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

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