(Not Too Much) Fun in the Sun

Spring Training Game Two – Cubs 6 Giants (ss) 8
WP – Vinnie Chulk (1-0) LP – Les Walrond (0-1, BS 1) Save – Sergio Romo (1)

2008HoHoKam-pub.jpgA day after an impressive offensive output in Scottsdale, the Cubs dropped their Cactus League home opener against a Giants split squad. As with all Spring Training games the final score is a mere technicality and is not a good way to judge the play on the field. It is the performances and execution of the players that will be with the Cubs come Opening Day that is important.

Carlos Zambrano and Rich Hill both had productive outings. Zambrano allowed a run on 2 hits with 2 strikeouts in his 2 innings of work. His error and wild pitch in the 1st inning led to an unearned run. Hill gave up a run on 3 hits in 2 innings with 3 strikeouts. Both pitchers threw better in their second inning of work. Five of the Giants’ eight runs were scored off of Shingo Takatsu and Les Walrond, two pitchers that will likely not be with the Cubs 25-man roster on March 31st.

Kosuke Fukudome continued clogging the bases. He walked twice, scored 2 runs and lined out hard to center in his third trip to the plate. Mike Fontenot continued to impress on Friday. His ground rule double over the centerfield wall scored a run in the 1st and he walked in his other two at bats. Alex Cintron was 2-for-2 with 2 RBI’s.

Lou Piniella’s crew played their first game at HoHoKam Park in front of a crowd of 8,838 on a perfect day for baseball….83 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. The starting line-up was:

  1. Alfonso Soriano – LF
  2. Ryan Theriot – SS
  3. Kosuke Fukudome – RF
  4. Derrek Lee – 1B
  5. Mike Fontenot – 2B
  6. Felix Pie – CF
  7. Alex Cintron – 3B
  8. Henry Blanco – C
  9. Carlos Zambrano – P

Most of the players that figure to make the roster on Opening Day were effective when called upon. Alfonso Soriano made his first start of the spring. He walked to leadoff the game and scored the Cubs first run. Soriano finished the day 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored. Soriano was cautious running the bases on Friday but did not appear to be favoring his leg. The single by Derrek Lee in the 1st should have scored Soriano easily but he appeared to not be going at full speed, he scored only after the Giants right fielder bobbled the ball.

2008Fukudome5-pub.jpgKosuke Fukudome reached base in his first two trips on Friday. His lineout to center broke his string of reaching base at 5 straight plate appearances. The ‘On Base Machine‘ nickname might actually be an accurate description. Fukudome has a great eye and took pitches that most hitters would have not let pass them by. Two times in the first two games, Fukudome fell behind 1-2 in the count just to end up working a walk. If Fukudome can continue to be patient when the games count, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez should have guys on base and plenty of RBI opportunities this season.

Speaking of Aramis Ramirez, he was held out of Friday’s game with a tight right shoulder and is listed as day to day. This writer was privileged enough to witness Mr. Ramirez being driven from the Cubs’ clubhouse at HoHoKam to the player’s parking lot in a golf cart.

A player worth keeping on eye on is Andres Blanco. He was 1-for-1 with a walk and a run scored and for the second day in a row flashed a very strong throwing arm from shortstop. He made a fine diving play to take away a hit on Thursday and has stuck out from the rest of the non-roster invitees in the first two games.

The Pitchers

2008Zambrano-pub.jpgCarlos Zambrano looked shaky to say the least in the 1st inning. In typical Zambrano fashion his error led to an unearned run. But Big Z was very good in the 2nd inning and retired the Giants in order….unfortunately for Zambrano he got just one at bat and tapped back to the mound.

Rich Hill threw 19 pitches, 12 for strikes, in his first inning of work. He gave up back-to-back singles to start the 3rd that led to a run. Kosuke Fukudome showed off his arm with a strong throw to 3rd that appeared to short-hop Alex Cintron and roll under his legs. Ryan Theriot made a fine running catch in foul ground in the 3rd that helped out his pitcher. Hill was much more efficient in the 4th inning, gave up only one hit and struck out two….he struck out 3 of the last 5 batters he faced.

2008Eyre-pub.jpgScott Eyre was the victim of an error, a ball lost in the sun and a long inning. Eyre threw the ball well at times, but Sam Fuld’s error (he misplayed the ball and it landed over his head) and Felix Pie losing the ball led to the unearned run the Giants scored while Eyre was on the mound.

Juan Mateo retired all 3 batters he faced in the 6th and threw the ball well….don’t forget Juan Mateo. Shingo Takatsu pitched the 7th, gave up a game tying home run and did not appear to have much velocity on his fastball. Les Walrond started the 8th and only retired 2 batters and in the process gave up 4 runs (a grand slam) on 2 hits and 2 walks that was the difference in the game.

Billy Petrick recorded the final out in the 7th. He retired the only batter he faced on 2 pitches. Carlos Marmol pitched the 9th and sat the Giants down in order. Andres Torres made a great sliding catch in center to end the top of the 9th.

Again, do not look at the loss….look at the performances.

Jason Marquis is scheduled to start the third game of the spring in Tempe against Jered Weaver and the Angels on Saturday. The game will be carried by Comcast SportNet.

Rich Hill

Alfonso Soriano

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More CCO Video on YouTube

Carlos Zambrano Warming Up in the Outfield

Rich Hill Warming Up in the Bullpen

Click Here for a Photo Gallery from Game Two of the Cubs’ 2008 Cactus League Schedule

Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver