A Collective Victory in the Cactus League – Cubs 4, Rockies 2

Spring Training Game Four – Cubs 4, Rockies 2

WP – Andrew Carpenter (1-0) LP – Jorge De La Rosa (0-1) Save – Nick Struck (1)

wflag-pubThe Cubs won for the third time in four Spring Training games on Tuesday afternoon behind an excellent start from Edwin Jackson, home runs by Christian Villanueva and Dave Sappelt, and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Brett Jackson.

A day after walking nine batters and hitting another one, Cubs pitching issued only one walk on Tuesday afternoon, which accounted for one of the Rockies two runs. The Cubs offense did just enough to pull out the spring victory. The Cubs managed only six hits, but half of them went for extra bases. Christian Villanueva (1-for-2 with a home run) homered in the third inning for the Cubs first hit and run of the afternoon. Starlin Castro (1-for-2 with a double and a run scored) led off the fourth with a towering double and scored on a Brett Jackson (0-for-1 with a sac fly and a RBI) sac fly. Dave Sappelt, who is battling for a job out of camp, went 2-for-2 with a home run and two runs scored. The Cubs fourth run scored on a bases loaded walk by Matt Szczur (0-for-1 with a RBI and a walk) in the eighth … all told, the Cubs walked four times on Tuesday.

Edwin Jackson looked very good in his Cubs’ debut. Jackson gave up a pair of hits in the first inning, but that was it. Jackson hit his spots for the most part during the ‘rocky’ first inning. He elevated his fastball at times, but for the most part, everything was down. After throwing 16 pitches in the first, 10 for strikes, Jackson retired the Rockies in order in the second on 14 pitches, 12 for strikes … with all three outs coming on weak grounders to the infielders. Jackson threw 30 pitches in his first action of the spring, 22 for strikes, and five of the six outs he recorded were on the ground.

Drew Carpenter picked up the spring victory after a so-so outing. Carpenter made quick work of the Rockies in the third but labored in the fourth and allowed Colorado to tie the game. Chris Rusin and Zach Putnam put together scoreless outings in their spring debuts. Nick Struck allowed the Rockies second and final run in the eighth before settling down and throwing strikes.

The Cubs played another solid game on Tuesday, and even executed a pair of run downs. While it is “only Spring Training” it is good to see the Cubs playing fundamental baseball.

Edwin Jackson took the hill at HoHoKam Park and made quick work of Tyler Colvin to start the game. Colvin lined out to Brett Jackson in left for the first out. Charlie Culbertson followed and grounded out to third, Christian Villanueva made a nifty pick and made a strong throw to first for the second out. Carlos Gonzalez singled to left on a 1-1 pitch and advanced to second on a single to center (2-2 pitch) by Michael Cuddyer, but Ben Paulsen grounded out to short to end the inning … Starlin Castro made a strong accurate throw for the third out. Jackson threw 16 pitches in the first inning, 10 for strikes.

Edwin Jackson retired the Rockies in order in the second on 14 pitches, 12 for strikes. Colorado hit three weak grounders (two to second, one to third), and did not square up a single pitch.

Edwin Jackson

Cubs Take the Field

The Cubs’ offense could not get on track against Jhoulys Chacin. The Rockies’ right handed retired all six batters he faced.

Drew Carpenter made quick work of the Rockies in the third, and retired all three batters he faced.

Jorge De La Rosa replaced Chacin in the third. After Brent Lillibridge grounded out to short, Christian Villanueva launched De La Rosa’s first pitch over the wall in left … the Cubs first hit of the afternoon.

Christian Villanueva’s Home Run

De La Rosa retired Johermyn Chavez (ground out to short) and David DeJesus (struck out swinging on 3-2 pitch) to end the inning.

Drew Carpenter stayed in for the fourth, and struggled against Major League hitters. Carpenter walked Carlos Gonzalez on four pitches. On a 1-0 pitch to Cuddyer, Gonzalez took off for second, and slid in safe ahead of a strong throw from Dioner Navarro. Paulsen smacked the first pitch he saw into center, Gonzalez scored, game tied at one … once again a walk came around to score.

Ramon Hernandez followed and ripped a single into right. Paulsen stopped at third with one out. Ryan Wheeler looked at a 3-2 pitch that was called strike three. Hernandez broke for second with the pitch, and stopped halfway in between first and second. Castro took the throw from Navarro, ran Hernandez back toward first then threw to Rizzo. Paulsen broke for the plate, and Rizzo threw home. Navarro applied the tag for the third out.

Starlin Castro led off the Cubs’ fourth with a double over Tyler Colvin’s head in center. Castro got all of the 1-2 pitch from De La Rosa and drove the ball to the deepest part of the park. Rizzo followed with a productive out. Rizzo pulled the first pitch he saw to second, Castro advanced to third with one down. Alfonso Soriano stepped in and quickly fell behind 1-2. Soriano took a few close pitches, worked a full count then took ball four.

With runners on first and third with one down, Brett Jackson crushed a 3-2 pitch from the lefty De La Rosa that chase Colvin all the way back to the warning track in center. Colvin hauled it in two steps onto the track. Castro scored, 2-1 Cubs. Navarro popped out to short to end the inning.

Chris Rusin made his spring debut on Tuesday, and threw the ball rather well. Rusin hit his spots, and threw 17 pitches in the fifth inning, 12 for strikes. Rusin gave up a single to Tyler Colvin in the inning, but caught him leaning off first. Colvin was caught in a rundown and Castro tagged him out.

Chris Rusin

Dale Sveum emptied his bench in the sixth. Brad Nelson (1B), Logan Watkins (2B), Javier Baez (SS), Edwin Maysonet (3B), Rafael Lopez (C), Darnell McDonald (RF), Dave Sappelt (CF) and Matt Szczur (LF) replaced the starters.

Chris Rusin remained on the mound for the sixth. Rusin made quick work of the top of the Rockies lineup, including Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer. Rusin threw 12 pitches, nine for strikes, and was aided by an excellent defensive play by Logan Watkins. Watkins knocked down a ball ticketed for center, recovered and threw out Cuddyer at first base.

Dave Sappelt led off the sixth with a big blast to left. Sappelt’s solo shot on a 1-1 pitch hit the old scoreboard at HoHoKam Park. Javier Baez followed with a single to left, and swiped second base. Baez has good wheels … and of course, excellent bat speed.

Javier Baez

Welington Castillo hit for Soriano and flied out to right for the second out. Matt Szczur struck out looking to end the inning, and really looked lost at the plate.

Zach Putnam made his Cubs’ debut in the seventh, and was very sharp. Putnam retired the side in order on eight pitches, six for strikes.

Zach Putnam

Nick Struck made his spring debut in the eighth, and was very shaky. Struck was not fooling anyone with a bat in his hands. D.J. LeMahieu crushed a 1-2 pitch over Sappelt’s head in straight away center. The ball one-hopped the wall , and LeMahieu ended up at third with a triple. Wheeler followed with a deep fly to right center that allowed LeMahieu to score from third. Henry Wrigley smoked the first pitch he saw into left. After the Wrigley single, Struck struggled with his location. Struck fell behind Dickerson 3-0 before getting him to hit a comebacker on a 3-2 pitch. Struck knocked the ball down, recovered, and threw to second. Baez stepped on the bag for the out, but his throw to first was off the mark. Nelson hustled after the ball, picked it up and threw back to Baez for the out … just your typical 1-6-3-6 double play. Struck got out of the inning without any further damage, and threw 15 pitches, 10 for strikes.

Nick Struck

The Cubs added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. Adam Ottavino really struggled with his command, and the Cubs took advantage. After McDonald fouled out to first to start the inning, Dave Sappelt singled to left on a 1-0 pitch. Javier Baez hit a tapper back to the mound when he tried to check his swing. Sappelt advanced to second with two out. Brad Nelson and Welington Castillo walked to load the bases.

Matt Szczur looked at ball four (3-1 pitch), and the free pass forced in Sappelt with the Cubs’ fourth and final run. Rafael Lopez flied out to left (2-1 pitch) to end the inning.

Nick Struck stayed in for the ninth. Struck appeared much more comfortable in his second inning of work. Struck threw 10 pitches in the ninth, six for strikes, and caught Lars Davis looking to end the game.

On a personal note, Tuesday was my last game at HoHoKam Park as the Cubs’ home field during Spring Training. The people at HoHoKam have always been incredibly nice to me and my wife. While the change to the new facility is a must, I will miss going every year to HoHoKam and watching a ballgame.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

The Cubs host the Dodgers on Wednesday afternoon. Brooks Raley is scheduled to face Aaron Harang in game five of the Cactus League schedule.

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  • triple

    It’s nice to see that in the 3 games that the Cubs offense worked more walks than their pitchers gave up, that they’ve come away with the W. Hopefully the pitchers and batters are paying attention to this.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil
    • Aaron


      In particular, I love what Theo said here:
      What I
      want to avoid is the middle ground,” Epstein said. “It’d be nice to
      make the playoffs or get a protected draft pick (awarded the bottom nine
      teams). We’re not hiding that. There’s no glory in 78 wins instead of
      73. Who cares?

      “We’re going to see where we are and take a real cold assessment in
      the middle of the season. If we have a legitimate chance to push for a
      playoff spot then 2013 can become our primary focus. If we think a
      playoff spot’s not in the cards, there will be no concern for
      appearances or cosmetics whatsoever. We’ll continue to address our
      future and trade off some pieces that would keep us respectable.” –

      Haven’t I been saying this on here about since I’ve been posting? This is the very strategy they should’ve had for the longest time, and didn’t, because Hendry and crew were seemingly trying forever to save their jobs, even though they were mired in mediocrity year after year. Hendry’s team can’t even claim that they didn’t have the resources, there were too many other factors with ownership change, blah blah blah, because the fact is, Hendry had time under the new owners to turn the ship around, and yet continued doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result, which is the very definition of insanity. I think Hendry supporters would claim that he wasn’t given the same resources that Epstein and Hoyer have, but the fact is, they probably had more resources at their disposal (especially monetary) than the Ricketts are giving Team Theo. Hendry just lacked leadership skills to identify deficiencies (scouting, facilities, player development, coaching, etc.), come up with a plan, present to ownership, then follow through with those plans. The way Team Theo came in, and was very bold in their assessment of the state of affairs in every category I just mentioned, showed a refreshing and honest way of evaluating the organization that Hendry simply lacked.

      It’s so refreshing to hear something like this come from the Cubs front office, and what they’ve done in just a little over a year has been nothing short of amazing, as they’ve virtually turned over the entire active roster and 40-man as well.

      They figure to turn it over even more by ridding themselves of Marmol, Soriano, and perhaps even Garza.

      They also figure to maximize value of guys they just signed since taking over like DeJesus, Baker, Feldman, Schierholtz, etc., because they have the long-term plan in mind, which is in sharp contrast to the prior regime, where they’d sign a FA to s short-term deal, that guy would do well, then they’d try to sign him to a long-term deal rather than trade him for more prospects, or allowing a rookie to grab the reigns.

      I know what I’m saying about the prior regime might sound like sour grapes, but they were seriously overmatched in all facets of the game, whether that’s upper management, scouting, coaching, player development, or statistical analysis. It was almost like the way they made decisions was to throw crap on the wall, and hoped it stuck. That is NOT a strategy. You have to know the “why?” behind what you are doing.

      I might not always agree with what Team Theo has done (most notably the LeMahieu deal, and the roster management in the aftermath of that trade), but I know they have a plan, and for that, I am thankful, because I can finally go to bed at night during the summer knowing that if the Cubs didn’t make the playoffs that year, they at least were headed in the right direction. Just consider what Epstein said about not making the playoffs, and how that actually wasn’t a bad thing…that if they won 78 games instead of 73, that it wasn’t a good thing…either sucks, but if they’re going to miss the playoffs, it’s best to miss out big, than it is small like the 78 wins, because you not only get a bigger bonus pool of money, but your draft position is dramatically improved.

      You almost wonder what Team Theo could’ve done with high draft positions the Cubs had, or players that never took the next step forward like Patterson, Pie, Cruz, etc. Look what they’ve already done with Brett Jackson’s swing, and with Rizzo’s last year…and even getting Castro to take more pitches. That would’ve NEVER happened before.

      Who knows how everything will turn out, but I’m glad they actually have a plan versus hoping sh%t sticks.

      • Dorasaga

        >>You have to know the “why?” behind what you are doing.

        Yes. One of the first things Esptein brought up when he first took the job was to explain the Wrigley phenomenon, ballpark factors, what really happened down on the field.

        They build up those little things, they’ll knock down the door someday.

      • SuzyS

        Aaron, You know I was never a huge Hendry fan…but you also have to be fair….Hendry had a sale that took forever AND an ownership problem along with what now appears to be a very small and disadvantaged FO.
        In a normal organization, which the Cubs were not, Hendry would have moved out when McPhail moved on…The Tribune had no other true baseball operations people with plans to sell the team…and so we ended up with the mess we had.
        We can attribute Ricketts commitment to a long term organizational plan for the hope we currently have….Personally, I wish Ricketts would have moved a little faster…But then Theo and Company would not have been available and we would have someone else at the helm.

        In any case, I do share your feeling that we are finally headed in the right direction…and while our FO is NOT infallible…they are certainly more than capable of ultimately bringing a World Series to the North Side.
        In my lifetime….58 years old….I’ve rarely been able to make a statement like that comfortably.
        Isn’t that awesome???

      • Ray Ray

        Cushiest GM job on the planet! How many owners would allow their GM to go this route in a big market city? Hendry was never allowed to. He was told to sign big free agents to draw fans,and that is what they did. Wasn’t Theo told to do the same with AGon and Crawford? So, genius this is not. Every GM can do what Theo is currently doing on rebuilding the Cubs….you need an owner to allow that to happen

        • Bryan

          This only works because loyal Cub fans (to the tune of around 3 million a year) will continue to show up regardless of the product on the field. Therefore, Ricketts can afford to be patient and shift directions. If the fan base ever stops showing up the strategy (and urgency) would change from the top.

          • Ray Ray

            Agrreed. Imagine if this was Philly or LA?

          • 07GreyDigger

            I really don’t think the fan base would stop showing up. Unfortunately, the park is seen more of a giant bar and a place to be than an actual baseball team, so people are going to go regardless of what’s on the field.

            I do enjoy that for us, the real baseball fans, the FO is creating a core we can all watch grow and enjoy and building a team the right way. I think Ricketts knows that the field will never not be full and knows he has the time and resources to pull this off. It’s about time someone did this the right way and had the balls to do it.

          • http://www.facebook.com/rich.hood.144 Rich Hood

            It was Philly in the late 90’s.

        • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

          I disagree. It’s very smart and shows savvy that he is doing this in a small market. And it’s one thing to have this plan and another to execute it as well as they are.

    • Tony_Hall

      For all of those fans hoping for a 75-80 win season and that feeling like we are close…get over it, it just is not going to happen…on purpose.

      They are not going to try to be a middle ground team, that can never get over the hump. They will decide in July what the chances are for the playoffs, and if it is not a worthwhile shot, then they will sell off all short term assets they can, to get long term assets and use the last few months of the season to bring up some prospects and give them a taste of the big leagues and most likely a serving of humble pie, just like Rizzo had in 2011 and BJAX and Vitters had last year. But, at some point, the young guys will come up and do better and push the team to keep winning games. That will be the beginning of winning baseball at Clark and Addison.

      Theo is so straight forward with his plans, and honest evaluations. He keeps telling us what his plan is and his thought process and yet people still act like they don’t know what to expect.

      • John_CC

        Exactly what should have happened in 2009, 2010, and at the very freaking least 2011. But NOOooooo, we – the fans – were constantly told that “we” – the Cubs – were always just a move away and that move was always possible.

        What a joke! I am so glad that crap is over!

        And yes, for all you that want to go back to the big money over the hill players that make up .500 teams that don’t make the playoffs — Get over it! Or move along.

        • Ray Ray

          They won 97 games in 2008 and you wanted this done in 2009?

  • SuzyS

    Neil, Thanks for your great work…Hope you and Abby had a great time!!!

  • paulcatanese

    If the Cubs continue to play good fundemental baseball they will win quite a few games. Not beating themselves is a very good key here, and in the long run it goes to their advantage in winning the close ones. Decent effort out of the first few. Hope they can keep it up.
    Good job Neil, hope you had a great time out there.

  • Bryan

    Let’s not go too ga-ga over things in the FO just yet. Yes, progress is being made….and moves being made seem to have logic and a long-term sustainable plan in place. But at the end of the day let’s see if all this translates to win’s (ideally on a consistent basis). Everyone is assuming that the stars will all align just perfectly, and that our prospects are all going to excel, move upwards, and likely produce at a similar pace. I’m not trying to be pessimistic here…but injuries, maturity and further skills all play into the success equation. I personally like the direction being taken as well, but I’ll hold out anointing Theo & Company as brilliant until it translates onto the field results.

    • Ray Ray

      Great post. I agree progress is definately being made in the minor leagues but it is foolish to pencil in lineups with players who are in A ball for 2015. Fans should have learned from the Felix Pie’s Corey Pattersons Gary Scott etc. Some will make it but many won’t.

      • Tom U

        RayRay, this is why you have to like the concept of “position redundancy” the front office has talked about. You don’t put all of your eggs in the basket of one prospect.

  • paulcatanese

    Very, very early, but I believe that Stewart has injured himself out of a spot on the roster.

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