Spring Training Game Eighteen – Cubs 3 White Sox 5
WP – Scott Linebrink (1-0) LP – Neal Cotts (0-2, BS 1) Save – D.J. Carrasco (2)
Lou Piniella’s lineup was missing the Big Three of Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano while Ozzie Guillen played all but one of his projected everyday line-up….and the Cubs pitching staff performed quite well against a very dangerous offensive team.
Rich Hill was effective but not sharp and was helped by the White Sox aggressiveness at the plate. Hill struggled with his command and was unable to throw his signature curveball for a strike until the 2nd inning. Hill gave up 2 runs on 3 hits with 3 walks and a strikeout in 3 2/3 innings. Lou Piniella lifted Hill after striking out A.J. Pierzynski for the second out in the 4th inning. Tim Lahey was very impressive in his inning and a third but Neal Cotts gave up 3 runs in the 7th, including a 2-run homer by Jim Thome that actually left the park. Kevin Hart retired the Sox in order in the 8th with a strikeout.
Micah Hoffpauir and Casey McGehee both had big games. Hoffpauir was 3-for-4 with a double and continues to impress. McGehee doubled in the tying run with 2 outs in the 2nd inning and gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead with a solo home run in the 4th. Daryle Ward added a RBI single in the 3rd inning.
Rich Hill is a big key to the upcoming season for the Cubs and he has to get on track. Unlike most players that could probably shrug off a bad spring as just that, with Hill’s track record he needs a strong finish or his spring performance could carry over to when the games actually count.
Hill could not find the strike zone on Saturday and threw a lot of pitches in 3 2/3 innings. Hill threw 5 straight balls to start the game. He tossed 24 pitches in the 1st inning alone, 10 for strikes. Paul Konerko was thrown out trying to steal 2nd for the last out.
Hill’s strike to ball ratio was better in the 2nd but it was still not good. Hill retired the side in order and threw his best curve of the day to Jermaine Dye….16 pitches, 9 for strikes.
Hill appeared to get back on track with his command in the 3rd. The Sox scored a run after a leadoff double by Juan Uribe but Hill threw 16 pitches, 11 for strikes. Nick Swisher walked to start the 4th. Hill retired Dye and struck out Pierzynski looking to end his day….12 pitches, 6 for strikes.
Hill threw a total of 68 pitches in 3 2/3 innings….36 for strikes.
Tim Lahey improved his chances of remaining with the Cubs. He was impressive in his inning and a third. Lahey walked a batter but did not give up a hit and struck out 1. Lahey has good movement on his sinker and kept the ball down….3 ground outs to no fly ball outs.
Neal Cotts on the other hand served it up to his former teammates. After not allowing a run in his last 3 outings, he gave up 3 in an inning. Cotts had little to no movement on his pitches and the Sox took advantage….especially Jim Thome. Cotts days as a Cub are likely numbered.
Kevin Hart dominated the opposition again. The only way he does not leave Las Vegas with the big league club is if it comes down to a numbers game. Hart could be a valuable piece to the bullpen, especially as a long man.
Lou Piniella’s crew is 6-12 in Cactus League play and a string of wins would be more than welcomed at this point. Hitting, pitching and winning are contagious….
Weather permitting the Cubs will host an Angels’ split squad. Sunday will be the second time in 3 days the Cubs have played the Angels….they are 0-2 against the Halos in Cactus League play. Carlos Zambrano is expected to take the hill for the fourth time this spring against Nick Green.
News from Arizona
Kosuke Fukudome said he was fine after the game according to a report on Cubs.com
Rich Hill was lifted in the middle of the inning on Saturday for two reasons….he hit his pitch count and developed a blister under his nail.
Micah Hoffpauir continued his impressive spring on Saturday. All Hoffpauir seems to do is hit, but most think he is blocked from the big league club. A report on Cubs.com indicated Hoffpauir has been working in the outfield. Lou Piniella likes what he has seen….
“You know what he’s making me do? He’s making me decide where I can put him on the field and get his bat in the lineup, that’s what he is doing. It’s simple as that. He’s swinging the bat better than anybody we have in camp. He’s been getting work in the outfield. We’ll see. He wants a job and it’s good to see. I wish we had a few more like him.”
Kerry Wood may have the edge in the job for the closer’s role according to a report on Cubs.com. Bobby Howry has not looked good and Carlos Marmol might be better served in the same role he had last year. Larry Rothschild discussed the closer’s job with Bruce Levine on Saturday morning.
Rothschild said what might not make Wood as effective a setup man is the amount of times pitchers in that role have to get loose (Rothschild referred to it as getting up and down). He said a closer only gets loose as the 9th inning approaches. Rothschild did not indicate who had the edge and they will wait to make the decision until after the pitchers throw on back-to-back days next week.