO Photo Gallery of more photos from the second game of Cubs Spring Training 2007.

Quote of the Day

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust

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