A Beautiful Park, A Beautiful Day and a Cubs Game – Diamondbacks 5, Cubs 2

Spring Training Game One – Cubs 2, Diamondbacks (SS) 5

WP – Will Harris (1-0) LP – Wesley Wright (0-1) Save – Jake Barrett (1)

The Cubs kicked off the exhibition season Thursday at brand new Cubs Park. The new jewel of the Cactus League will have to wait until another day for its first victory as the Diamondbacks topped the Cubs 5-2 in front of a record crowd of 14,486.

After a shaky beginning, Jeff Samardzija settled in and tossed two scoreless innings. Samardzija worked out of a first and third, one out jam in the first inning. Samardzija struck out Aaron Hill and Eric Chavez to end the inning. Samardzija threw 21 pitches in the first, 13 for strikes. Samardzija faced the minimum in his second and last inning of work. Samardzija gave up a one-out single to right to Miguel Montero before inducing a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of A.J. Pollock to end the inning. Samardzija threw 12 pitches in the second inning, eight for strikes. Samardzija’s final line for his first outing of the spring: 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 walk and 2 strikeouts in 2 innings on 33 pitches, 21 for strikes.

Starlin Castro went 2-for-2 with a RBI double on Thursday. And his double might have been a triple had he not stumbled rounding second base. The work Castro put in the off-season was apparent on Thursday.

Emilio Bonifacio (1-for-2 with a triple and a run scored) tripled in his first at bat in a Cubs’ uniform and scored the first run of the spring when Luis Valbuena (0-for-2 with a RBI and a run scored) grounded out to first base. Valbuena reached on a passed ball ahead of Castro in the third and scored the Cubs second run.

The offense managed only five hits and three walks on the afternoon.

The Cubs took a 2-0 lead into the fifth inning. But Wesley Wright and Jose Veras allowed five runs in the fifth and sixth innings combined. The other relievers Rick Renteria used on Thursday (Grimm, Rondon, Parker, Strop and Cabrera) threw the ball rather well for their first outings of the spring.

Rick Renteria will have to wait another day to pick up his first unofficial win as the Cubs manager.

Scoring Plays

Emilio Bonifacio led off the Cubs’ first with a triple down the right field line on a 0-1 pitch. Luis Valbuena did his job and grounded out to first. Bonifacio scored, 1-0 Cubs.

The game remained 1-0 Cubs into the third. After Darnell McDonald and Bonifacio grounded out to short, Luis Valbuena reached on a swinging third strike. Miguel Montero was credited with a passed ball. Starlin Castro followed with a double to the gap in right center on a 0-1 pitch. Valbuena scored easily and Castro should have ended up at third, but he stumbled between second and third and had to settle for a double. Anthony Rizzo (0-for-2) popped out to Montero to end the inning.

Wesley Wright made his Cubs debut in the fifth and plunked Gerardo Parra to start the inning. Martin Prado followed with a double to left. Parra scored, 2-1 Cubs. Wright struck out Paul Goldschmidt and Aaron Hill but could not get through the lefty Eric Chavez. Chavez launched a 3-2 pitch over the wall in right and put the Diamondbacks up 3-2. Mark Trumbo grounded out to third to end the inning.

Jose Veras walked Bobby Wilson to start the sixth. A.J. Pollock followed with a single to right. With runners on first and second with no outs, Didi Gregorius popped out to Jeudy Valdez in short left for the first out. Veras then hit Gerardo Parra to load the bases. Veras struck out Martin Prado for the second out but he could not get past Paul Goldschmidt. The D-Backs big first baseman singled to center. Wilson and Pollock scored, 5-2 Arizona. Aaron Hill grounded out to short for the third out.

Pitching

Several of the relievers that could be with the Cubs on Opening Day made their first appearance of the spring on Thursday.

Justin Grimm threw the ball extremely well in relief of Samardzija. Grimm surrendered a hit in the third inning but that was all. Grimm threw 20 pitches, 13 for strikes.

Pedro Strop struggled with his command and threw 20 pitches, seven for strikes. Strop loaded up the bases before escaping the jam without allowing any runs … and he shattered Eric Chavez’s bat before striking him out swinging.

Blake Parker threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning with help from a diving catch in center by Matt Szczur.

Hector Rondon surrendered a double to Gregorius in the seventh, but that was all and it was a bloop double at that. Rondon threw 17 pitches, 12 for strikes in his inning of work.

Alberto Cabrera kept the D-Backs off the board in the ninth while struggling with his command.

Pre-Game Ceremonies

The Cubs put on a show for the first game at Cubs Park. The National Anthem was tremendous and was topped off with fireworks, no expense was spared.

Tom Ricketts and Mayor Scott Smith addressed the crowd prior to Mayor Smith throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to James Russell. Ricketts thanked the City of Mesa and city officials that made Thursday possible. Ricketts recognized Crane Kenney and pointed out he was the one that had the vision for the facility five years ago. Ricketts also recognized Theo Epstein and the Baseball Operations Department.

Observations from the Park

Cubs Park, the Under Armour Performance Center and facility are incredibly impressive. The photos that have surfaced do not do it justice. Cubs Park has all of the amenities for the fans and it is very easy to get around. The practice fields for the players are just outside of Cubs Park, a short walk away. The players actually make the walk from the Under Armour Performance Center to the park prior to game time.

Starlin Castro’s batting stance appeared much wider than last season Thursday. But he produced against Bronson Arroyo.

Chris Bosio not only works with the pitchers on the mound, he works with them in the cage. Bosio supervised batting practice for the pitchers Thursday with Rick Sutcliffe shagging balls. Chris Rusin, Travis Wood, James McDonald, Carlos Pimentel, Kyle Hendricks, Edwin Jackson, Carlos Villanueva, Tsuyoshi Wada and Dallas Beeler took part in the BP session … and so did a pitcher that looked a lot like Jake Arrieta.

The Cubs make the short trip to Tempe to take on the Angels on Friday afternoon. Chris Rusin is scheduled to face Jered Weaver.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

Quote of the Day

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow." - Albert Einstein