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.

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Quote of the Day

"A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him." - David Brinkley
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  • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

    If Castro hits like he can that alone will be good for maybe 5 more wins. Bonifacio may have been a great pick-up.

  • John_CC

    I’m already cranky that I missed the game today and cranky that I didn’t get to buy Neil a beer and now I’m even crankier to read the great recap.

    Sorry Neil it just did not work out for me today…too moving parts on my end. I guess i’ll have to wait til next year…and come without my family!

    Enjoy the rest of your stay, these warm nights are amazing!

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      John, no worries on my end. Thanks man.

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  • paulcatanese

    Looked like a typical first game in the Spring. With that complex out there for these guys, and all of the extras, I think they are running out of excuses to produce, on the other hand, that place is so nice, why would players want to leave. 65,000 square ft. clubhouse?
    The place is unbelievable. Great job.

  • triple

    One of my first observations in watching the early half of the game on TV was Castro’s very wide stance. And yes, I agree with you Boardrider, Bonifacio may just surprise some of us!

  • Tony_H

    Check off another item on Tom Ricketts list to rebuild this organization from the ground up.

    State of the art Spring training facility and performance center – Done and may be the best in baseball

    Dominican Academy – Done and is called one of the best if not the best in baseball.

    Front office – Done and went from the smallest front office to one of the largest front offices with a mix of scouting and sabermetrics.

    Rebuild farm system to a top ranked system – Done and system is ranked #2 by most and top 5 on every ranking. Next step is to produce MLB players from the system every year.

    Rebuild Wrigley for next 100 years – Not done! This is the last step in the facilities and should have started this winter, but I agree they shouldn’t start anything or spend any money until a deal is done with the rooftops to avoid taking it to court. But I bet one way or another the Budweiser sign is up for Opening Day.

    The final step in rebuilding this organization is a competitive team at Wrigley. I still feel this is coming and that the farm system will be producing the major league players each year to allow them to avoid using FA to build the team, but instead to use it to compliment the team. I feel this is the transition year and moving forward we should see better baseball at Wrigley.

    People want to complain about the MLB team, and that is your right to not like the product at the major league level, but when you look back at what has been done in 5 years and compare it to the entire Zell/Tribune time frame it should put in perspective how much they have done.

    What if the Tribune (in 26 years) would have done this and made a point to put out the best of everything during their stewardship as owner of the Cubs?

    • BillyFinT

      People don’t always complain. American fans complain a lot more than their soccer counterparts in Europe, or NBA fans in China. If we look back fifty, hundred years, then it’s more clear that baseball in the 80s was more exciting than the turn of this Century.