Cubs Begin the Spring with a Win – Cubs 11, Angels 2

Spring Training Game One – Cubs 11, Angels (SS) 2

WP – Travis Wood (1-0) LP – Nick Maronde (0-1) Save – None

wflag-pubThe Chicago Cubs took the field for the first time in 2013 on Saturday afternoon at Tempe Diablo Stadium and pounded an Angels’ split squad in their spring opener.

Brett Jackson (2-for-2 with two triples, two RBI and a run scored) led the Cubs’ 14-hit, three-walk attack with a pair of triples. Jackson appeared very comfortable at the plate with his new swing, and showed off his wheels on both three baggers. Luis Valbuena (1-for-1 with a home run, a walk and two runs scored) took another step toward being at third base for the Cubs on Opening Day. On the day the news surfaced that Ian Stewart would be sidelined for 10-14 days, Valbuena hit a towering home run off Jerome Williams in the second inning that put the Cubs on the board.

The Cubs scored five times in the third inning, two on Brett Jackson’s second triple of the game.

Anthony Rizzo (1-for-2 with a double and a walk) was solid at the plate, and Logan Watkins (1-for-3 with a triple and a run scored) was given a triple and scored on a two-out single by Scott Hairston (1-for-3 with a RBI and a run scored).

Dale Sveum emptied his bench in the fifth and the younger players in camp did not disappoint. Junior Lake (1-for-3 with a home run) struck out in his first two plate appearances before launching a solo homer in the ninth that left the park. Jorge Soler (1-for-3 with a double, a RBI and a run scored) doubled in a run and scored on a hard hit opposite field single off the bat of Javier Baez (1-for-3 with a RBI).

The Cubs offense pounded out 14 hits, seven for extra bases, walked three times, and worked the count all afternoon. There were very few first pitch swings from Dale Sveum’s team.

On the pitching side, Travis Wood settled down after a rough start and gave up two runs on one hit with a walk and two strikeouts in two innings. Trey McNutt pitched a scoreless inning, snapped off a couple of excellent breaking balls, and like Wood, seemed to shake off the rust as his inning progressed. Hisanori Takahashi faced the minimum in his two innings of work and Rafael Dolis pitched a scoreless frame.

Rule 5 Draft pick, Hector Rondon, made his Cubs’ debut and while he did not allow any runs, it was a shaky first outing. Zach Putnam and Jaye Chapman closed out the game with a scoreless eighth and ninth inning.

Cubs’ pitching allowed two runs on six hits with one walk and three strikeouts on the afternoon, while the defense did not commit an error.

All in all, it was a good day for the Chicago Cubs … and a beautiful afternoon to be back in a ballpark.

Travis Wood’s afternoon began like many of his spring outings from a year ago. Wood issued a leadoff walk to Peter Bourjos and really struggled with his command afterwards. Travis Wood appeared to just be missing his spots to Bourjos but lost his command, and his focus after the walk.

Wood fell behind Erick Aybar 3-1 before Aybar pulled his next pitch down the third base line. Bourjos scored easily and just like that Wood was in a first inning hole. Wood continued pitching from behind but was able to retire Mark Trumbo on a grounder to short. Aybar advanced to third and scored on another grounder to short, off the bat of Hank Conger. Wood appeared to regain his confidence during the Conger at bat and retired Bill Hall (1-2 pitch) on a grounder to third to end the inning.

Travis Wood threw 22 pitches in the first inning, 11 for strikes.

Luis Valbuena led off the second with a long home run to right off Jerome Williams. Valbuena has carried his hot winter right into Spring Training. Valbuena looked very comfortable at third base as well and made a couple of excellent plays on hard hit balls.

After Welington Castillo just missed beating out a ball in the hole at short for an infield single, Brett Jackson stepped to the plate and cranked a 1-0 pitch from Jerome Williams to deep center. The ball sailed over Peter Bourjos’ head, and Jackson slid in headfirst at third with a triple. With the infield in, Brent Lillibridge hit a 3-1 pitch toward second. Jackson broke for the plate and appeared to score. The throw was a little high and Conger tagged him on his helmet. But Jackson was called out, and Darnell McDonald popped out to right to end the inning.

Travis Wood looked much better in the second inning. Wood retired the side in order, but more importantly he hit his spots and threw ahead in the count. Wood threw 16 pitches in the second, 10 for strikes.

Logan Watkins led off the third with what was ruled as a triple. Watkins hit a deep drive to center that kept carrying, the ball hit off of Bourjos’ glove and Watkins ended up a third. To Watkins’ credit, he hustled out to the box and did not break stride. Dave Sappelt (swinging) and Anthony Rizzo (looking) both struck out but Scott Hairston delivered a two-out single to center on a 2-2 pitch that plated Watkins. Luis Valbuena walked and the Angels’ went to the pen for Caleb Graham.

Welington Castillo greeted Graham with a single to left on a 3-1 pitch. Hairston scored and the Cubs took a 3-2 lead. Brett Jackson then crushed a 0-1 offering from Graham into the gap in right center. Jackson plated both Hairston and Castillo while ending up a third with a standup triple. Brent Lillibridge delivered a single to right center on a 1-2 pitch that drove in Jackson with the fifth run of the inning. Lillibridge stole second with McDonald at the plate but the former Red Sox outfielder struck out swinging to end the inning.

Trey McNutt took over in the third and struggled with his command early in the inning before settling in. McNutt gave up a single and threw 18 pitches, 12 for strikes. McNutt snapped off a couple of excellent breaking balls and broke two bats with hard, inside fastballs.

Hisanori Takahashi made his Cubs’ debut in the fourth and threw the ball well. Takahashi appeared to hit his spots and faced the minimum despite giving up a hard hit single to Hank Conger. Takahashi threw nine pitches in the fourth, seven for strikes.

Dale Sveum emptied his bench in the fifth. Takahashi stayed in for his second inning of work but Steve Clevenger (C), Brad Nelson (1B), Alberto Gonzalez (2B), Javier Baez (SS), Junior Lake (3B), Jorge Soler (LF), Matt Szczur (CF) and Brian Bogusevic (RF) replaced Sveum’s starting eight.

Takahashi faced the minimum once again in the fifth, and it took only seven pitches, all for strikes, to do so. Takahashi was sharp in his first two innings of the spring.

Rafael Dolis replaced Takahashi in the sixth … and was Rafael Dolis. He threw a lot of pitches (20) and just enough strikes (14) to work around a one-out single. The problem once again with Dolis, is when he missed, he missed badly and up in the zone.

Hector Rondon made his Cubs’ debut in the seventh. Rondon threw 23 pitches, 13 for strikes, and appears to throw a very heavy ball. When Rondon missed it was up and out of the strike zone, which is not a good combination. Javier Baez made an excellent play behind him on a ball ticketed for center that kept a run from scoring because the next man hit lifted a 2-2 pitch over Matt Szczur’s head in center that went for a triple.

Former Cub, Robert Coello, took over in the eighth for the Angels, and the Cubs’ minor leaguers took advantage. Steve Clevenger walked to start the inning and scored on a double down the left field line off the bat of Jorge Soler. Soler ran the bases well with long strides and thought about third base before settling on a double. Javier Baez stepped in and smoked a single into right field. Soler advanced to third with one down and scored on a single to right off the bat of J.C. Boscan, 8-2 Cubs. After Alberto Gonzalez and Matt Szczur struck out swinging, Brad Nelson tripled to right and plated both Baez and Boscan, 10-2 Cubs. Brian Bogusevic flied out to left for the third out.

Zach Putnam made his Cubs’ debut in the eighth, and was very sharp. Putnam retired the side in order on 14 pitches, 10 for strikes.

Junior Lake greeted Angels’ reliever, Steve Geltz, with a long home run to left to start the ninth. Lake crushed Geltz’s first pitch, and it sounded like the ball was in pain when Lake squared it up. The ball left the park and put the Cubs up 11-2.

Jaye Chapman made quick work of the Angels in the ninth. Chapman retired the side in order on seven pitches, six for strikes.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Video from the Cubs First Cactus League Game of 2013

The Cubs host the San Francisco Giants at HoHoKam Park on Sunday afternoon. Jeff Samardzija is scheduled to face Matt Cain in the Cubs’ final home opener at HoHoKam.

Observations from the Park

The Cubs practiced infield and outfield drills prior to Saturday’s game. Franklin Font led the practice and the Cubs focused on the basics of the game … throwing to first, hitting the cutoff man, etc. While this does not seem like it is important, these drills were not done under the previous administration. Font kept the drills brisk, organized and the entire team appeared to be on the same page.

Dontrelle Willis was in a Cubs’ uniform and at the park on Saturday. Willis made the short ride from Mesa with the team. Willis did not pitch in the game but was seen in the Cubs’ bullpen.

Junior Lake appears to have grown even more this off-season. Lake is listed as being 6-foot-2 but he appears to have exceeded the reports of him being 6-foot-5 last year. Lake has outgrown shortstop, but looked very good at third base, and was able to show off his cannon of an arm during the game.

Johermyn Chavez has a very strong, accurate throwing arm.

Dale Sveum and his coaching staff made notes throughout the game, and Sveum appeared to be the busiest of the group.

The reports of Brett Jackson being hit in the ‘cup’ with a grounder off the bat of Brent Lillibridge were inaccurate. Jackson was hit on the inside of his right leg, and while it made a loud sound, Jackson just smiled about it. Jackson will have a large bruise on his leg, but was seen walking around afterward and did not appear to be favoring his right leg.

For those unfamiliar with Matt Szczur’s speed, Matt Szczur can really get down the line.

Javier Baez looked very comfortable at shortstop. He showed off his range to his left and to his right. Baez started a 6-4-3 double play with a smooth, concise throw from the hole.

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Quote of the Day

"Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failure." – W.J. Slim

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  • GaryLeeT

    Nice start to the Cactus League’s spring training season. Absolutely nothing to pick on, except Ian Stewart’s quad strain. Kudos to the Cubs for negotiating a contract almost purely based on incentives.

  • Tony_Hall

    Baseball is back and it is great to see the videos that Neil posted right from the ballpark. Can’t wait to watch some games.

    It is great reading a recap with some success for our young guys. BJAX seems determined to make their decision to start him in Iowa difficult to actually do and Junior Lake who hasn’t even played 1 game at AAA seems to be as well. I believe both will go to Iowa to start the year, but I can see both of them in the starting lineup sooner rather than later.

    • calicub

      I’m also confident in what BJAX has and may be able to do. One of my undergrad roommates went to highschool with him and said that even then he lived and breathed baseball(I believe “ate baseballs for breakfast” were his exact words). His work ethic certainly stands out in contrast of what can be seen from a similar prospect in terms of time and development in Vitters.

      Also, if Lake is now 6′-5″+ thats amazing news. I’d love to see him cut it at 3rd with that arm, but IF he could learn CF in Iowa he could be nice place holder until Szczur or Almora are ready, I’d be alright with that too.

      • Tony_Hall

        Lake is able to play almost anywhere on the field, he is so athletic. If Lake can find away to be more disciplined, day in and day out, he will have a nice major league career. If not, he will be nothing more than a super sub, which all teams still need.

        I have always envisioned him in RF so that he can show off that cannon of an arm. But right now a I am hoping he can take 3B and run with it.

        • calicub

          RF would be a nice place for him to show off but that all depends on them being able to move Soriano this year what with Shierholz and Hairston being around next year. Hopefully this extra long spring will help him shake the early year slumps he seems to have.

          As for Lake’s discipline, it seems like last year he was able to move away from that hacker mentality. His BA (.279) was the same as 2011 but added .25 to his OBP. Hopefully he can vastly improve this year in the PCL

      • Tony_Hall

        “Ate baseballs for breakfast…” love the line.

        • Dorasaga

          Sounds like what Confucius would say via fortune-cookies.

  • Tony_Hall

    So everyone is ready to discard Stewart because of a quad injury. Ok, but it is Feb 24th not March 24th and they won’t be making a decision on him and 3B for awhile. He has a quad injury, which will keep him from running full speed. He will still be able to do everything else to keep working towards the season. Also keep in mind that spring training started early due to the WBC and he and others have more time to recover.

    Luis Valbuena, though, may win the job on his own. Last year he had a very low 219 AVG. But I believe we all understand that AVG is not the end all of stats. HIs OBP was 310, which is still low, but is 91 pts higher than his avg which is very good. He has had a good winter and good start to his spring.

    Junior Lake could take over 3B at some point this year, but it will take an exception to the 500 AB limit, something I don’t see them doing with such a raw talent as Lake.

    Let’s hope that the decision ends up being difficult to make, and not because everyone is playing bad, but because they are all playing well.

    • cubs1967

      stewart is a waste. the trade was horrid. stewart cannot hit and is now injury prone type player. 3b is a glaring hole; which team theo did not address. is that the best they could do? what happens in 2016 when all the “suspects (eggs”) are in the basket” to be a good team then? is this how’ll they’ll handle a glaring hole then? let’s hope not. but bringing back stewart at 2M only shows they are losing on purpose again this year. stewart needed to show up in late Jan. and be in shape. how do players pull quads this early in spring……….they did not do proper running in the winter so the minute they extend themselves…….ohhhh my leg.
      time to move on. save the coin to be used for either Sori or Marmol to get traded. the longer Stewart stays around; the more questions team theo needs to address on their judgement.

      • Tony_Hall

        Addressing 3B and your statement “Is that the best they could do?”

        Instead of just blowing off smoke, actually tell us who you would have signed to fill the 3B hole? It wasn’t exactly a lot to choose from this year.

        Players pull quad in spring all the time. Just watch the next month or two to see, but yes I do agree that it is usually from a lack of running enough, but there are other reasons.

        • Ray Ray

          The point that Stewart was not a good clubhouse presence last year and failed miserably when he played was enough reason not to bring him back.

          • Tony_Hall

            No, not at all.

            He is worth a non-guaranteed contract for spring training, nothing to lose and everything to gain.

            That is what I call a win/win situation.

          • Ray Ray

            Only money and giving someone else a shot.

          • Tony_Hall

            Once again, maybe you missed it, but his contract is not GUARANTEED. So the money part is not true.

            Someone else a shot.

            Let’s see, Valbuena, Vitters, Lake, Baez, Villaneuva, Lillibridge, and Maysonet,

            How many more 3B options do we need to give an opportunity this year?

          • Brp921

            I have not read anywhere except from a couple of comments here on the CCO that Stewart was not a “good clubhouse presence” or that he had a bad attitude. Do you have any reference to that? I’m not being argumentative, this is just news to me if it is true. If you are referring to his leaving the team against Sveum or the Cubs wishes, then I would agree it wasn’t the best thing to do, but I wouldn’t say it makes him a bad clubhouse presence. After all if that would have been prohibited then he couln’t have done it.

          • TheWrongGuy

            It’s already been reported that he left last season after being shutdown. So he could be with his wife for the birth of their child. He also got the OK from Theo himself to do so. Sorry all I am a family man and respect that he wanted to be with his family for this.
            His defense is awesome. his approach at the plate was VERY lacking, but so were so many other Cubs’ players. He did work on his plate selection/approach at the plate this off-season with one of the best ever at the plate Mr. Carew. As for a bad clubhouse presence… Many things happen “Behind Closed Doors”. For all we know Starlin Castro could be a bad clubhouse presence.

            As a final note, It is still very early in Spring Training. And that’s my 2 cents!

          • Brp921

            Thanks for the correction. I do remember that now. His bad approach at the plate could be attributed to his wrist injury, after all the guy had a couple years where he showed good power. I think it is pertinent to find out if the injury to his wrist was the cause of his problem at the plate before giving up on him.

          • Ray Ray

            He abandoned the team. He himself distanced himself and even tweeted he didn’t expect to be coming back. They should have cut ties with him just like Stewart anticipated.

          • Tony_Hall

            Please read TheWrongGuy’s post. He left to rehab from home, with Theo’s permission, while his wife was expecting a baby.

          • Brp921

            He didn’t abandon the team or distance himself by recuperating elsewhere, and as wrong guy says below he left to be with his wife for childbirth ( I had read that but forgot) so that was quite legitimate. Why not just wait and see how he does this year. If he doesn’t do well then we can move on. The fact is that we have no other good options, unless you want to put Valbuena out there to hit .219 with very little power again.

      • Brp921

        I agree that Stewart should have been more prepared, that was my thought when I first read of his injury. I would ask you though, who was the guy they should have went out and signed to fill that glaring hole at third base? Who would you have signed or traded for. There was no one available. When they brought in Stewart, they traded one struggling first round pick who once held promise for another. Stewart is now the best they have to be a stop gap till we develope another one. He may also turn it around this year if he can stay healthy. As I have posted a couple of times, we shouldn’t get rid of him just because we feel he should work harder, when he’s better than what we have left.

      • SuzyS

        We all know Stewart is NOT the long term solution. We need Stewart to produce at a “caretaker level” only until the trade deadline or so in July.
        After that, either Lake/Vitters or an unknown trade candidate should get the opportunity or try out for the 2014 season at third.
        If he can stay healthy, we know he has a good
        glove….anything his bat produces is just a bonus.
        Stewart’s trade is old history…let it be…If the lat injury is all he gets…then we should be OK.
        I don’t think we’re going to win the WS this year….so it’s more important to be developing players/prospects and have a decent draft position in 2014. We don’t need a world beater at 3rd just yet.

      • triple

        I’d love to hear Rayray’s or Cubs1967’s solution to 3rd base…. who would you have traded for or signed in place of bringing Stewart back at that very low risk contract? The big problem with the hater/naysayer’s response is they will point fingers, but never offer any sort of solution? Why is that?

        • Ray Ray

          Wow! Alot of anger there triple. Okay…..I’ll give you 2 obvious low risk options over Stewart. 1. Eric Chavez. Signed a 1 year deal for 3 mil. Low risk for a year. He hit .281 with 16 bombs in only 278 ab’s. How about that option over Stewart? 2. Placido Polanco. Signed 1 year 2.75 mil deal. One of toughest players to K. I would take him over Stewart any day as well.

          • triple

            Actually no anger at all… I don’t think I’m the only one who appreciates responses from people who don’t agree with our opinions or what the FO does, but never offer a solution. Now I can respect your take much more now that you’ve responded. My hat is always off to Ripsnorter, as he doesn’t agree with some (or many) decisions/opinions, but he always backs himself up thoroughly.

            So those are decent choices you do offer, however we know that the FO is looking toward the future and likes Stewart for the low cost and high risk/high reward factor. Yes, maybe Polanco or Chavez may be better options, but they are old and not part of the Cubs future, and do not offer any opportunity for a return if traded. Can Chavez stay healthy and duplicate what he did last year for the first time in 5 years? And Polanco offers no power in a position where the Cubs really do need to get some power from. So I get why the FO is taking their chances by paying Stewart even less money, and knowing that if he gets/stays healthy and produces for the Cubs, they have the option to use him as their 3rd baseman for the ’13 & ’14 seasons (that he is under team control), while guys like Baez and Lake are given time to develop in the minors. And if for some reason, either Lake or Baez look like they can play 3rd base for the Cubs sooner rather than later, and Stewart is holding his own, then Stewart would bring a nice return in a trade deadline deal, either this year or next.

          • Ray Ray

            I disagree with you on thinking Stewart could net any value in a trade. He has performed poorly for several years in a row. He is a 1 year filler just like Chavez and Polanco would have been. The biggest difference is that Stewart had the most risk out of the 3 and all they needed was a steady veteran to hold the fort down for the season.

    • Aaron


      It only appears that nobody is giving him a chance, because HE’S ALREADY EXHAUSTED ALL OF HIS CHANCES!!!!!!!!!!

      What more does the guy have to do to prove to you that he’s a bust. He’s also a bad influence on the younger guys with his attitude and work ethic.

      The Rockies wanted him gone. The Cubs were the suckers to take him on, by trading 2 decent players for a guy that the Rockies couldn’t wait to get rid of.

      I predict he’ll be gone by the middle of March. Sure, there might be some stubbornness with Team Theo in doing so (b/c they’d be admitting the trade was a failure), but if Lake, Maysonett, or anyone else has a decent spring, then he’s gone. They already have a similar player in Valbuena…plain and simple. Valbuena hits lefty. Stewart hits lefty…Valbuena has power. Stewart has power. Valbuena plays average to above average defense…same for Stewart. Valbuena historically has a low batting avg…same for Stewart….the only part of their game that differs is OBP, and Valbuena dramatically improved on that this offseason.

      I just don’t see the need for Stewart. I would much rather see what the Cubs have with Lake, and put him in a platoon situation with Valbuena, and sub in CF for DeJesus when a lefty is pitching.

      Obviously, that all depends on the spring he has, but with guys like Soler, Almora, Jackson, Baez, etc coming up….and doing so VERY soon, they need to find out what they have with him.

      • Tony_Hall

        At this point and for near zero cost, I am giving him all of spring training to make the team or cut him. Rushing Lake makes no sense.

  • Tony_Hall

    No errors on defense and just 1 walk from the pitching staff….I will take that any day.

  • Jim Canavan

    Great report. So glad your there.

    • calicub

      Glad? I’m jealous!

  • matthew8510

    when is the first game broadcast on tv does anyone have that info?

    • Tony_Hall

      Here is their schedule with broadcast info.

      Saturday March 16th is the first real broadcast. MLBN has on one on March 3rd (delayed) as well.

      But if you have MLB.TV, you can catch games broadcast by whatever team we are playing on other days. But you would have to go to each teams site to see their schedule. I use MLB.TV to look each day and see if it is broadcast on there.

      • Neil

        Thanks for posting Tony, I think we were typing around the same time.

    • Brp921

      You can find all the broadcast info at their first televised game is on mlb march 3rd and it’s a delayed broadcast.

      • Neil

        Thanks for posting, I think all three of us were typing around the same time.

    • Neil

      Here is the broadcast schedule:

      Len and JD’s first game is March 16, there will be a game on tape delay on MLB Network on March 3.

      Hope this helps …

      • matthew8510

        thanx wasnt sure

  • bluekoolaidaholic

    Very impressive day for the blue crew and great coverage by CCO, thanks Neil.
    Stewart sucks, but I’m not surprised, he’s a slacker.
    I’m anxious to see if BJax can keep it up. Wow!
    The “Cubs Way” looks great so far.
    Kudos to the teachers.

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