Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cubs Set Cactus League Record

The hottest team in all of baseball this spring is the LA Angels of Anaheim and they continued today, beating the Cubs 8-4 to raise their (doesn't matter) spring record to 24-6-1. Attendance at Hohokam today was 9,165, smaller than our recent crowds but enough for the Cubs to set the all-time Hohokam and Cactus League home attendance record of 195,172 with one more game to go on Thursday. The Cubs held the old mark of 193,993, set in 2005. With more games this season the per game is lower than 2005's per game average of 12,125.

As for the actual game, Sean Marshall started and did well until the 4th inning when the Angels scored 7 of the 8 runs against Marshall. The Angels had 8 hits that inning with Torii Hunter getting 2 of the 8, one a HR. The Cubs relief staff of Patton, Heilman, Vizcaino, and Chad Fox did a good job holding the Angels scoreless after the 4th with Kevin Gregg making his first appearance in a week striking out the side in the 9th.

Derrek Lee is really starting to heat up going 3 for 3 today with a couple doubles and a RBI. Kosuke Fukudome had a two hits, one of them a triple. After his first hit Dome was picked off first base when his foot slipped awkwardly across the bag while a tag was applied. Two innings later, Ryan Theriot was picked off first base, it's still spring training but we are nearing opening day and you don't like to see this stuff happening. Micah Hoffpauir hit his 6th spring home run driving in Aaron Miles who had a pinch hit double ahead of Hoff.

The Cubs finished today's game with a lineup that included Carlos Perez, Cliff Anderson, Nate Samson, Jonathan Mota, and Nelson Perez leaving some fans scratching their heads wondering 'Who?'. Yes, I'll be consulting my Cubs Media Guide to find out about these guys.

D-Lee was signing autographs down the right field line all the way up to within 2 minutes of first pitch. Lou Piniella and his coaches had to avoid a Gary Matthews Jr. flying bat in the 7th inning as it slipped out his hands during his AB. Joey Gathright as he's made a habit of doing ran down a long Robb Quinlan fly ball to the RC gap making the catch only feet before the fence. He couldn't stop himself so he ran about 3 steps straight up the side of the wall. This guy is one heck of an athlete.

I had a nice visit with Al Yellon who created the website Bleed Cubbie Blue and his friend Miriam before today's game. BCB is a Cubs fan community with great discussions and a wealth of information.

The Cubs will head to Phoenix tomorrow taking on the A's and then close the Cactus League portion of the exhibition schedule on Thursday at Hohokam against the Cleveland Indians, Thursdays game will start one hour early at 12:05 pm AZ time.

Exclusive Boys of Spring photos provided by Garrett Craig, for more info about Garrett check yesterday's blog.



Marshall ran into trouble in the 4th


It may not look pretty but Dome gets a hit here



David Patton calls out a pop-up


One of D-Lee's two doubles



Heilman working



Theriot holds ball after force on second



Luis Vizcaino



"No, we didn't ask to see Mr. Matthews bat, please return it to him"



Dome on stand-up triple



Miles heading to second on pinch hit double



Hoff shows the power, 2 run dinger

Monday, March 30, 2009

DeRo Show at Hoho - The Photos

As you probably know I take almost all of the photos you see here at Boys of Spring, however it is nearly impossible for me to take any shots during games at Hohokam since I am announcing and up in the press box. So I have enlisted the help of a fellow Cubs fan Garrett Craig for the final games at Hohokam. These were taken by Garrett yesterday except for the one I took of Dempster and Kerry Wood together. You can see more of Garrett's photos here at Flickr, and if you are looking for a freelance photographer with a good eye for sports in the Chicago area give Garrett an email at Flickr or here at info@boysofspring.com.


Dempster and Woody pre-game


Wonder what Jim was thinking about the DeRo trade after the game


Theodore on the mound


One of two HR trots



Theo


Not a HR but a monster smash



DeRo's ball hits near top of batters eye



Sometimes a Managers job is a lonely one


Wood on the mound



Beardless Gaudin



After A-Ram doubles, German pinch runs



Reed Johnson followed A-Ram's double with a pinch hit HR



Gathright puts on the brakes on 8th inning double



Signing for the fans



Man of the hour talks with the press after big game


Sunday, March 29, 2009

DeRo Show at HoHo

The Indians first visit to Hohokam Park in nearly 20 years was successful as they beat the Cubs 7-5 before 13,097 fans on a gorgeous Mesa afternoon. Mark DeRosa who started at 3rd base today for the Indians got a very warm reception from the Hohokam crowd as he came to bat in the 1st inning and promptly smoked a Ted Lilly pitch for a 2 run dinger. Two innings later DeRo pounded out a solo HR. His next at bat might have been more impressive even though it only ended up as a double because he crushed a ball to dead center that nearly cleared the 35 ft. high batters eye at 410 feet. The ball bounced about 5 foot from the top of the wall back into play. DeRosa finished his big day going 3 for 4 with 4 RBI's to the chagrin of many a Cub fan.

As for the Cubs Milton Bradley continued his hot hitting with a HR and 3 RBI's and Ryan Theriot was 2 for 2 with 2 runs scored plus a couple of walks. A-Ram went 2 for 4 one of those being a double. Reed Johnson came in as a pinch hitter in the 8th inning and eventually worked his way to a 3-2 count then smashed a 2 run HR. Joey Gathright started in centerfield played the whole game went 3 for 4 including a double. One of the hits was an infield chopper that Gathright used his speed to beat out. With Reed Johnson having an outstanding spring and Gathright's solid play, it leaves me scratching my head a bit about how much playing time the Cubs will give Kosuke Fukudome.

Ted Lilly got his first Cactus League start since returning from the WBC. He allowed 4 runs on 7 hits with 2 bases on balls and 8 K's. Chad Gaudin shaved his goat beard sometime recently I hope it's not the source of his pitching abilities because he had a tough outing going 2 innings giving up 3 runs on 3 hits, 1 base on balls, 2 strikeouts. Kerry Wood got a chance to pitch today against his former teammates for an inning holding the Cubs scoreless.

Kerry Wood and DeRo arrived at Hohokam today in street clothes and gave many hugs to former teammates, Wood sat for a bit having a conversation with Ryan Dempster. Peter Gammons from ESPN was at the ballpark today. The Cubs head out to Surprise tomorrow to take on the Royals and then back at Hohokam on Tuesday to host the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The photo below is Mark DeRosa circling the bases on one of his HR's and was taken by a talented young photographer named Garrett Craig. Garrett is helping out Boys of Spring this week and I will post more of his photos tomorrow, so check back then.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Last Week

With the Cubs final spring game only one week away, I'm getting very excited for the start of the regular season. As I've mentioned in the past, it's bitter sweet for me because when the Cubs leave AZ I won't be around the team on a day to day basis. So I got to thinking, what are some of the things that make spring training so much fun.

Great weather, lots of sun and less clothing required.

Relaxed fun environment, for players and fans.

Close proximity to players.

Get to see young Cubs prospects for the first time.

Hohokam pressbox offers panoramic mountain views

BP closer to game time, making it easier for fans to watch.

Opportunities for anyone to sing 7th inning stretch.

Smaller more intimate environment means you're more likely to see Hall of Famers, current players, broadcasters, coaches and staff just walking around.

Can snow ski on a mountain in the morning, go to a game later the same day.

St. Patrick's Day is during Spring Training.

March Madness is during Spring Training.

First Official Day of Spring is during Spring Training.

Two Words: Spring Break


Friday, March 27, 2009

Cubs Knock Their Sox Off

Anytime the Cubs beat the White Sox it's a cause for celebration. They did that today in fine fashion 9-4 in front of a single game Cactus League attendance record audience of 13,327. The game started off at a cool (for Mesa) 60 degrees, but the Cubs bats came out hot as they plated 7 runs in the 1st inning on Sox starter Clayton Richard who couldn't make it out of the 1st inning.

Carlos Zambrano pitched a steady if unspectacular 6 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits with 3 K's and 2 BB's. Angel Guzman gave up a HR to Brian Anderson, and Chad Fox pitching in the 9th allowed the other run. Luis Vizcaino pitched a scoreless inning.

Kosuke Fukudome made his first start in the Cactus League upon returning from Japan's successful title defense of the WBC tourney. Dome promptly got a base hit to the delight of the Hohokam crowd. Uncle Milty went 1 for 2 and also got a couple free passes, it's nice to have a guy who can hit for power, average, and a high OBP. Alfonso Soriano had a very effective 1st inning at the plate notching 2 hits in the first as the Cubs batted 11. Aaron Miles starting at 2nd base had a nice game going 3 for 4, Koyie Hill had a 2 RBI double in the Cubs big first. Derrek Lee also had a couple hits including a double.

Bradley made a sweet running grab and then fired a very strong throw, nearly doubling up the White Sox runner at first. Soriano made a nice running catch in the 4th although it probably shouldn't have been as difficult; Soriano at first moved slowly and then as if he thought 'hey, I could catch this' turned up the speed to make the grab. White Sox centerfielder Jerry Owens robbed A-Ram of an extra base hit with a beautiful diving grab in right center.

We're getting towards the end of spring training but it's still a pretty relaxed time for players who know they're going to be on a MLB roster. I'm guessing in a regular season game you won't see White Sox pitcher Octavio Dotel jumping on the back of Bobby Jenks for a piggy back ride between innings walking across the infield to the bullpen as he did today. Today's attendance record is probably going to stand until we break it again this season or most likely until next spring because the Cubs won't play again at Camelback Ranch this spring. The only way that either the Dodgers or the White Sox can break the record at the Ranch is if they play the Cubs, so the record stays at Hohokam for at least another year.

Cubs travelling to Tucson tomorrow to take on the Rockies and back to Hohokam on Sunday where we'll play the Cleveland Indians for the first time in Mesa. It'll be good to see Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood even if it is in a different uniform.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Field of Dreams

Every once in a while you get an opportunity to live out a dream and last night's Fergie and Friends Game was one of those times for me. Getting to play baseball and hang out with Cubs Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins, and Billy Williams, and other MLB Hall of Fame players like Rollie Fingers, Harmon Killebrew and Bob Feller, as well as former Cubs stars Ron Santo, Randy Hundley, Keith Moreland, Jody Davis, Lee Smith, Bill Buckner, Steve Trout, Dave Kingman, Jay Johnstone, and Bob Dernier was an incredible experience.

The 7 innning game was all to raise money for charity, while seeing these MLB greats of years past and having some laughs along the way. The master of ceremonies was former Detroit Tiger Jon Warden who did his part to keep the fans laughing and engaged...he's quite the cut-up. Jon was very funny however next year he can probably cut down on the number of flatulence related jokes and not miss a beat. 90 year-old "Bullet" Bob Feller jogged to the field during the player introductions and tossed a ceremonial pitch to kick things off for the memorable evening. I was lucky enough to play in the game while my usual Public Address duties were handled by AZ Diamondbacks PA man Chuck Drago, who did a great job.

For me playing in the game was very surreal, being in the same dugout as these great players and hearing all their chatter and stories was truly a once in a lifetime experience. I played only 2 innings because we had many players on the Arizona All-Stars including Olympic gold medal swimmer Amy Van Dyken, former NHL goaltender Sean Burke and many local radio and TV personalities, so all of us saw limited game action.

My one time at bat came against former Cub Steve "Rainbow" Trout who went 13-7 in 1984, the same year I started at Hohokam. I fouled off the first two pitches and was quickly in an 0-2 hole, the last thing I wanted to do was get a called third strike, so on Trout's third pitch which was a bit high and outside I drove the ball to right field. Playing rightfield at the time was Peoria Illinois native and former Toronto Blue Jay Pitcher Tom Gilles the youngest member of the Fergie and Friends team at age 46. As I ran to first base I could see Gilles was on his horse and might have trouble getting to the ball, he made one of the better fielding plays of the game leaping and catching it over the shoulder.

My two innings in the outfield were pretty uneventful other than a hit down the line which I made a solid throw to the cutoff man who relayed to third where a very slow moving Bernie Carbo was tagged out.

Some other highlights for me were talking to Billy Williams about how special being a Chicago Cub was to him and chatting with Keith Moreland about the 1984 Cubs division winning team. Another thrill was talking to Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller about the 104 mph fastball he threw in Chicago at an exhibition in Lincoln Park. We also talked about his 1940 opening day no-hitter against the White Sox and other highlights of his career.

By the way, Fergie and his Friends beat our AZ All-Stars 7-2. However, the only numbers from this game that really matter are the amounts donated to worthy causes and the number of great memories everyone will have from last night's game.

The Cubs have a rare night game in Scottsdale against the Giants tonight after yesterday's day off, and then they're back to Hohokam tomorrow against White Sox.


AZ resident Harmon Killebrew during introductions


Fergie with his friends


Bob Feller ready for a ceremonial pitch

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hollywood Comes to Mesa

A Chamber of Commerce day here in Arizona with plenty of sun and a high that reached mid 70's saw the Cubs take down the Rockies 9-8 in front of a Hohokam Stadium single game record crowd of 13,289.

After belting out 24 hits yesterday, the Cubs continued their hot hitting as the first 4 Cubs up to bat all got hits but on Alfonso Soriano's he was thrown out trying to stretch a single to a double. Milton Bradley has certainly heated up...now that he's playing. He was 3 for 4 with a single, double, and a line shot HR to left. Soriano was 2 for 2 with a double and 2 RBI's, he also is showing good patience, walking twice today. One unfortunate recent trend is Alfonso being thrown out trying to steal 2nd. I believe this has happened the last 3 times he's attempted to steal second, of course, spring is when you work these things out so hopefully he's just getting his timing down.

Chad Gaudin started today's game went two innings with mixed results. He walked a couple batters, struck out a couple, and would have given up only one run if not for an Aaron Miles error on pitcher Greg Smith's grounder. Neal Cotts and Kevin Gregg came in and combined for a 1-2-3 third inning. Jeff Samardzija trying to win a spot on the roster was not too effective allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and 1 walked batter in his lone inning pitched. Mike Stanton attempting an improbable comeback was even less effective and allowed 3 runs in an inning and won't be around much longer.

Paul Bako got a hit while pinch hitting today giving him 6 consecutive hits going back to Sunday's game. Derrek Lee showed his stellar glovemanship a couple times today, one snaring a wicked hop that was headed over his right shoulder. Reed Johnson who was playing rightfield in the final innings made a great running grab in the corner to help preserve the Cubs one run win. Ex-Cub Matt Murton started for the Rockies and went hit-less, another former Cub Mark Bellhorn struck out pinch hitting in the 9th with a tying run on 2nd to end the game.

If you noticed silence leading up to the starting lineups, it was because of the TBS TV show My Boys were filming and needed "quiet on the set", so we did not play our regular pre-game music, or announce some of the advertising. Mike Fontenot and Micah Hoffpauir are involved in the storyline of the My Boys episode, it was kind of fun to watch the crew do their work. My Boys deals with a female sports columnist in Chicago and the men in her life, and a sportswriter for a rival publication...I must confess I have never seen an episode. I did noticed a familiar face in the suite where the shows crew and actors watched today's game, the janitor from the TV show Scrubs. Our Hohokam organist George Kiefer may be shown in the episode filmed at Hohokam.

Tomorrow night is our Fergie and Friends Celebrity Baseball Game. I'm getting a bit apprehensive, as you know if you've been reading I'm playing in the game against Fergie and his talented former MLB stars. Of course our team the "Arizona All-Stars" will be managed by Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew and have a few talented athletes, former Phoenix Coyotes goalie Sean Burke and Olympian Amy Van Dyken, but the fact is we are woefully over-matched. As I was leaving the ballpark today, one of the Hohokam members said "I have you going 0 for 3 in tomorrow's game in the pool." The fact that they would even have a pool and that he has me going 0 for 3 does not bother me because it's all to raise money for charity.


My Boys star Jordana Spiro and the back of Paul Sullivan's head


Getting ready to shoot a scene


Chicago native Neil Flynn best known as the Janitor on Scrubs

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cubs bring the whooping sticks

Talk about fun, it was a great day to just be a fan watching the Cubs smack around the A's at Phoenix Muni. The A's stadium was packed to near capacity (7,994) with a very large portion of those being Cubs fans who enjoyed a 24 hit attack that produced a 20 to 5 Cubs victory on a sunny and slightly cool AZ day(64 degrees at game time). Somewhat lost in the hitting barrage was a solid performance by Ryan Dempster who went 4.1 innings, allowing 1 run on 3 hits while whiffing 6 Athletics.

I'll let some of the photos I took today take over from here...enjoy.


Dempster focused


Dempster and Bobby Scales with Papago Mountains behind


Cubs fans a plenty


Demp dealing


The Riot hitting a triple down the right field line


Quade: "Nice triple Riot, now if we talk real quiet Nomar won't hear us"


Giambi holds Fontenot on first after he singled, driving in Theriot


Good to see D-Lee playing, here he smacks his first spring HR


A's Rajai Davis can only watch as D-Lee's bomb disappears beyond 410


Lee HR trot


Hoff and Lee 5's up top


Everyone's happy to see Lee hitting

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Night baseball blog

Random thoughts while watching the WBC Japan vs USA game:

On his most recent at bat in the game it showed Kosuke Fukudome was batting .211 for the WBC and then he K'd ugly. I'm sure Lou can't be that happy that Dome has missed all this time in camp. One guy that probably is happy is Reed Johnson. Reed has given me confidence that even if Dome can't get his bat going the Cubs have a reliable Centerfielder.

Wow, this game has gotten interesting as Mark DeRosa just hit a triple to bring the US within two. It's going to be difficult seeing DeRosa in a Cleveland uniform when the Indians come to Hohokam twice in the last week of spring training...as well as Kerry Wood.

Seeing how far the Asian teams have come in the sport of baseball, it was interesting to note that the Cubs today played a team led by the first Asian-American Manager in the history of Major League Baseball, Don Wakamatsu. That's according to Wikipedia. I remember seeing Wakamatsu playing for Arizona State with Barry Bonds. Wakamatsu's father was born in a US internment camp during World War II and his grandparents were Japanese. Considering March is Irish-American Heritage Month it should be noted Wakamatsu's mother is Irish-American.

Fukudome just walked, we know he's good at drawing those.

I'm feeling a bit sore from going to the batting cage yesterday but I think it's only a bit of muscle fatigue and I'll be ready to step to the plate at Hohokam for the Fergie and Friends game. I heard today that Bob Feller might actually take the mound and pitch during the game, I hope I don't go up against him because that might be a no-win situation. If you get a hit off him it's because he's 90 years old. Now if you can't get a hit off him then you'll really be embarrassed because you can't hit a guy who's only a decade shy of being a centenarian.

Oh, Japan just scored another run...I guess it would be more interesting if the US had more of their best pitchers on the squad.

I'm doing so-so on my two NCAA brackets and have Connecticut and Oklahoma as eventual winners.

Why is Adam Dunn playing in the outfield for team USA? Is he the worst defensive outfielder in the Majors? OK, it appears Japan is headed to the Championship unless the U.S. pulls off something very improbable. Talk with you tomorrow. T

Z Cubs Win

Big Z was the big story today as the Cubs beat the Seattle Mariners 5-3 on a sunny but gusty day in Mesa.

Z cruised through his longest outing of the spring going 6 innings, allowing 4 hits and 1 run on a Chris Woodward solo HR and 6 K's. He also helped himself at the plate, with a double to the rightfield corner and later scored. With the score tied at 1, the Cubs broke things open in the 6th plating 3 runs as Alfonso Soriano hit a bases loaded single to drive in two of the 3, which was all the scoring the Cubs needed for the win.

Milton Bradley was 2 for 3 at the plate, Derrek Lee doubled in the 1st but ended up stranded. Alfonso Soriano also drew a walk and was seen celebrating at 1st with base coach Matt Sinatro- Sinatro because it was his birthday today and Soriano because he actually drew a base on balls.

Ronny Cedeno was the leadoff hitter for the Mariners and reminded us why he's not a Cub, 0 for 4 with two K's. Big Z showed his defensive skills and agility on a swinging bunt by Mariners Franklin Gutierrez as Z bounded off the mound, bare handed the ball and tossed him out at first.

Even though it's only spring training it's still good to hear the song "Go Cubs Go!" after a Cubs victory. Cubs will travel to Phoenix tomorrow playing the A's, I hope to get out there and bring you back photos. Talk with you then.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Nice Evening Here



One of the things I love about Arizona are the sunsets, here's a photo I shot half an hour ago. Being in the wide open spaces of the desert southwest has a magical feel on perfect evenings like tonight - However, these days you need to travel a bit further to get to the open spaces on the outskirts of the sprawling urbanity that is Phoenix. There's no better way to put it, the Cubs kicked ass over the White Sox today, got to love it! I wasn't at the game or I would have passed along a report or photos.

Boys of Spring is actively involved and helping to sponsor the Fergie and Friends Celebrity game at Hohokam this coming Wednesday night the 25th at 7pm. What this means is that along with helping the Ferguson Jenkins Foundation raise funds for Juvenile Diabetes and Cancer Lymphoma I will be one of the Arizona All-Stars playing against Fergie and his Friends. Yes, joining a team something like the reconstituted Washington Generals taking on the Harlem Globetrotters in baseball form. Fergie's Friends happen to be a number of Hall of Famers and former MLB stars, so I have no business playing against them. I'm going to try and not embarrass myself, and have fun. Maybe I can get a few tips from Milton Bradley on how to snap a bat or smash a helmet after I strike out. Milton, if you're reading, I'll take your ideas in comment form.

But seriously, I am extremely delighted and excited about playing in the game. I don't want to make a fool of myself, and it may be my one chance to play against guys at this level, albeit former level, so I am practicing everyday down at the batting cage and nearby diamond. You may ask, who's going to do the Public Address if I'm playing? Any takers? No, just kidding we have a local radio personality to donate his time for the evening.

The whole event is about having fun and getting to meet the guys. You can have your photo taken with, shake hands, $25 gets you on the field before the game to say hello to Ron Santo who is now confirmed to be there, along with Ryne Sandberg, Billy Williams, of course Fergie, and possibly Ernie Banks. All these greats on the same field at the same time with you! General Admission tickets are only $10, don't miss it! Check out http://www.fergieandfriends.com/ for more info.

Seattle Mariners are headed to Hohokam tomorrow. Big Z starts against Erik Bedard, I'll talk with you after the game.

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Play One and Win"

Many of you probably saw the Cubs 5-3 victory over the San Diego Padres on WGN or at Hohokam as we had more fans in attendance than any Cactus League game in history- 13,162. The previous single game attendance record 13,046 was set only last week on St.Patricks Day at Camelback Ranch in Glendale when the Cubs played the Dodgers. They made quite a big deal over the public address system at the Ranch about breaking Hohokam's record. Of course, they couldn't do it without the Cubs half of the equation...for us it's kind of like, oh yeah another sell-out record crowd, we're used to it, not that big of a deal because we expect it.

As for the game, Rich Harden didn't start because of the flu so youngster Mitch Atkins got the nod, allowing two runs in the first both unearned. Atkins would have been out of the inning unscathed if not for an error. Alfonso Soriano's bat is coming around, he went 2 for 4. Milton "The Game" Bradley had a couple hits in 3 at bats. I don't know if WGN picked this up, but after Milton struck out in the 3rd inning, he threw his batting helmet hard against the dugout wall in frustration...this guy really hates to strike out. A-Ram went 2 for 3. Reed Johnson had a pinch hit 2 run homer to left center that put the Cubs ahead to stay.

Carlos Marmol, Kevin Gregg, and Angel Guzman all pitched well, giving up no runs to the Padres with Gregg and Guzie striking out 3 each. Kevin Hart looking to pitch himself to Iowa, almost blew it in the 9th as he hit the first two batters he faced and allowed a triple and a run before getting Brett Dowdy pop out to end the game.

With Sean Marshall winning the 5th starter spot, one of the few competitions left is for the closer spot, which should be interesting over the next week as both Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg battle it out. Angel Guzman helped his cause to join the pen today and it's really time for him to step up if he's ever going to. Micah Hoffpauir made a nice leaping snag of a liner in the 6th then doubled up Kyle Blanks off of 1st. Hoffpauir's glove work at 1st base has been surprisingly effective this spring. Funny but almost not funny, Paul Bako throwing to 1st base after a strikeout only to have Hoffpauir looking the other way and nearly get his head taken off. Luckily it didn't hit him, the very next batter Chase Headley struck out and Bako made sure Hoffpauir was looking before he threw to first.

Good to see Geovany Soto back with the Cubs even though he went o for 2, striking out both times. The guys from Cubscast.com interviewed me before the game today we touched on alot of different subjects, you can hear it soon on their website. Today I heard a fan say to Billy Williams "let's play two", to which Billy replied "Let's play one and win!" The Cubs will play the White Sox tomorrow at Camelback Ranch and then we'll host the Mariners on Sunday at Hohokam.


Soto during infield this morning

Food Drive Today

The Cubs wives are having their annual food drive at Hohokam today, so please bring nonperishable food items to the Park or make a donation. The drive benefits Mesa's Paz De Cristo Shelter.

The first 500 fans to donate 10 non-perishable food items or $20 will have a chance to randomly select a grab bag featuring used baseballs from each of the 55 home wins of the 2008 season. Limit two per person. So, come on out to the Hohokam Park any time after 9am (game begins at 1:05pm)

Rich Harden will start on the mound for the Cubs, with Derrek Lee, Milton Bradley and Geovany Soto all expected back in today's line-up.

I'll talk to you after the game. T

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dempster strong but Cubs lose in 9th

Cubs lost 8-6 to the Giants today in front of a Hohokam single game record crowd of 13,024. Despite the outcome, this was a pretty well-played game for the Cubs until Jose Ascanio gave up 5 runs in the 9th.

Alfonso Soriano got things started quickly on the first pitch as he launched a Tim Lincecum offering into the left field berm. The Cubs would score two more in the first as Micah Hoffpauir legged out a triple off the centerfield wall. The Cubs would score another run in both the 4th and 5th inning, holding a 5-0 lead by the time most of the starters left. The Cubs staged a rally of their own in the bottom of the 9th, but left bags loaded as minor league call-up Dylan Johnston struck out to end the game. The Cubs left 13 runners on base today.

As Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum labored, Cubs Ryan Dempster pitched as if he was on cruise control, going 5 innings allowing 4 hits, no runs while striking out 4 Giants. The only nitpick with Dempster today was the fact that he came up to bat two times with Joey Gathright on first base and failed to get the sacrifice bunt down each time. This is the type of thing that will hopefully be worked on enough and corrected by the end of spring. The Cubs relievers didn't fair nearly as well as Dempster except for Kevin Hart who pitched a scoreless 8th, striking out 2 of the 3 he faced. Chad Gaudin gave up 2 runs in the 6th, and Luis Vizcaino struck out three of the four batters he faced in the 7th but unfortunately the 4th batter, Jesus Guzman, hit a home run.

The real pitching debacle came as Jose Ascanio gave up 5 runs on 4 hits, including a grand slam by Giants minor league call-up Nick Noonan. Not good when a #82 without a name on his jersey pounds a game winning grand salami off you.

Defensively, Joey Gathright as we've been getting accustomed to seeing this spring made a sensational running somersaulting catch in the 5th inning. Micah Hoffpauir made a good pick up at 1st base on a hot grounder in the 9th. Giants 3rd baseman Pablo Sandoval got a nasty bad hop taking a hard grounder somewhere around his mouth and was down for quite a while before leaving the game. Mike Fontenot nearly took off Lincecum's head with a rocket comebacker to the mound, Lincecum had to snap his head away quickly, or it would have been very ugly.

I saw ESPN's Peter Gammon, Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney, writer George Will, and Lou Piniella kibitzing around the batting cage during BP. The Cubs are going to retire #31 for Ferguson Jenkins and Greg Maddux and Fergie was on hand to mark the news with a ceremonial first pitch today. We had a moment of silence before the start of the game as longtime Arizona resident, and former Cubs manager Whitey Lockman passed away yesterday at the age of 82. Lockman played 16 years in the Majors, 14 of them with the NY and SF Giants.

The Cubs will travel to Peoria tomorrow to take on the Mariners, and then back to Hohokam on Friday to play San Diego Padres. The game on Friday is also our annual food drive, so if you're headed to the game bring non perishable food items to donate. Another note on Friday's game, it starts at 1:05, apparently a published schedule had erroneously listed it as being a night game.


Fergie Jenkins being interviewed at Hohokam today

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day Indeed!

The Cubs and Big Z wearing the green and pounding the Dodgers 12-3, talk about fun at the ballpark! Instead of writing about what happened, I'll just let the photos I took tell a bit of the story.

I'll be back with a write-up of the goings on tomorrow as the SF Giants make their first and only appearance at Hohokam this spring. Enjoy the photos.


Soriano warms up before game


New Cub Corey Koskie during National Anthem



Bases painted like the flag of Ireland


Lou chats with the umps


Z dealing


Koskie's first Cubs at bat


Koskie promptly bangs it off the outfield wall for a double


Z coming to the dish


A very nice stadium but the traffic and parking at the Ranch suck


Z goes yard


Z's power swing


Sweet


Kids battle for a ball tossed by a Cub at innings end


Dodgers outfielders were going to the wall all day


Reed Johnson and So Taguchi


Sean Marshall came in for an inning


Reed Johnson comes out of game after a double, going 3 for 4 at the plate

A Green Day in Glendale

Happy St. Patrick's Day! As some of you may remember I was lucky enough to visit Ireland last April and had a blast, here is my blog with a few photos after returning from the Emerald Isle.

I was planning on going to Maryvale yesterday but certain events precluded me from doing so. Today I'm going to Glendale to watch the Cubs vs the Dodgers and will post photos here later today.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Harden Starts Today

I will not be going to Tucson today to see the Cubs take on the Diamondbacks but will be at tomorrows game vs the Brewers in Maryvale. Since most of you probably watched the Cubs on WGN-TV yesterday, I didn't do a write up on the game but here are a few photos I took before the game.


Sean Marshall appears to be well ahead in the race for the 5th starter slot


Guzman had a rough game


Rich Harden was working with S&C Coach Tim Buss


Harden will make his second spring start today, he should pitch 3 innings


This guy has some serious forearms

Friday, March 13, 2009

Let's play Two

The Cubs played two games today with one split squad losing in Tempe to the Angels 8-2, and the other winning at Hohokam 8-1 over the Seattle Mariners. In Tempe 8,876 showed up to see the Cubs and Angels, while 10,910 made it to Hohokam to enjoy the Cubs victory.

I'll talk about the game I witnessed at Hohokam where Sean Marshall once again looked very strong in his bid to lock up the 5th starter spot. The tall southpaw went 4 and a third innings giving up 1 run on 4 hits, and that run may not have scored if not for his own error. Marshall snared an attempted bunt in mid-air then rushed his throw in trying to double up on Prentice Redman at 1st, Sean's errant throw allowed Redman to reach 3rd base. Marshall left the game at that point to a strong ovation from the Hohokam crowd.

Two of the Cubs smaller guys did the biggest damage today, Sam Fuld and Andres Blanco both went yard in almost the exact same spot down the right field line. Both Fuld and Blanco had two hits a piece. Richie Robnett drove in two runs in the 8th as Mariner's left fielder Daniel Carroll and shortstop Daniel Noriega collided knocking the ball out of Carrol's glove. Reed Johnson, Mike Fontenot, and Koyie Hill all chipped in with RBI singles.

Scary moment as A-Ram swung all the way around on a strike and hit Mariner's catcher Jeff Clement in the head with his bat, it's a good thing catchers wear helmets. Clement shook it off and stayed in the game. This was one of those games spring training is known for, at one point Seattle had two #57's playing in the game at the same time, and Tyson Gillies who was listed in the starting lineup as #24 came to bat wearing jersey #96. Luckily I had the heads up from Cubs media relations man Jason Carr on that one. By the end of the game, the Cubs were fielding a lineup that included Jim Adduci, Nate Spears, Darwin Barney and newly acquired Esteban German.

We've had mostly seasonal average temperatures so far this spring, with highs in the mid 70's. Next week is spring break for many of the Arizona public schools, and it looks like things will be heating up weather wise, with high 80's expected by Tuesday.

No more split squads for the Cubs this spring and that's a good thing, as they're starting to cut the roster down. I'm posting a photo I took from yesterday's game of teammates Carlos Zambrano and Kosuke Fukudome playing against each other. Tomorrow it will be a full house at Hohokam as the Cubs will host the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim...still can't get used to that name. Talk to you after the game.


Z vs Dome at Hoho

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Konnichiwa WBC

Another beautiful day in the valley of the sun, 73 degrees at first pitch and plenty of sunshine. The Cubs lost to WBC Team Japan 3-2 in a well-pitched exhibition ballgame in front of a surprisingly small crowd of 6,591. I think part of the reason for the less than expected turnout was the fact that until recently it wasn't known which WBC team would be playing the Cubs.

The Cubs starting lineup was close to the probable opening day lineup except for backup Catcher Paul Bako, possibly Reed Johnson and Mike Fontenot. Big Z was on the mound facing Japan's 22 year old phenom Yu Darvish. Both pitched well, while the Japanese used a DH, Carlos wanted to get his turns at the plate. Big Z went 4 innings, allowed 3 hits and 2 runs. One of the runs resulted from a passed ball. The rest of the Cubs contingent of pitchers Kevin Gregg, David Patton, Angel Guzman, Neal Cotts and Randy Wells each threw a successful inning with only Patton allowing a run.

Mike Fontenot was 2 for 2 and scored the Cubs first run in the 4th on a Paul Bako base hit. The Cubs other run came when they mounted a little comeback in the 9th on back to back doubles by Jake Fox and So Taguchi, however Micah Hoffpauir and Doug Deeds couldn't drive in the tying run from 3rd as they both ended up striking out against Kyuji Fujikawa. Derrek Lee drew a walk and hit a double going 1 for 2. Milton Bradley had a hit and then struck out in the 5th, getting a bit agitated with himself, snapping the bat over his knee like a toothpick. (See Video Below) Cubs Kosuke Fukudome playing for Team Japan went 1 for 4, with a flair single to right center driving in Shuichi Murata, Dome played the whole game in Center Field. Big Z wanted to get his at-bats in today and struck out once from each side of the dish. Despite striking out twice, as usual Carlos did some serious battling at the plate.

Before the game Fukudome was visibly excited and happy to see his Cubs teammates. He signed autographs for the fans and was all smiles. This was challenging PA duty, but luckily I had the help of Arizona native Patrick Bellew, who is the Team Japan Press Liaison and speaks fluent Japanese. With Team Japan playing, there was a foreign media throng that overwhelmed the Hohokam pressbox. Interesting to see the sponsors on Team Japan's uniforms included the McDonald's 'M' on their ballcaps. So Taguchi playing for the Cubs in the late innings appeared to be less than aggressive on a couple pop-ups by his fellow countrymen...I'm not saying he was sandbagging, he just seemed to lack his usual hustle.

During the game Lou Piniella could be seen hanging over the railing of the dugout with his bag of sunflower seeds. I gave a happy birthday shout out to Cubs pitching and 3rd base coaches Larry Rothschild and Mike Quade towards the end of today's game. The Cubs have a split squad tomorrow with part of the team headed to Tempe to take on the Angels and the rest at Hohokam against the Mariners. Sean Marshall will be getting the start at Hohokam. Talk with you after tomorrow's game.

If you haven't seen the new CubsAZ video show, check it out on our home or multimedia page in the large TV/Media Box, where you can find out what Fergie Jenkins, George Foster, and Jon Warden think about the Cubs' chances this season.

video

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day Off Adventures and CubsAZ Show

Since the Cubs don't play today it's a great opportunity to watch the new episode of our CubsAZ weekly video program, this show profiles the Fergie and Friends Celebrity Game that will be held at Hohokam on March 25th. Also on the show I asked Cubs Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins, the Reds George Foster (N.L. MVP in 1977) and a vocal Jon Warden who played for the Detroit Tigers about the Cubs chances this season. As always watch CubsAZ in the main media/TV box on the Homepage or Multimedia page.

Lou Piniella may actually enjoy his day off today after two solid outings by the Cubs. Yesterday's 8-1 victory over the Mariners in Peoria saw the spring game debut of Rich Harden who tossed a couple solid shutout innings. Ryan Dempster and Aaron Heilman each chucked three successful innings, Dempster allowed no runs on 2 hits while Heilman allowed the Mariners lone run on 2 hits and recorded 5 K's. Most of the Cubs regulars stayed back and worked at Hohokam which opened up a chance for Doug Deeds to go 4 for 5 with 2 RBI's. Deeds has some talent but will be 28 years old in June and has only played one season above Double A.

So the Cubs have the day off today...I guess with an expected high temp of 78 degrees and abundant sunshine the boys will find something to do. Although I'm not sure if Lou will make it back for tomorrow's game as his wife is planning an excursion. Hopefully she doesn't let Lou do the navigating as we know geography isn't his strong point. According to the Carrie Muskat article on Cubs.com Lou and Anita may helicopter to the Grand Canyon and then possibly raft the Snake River, which confuses me because the only Snake River I know is the one up in Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, and Washington...Perhaps they meant the Salt River which is in AZ. If they don't do that the couple plans on taking a hot-air balloon ride, Lou says "As long as they get me down before Juarez [Mexico], it's OK"...Let's hope so, as Juarez is two states and 450 miles from Mesa, perhaps Lou meant Nogales Mexico which actually borders on AZ.

A friend wanted me to go up and do some snowboarding today at Sunrise Ski Resort only a few hours drive from Mesa in the White Mountains but unfortunately I have to much work to do. That's one of the beauties of AZ, you can golf or swim in the morning and get in some mountain skiing or boarding in the afternoon. If you're looking for things to do in AZ check out our "Things to do in AZ" page with links to some pretty cool places to go. I put a link to the best AZ hiking guide I've found Arizona Trailblazers it has reports and photos from people who have traversed these trails.

Tomorrow the Cubs start a three game home stand hosting WBC team Japan and Kosuke Fukudome, followed by the Mariners and then the Angels on Saturday. Talk with you after tomorrows game.

Check out the CubsAZ show!



I shot this on the Peralta Trail in the Superstition Mountains not far from Mesa

Monday, March 09, 2009

Yesterday Forgotten

What a difference a day makes. The Cubs looked very good today pounding the Kansas City Royals 9-1, with 8,987 in attendance. Mike Fontenot set the tone from the first Royals batter as he made an acrobatic leaping grab of a soft liner hit by Mitch Maier. Fontenot continued his focus on the offensive side as he had a very good at bat in the first inning, fouling off what had to be at least a half dozen pitches before drawing a base on balls. He would then use his speed and hustle to score from 1st on a Derrek Lee double. The Cubs never looked back.

The Cubs' timely hitting included an Alfonso Soriano HR which was as high as it was long, as well as a Fontenot solo shot in the 7th. Joey Gathright playing the whole game in centerfield scored three of the Cubs runs. Micah Hoffpauir and Paul Bako each had two hits, as did Fontenot who had a double to go along with his HR.

The Cubs pitching looked outstanding the whole game, allowing the Royals only 4 singles. Chad Gaudin got the start and threw 2 quality scoreless innings. Jeff Samardzija followed with 3 innings of work allowing the lone run after a couple hits and a wild pitch. Samardzija was consistently hitting the mid-90's on his fastball, and I saw one that was clocked at 98mph. Kevin Gregg, Jason Waddell, Esmailin Caridad, and Randy Wells each tossed a scoreless inning.

For old times sake Kyle Farnsworth came in for the 9th, this time for the Royals and got roughed up by the Cubs allowing 3 runs on 3 hits and a base on balls. Fanrsworth appears to be picking up tattoos for every new team he plays with, the Royals being team 4 since leaving the Cubs.

Aaron Miles dropped down a perfect sacrifice bunt in the 2nd, advancing Micah Hoffpauir. Miles is versatile and does the little things well. Tim Kurkjian from ESPN was in attendance as well as a MLB Advanced Media film crew. Cubs color commentator Bob Brenly also looked on from the pressbox. The weather has been a little odd the last few days, highs in the upper 60's today we had a lot of cloud cover with occasional sun. The Cubs will travel to play the Mariners tomorrow and then have Wednesday off before playing the WBC team Japan on Thursday at Hohokam.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Hart Attacked in 9th

The Cubs skid has hit 6 games with today's 7-2 loss to the Texas Rangers at Hohokam in front of 11,082 fans. As I mentioned in a recent blog, these wins and losses don't matter much, especially because it's still early in an extended spring training. However, there's no doubt that Lou Piniella wants to start seeing the guys playing at a higher level as evidenced by Lou's demeanor immediately after today's game. Looking a bit peeved following the game was in stark contrast to earlier in the day, when Lou was in a good mood and very animated while doing quite a bit of coaching of his players.

The Cubs starting lineup of position players today looked similar to what we may see come opening day with the exception of Koyie Hill playing in place of Soto. For the Cubs the story of the day was Sean Marshall who started today's game and had another good outing tossing 4 shutout innings allowing only 2 hits while striking out 3 and walking none. At this point Marshall is looking very strong in his bid for the role of the 5th starter.

Not much with the bats today for the Cubs, however Milton Bradley batting in the cleanup spot led off the 2nd inning with a hit, and eventually scored the Cubs first run. The Cubs scored their 2nd and final run in the 3rd inning, starting with a double from Koyie Hill followed by a perfect sac bunt by Sean Marshall advancing Hill to 3rd, allowing Hill to score on a Ryan Theriot's ground out. A-Ram was 2 for 2 with a double before being replaced by Luis Rivas. Koyie Hill was also 2 for 2 with a walk and getting noticed as he vies for the back-up catcher spot with Paul Bako.

Derrek Lee made a nice snag of a Chris Davis sinking liner and then made a perfect throw to nail Josh Hamilton off 2nd base for the double play in the 2nd. Alfonso Soriano made a very nice catch to end the 5th inning, grabbing David Murphy's deep drive up against the left field fence. A few Cubs pitchers didn't fare so well: Luis Vizcaino, Chad Fox, and Kevin Hart gave up all of the Ranger's runs. It's not so much that they pitched poorly, Hart serving up a grand slam to Rangers Greg Golson, but all 3 compounded their problems with a combined 7 bases on balls. When Hart came off the field at the end of the 9th, his dejected expression looked as if he thought he had lost a roster spot. While he certainly didn't help his cause it's still early spring so he will get more chances.

Cubs Hall of Famer and this season's Cubs Tennessee Double A Manager Ryne Sandberg brought out the starting lineups to the umpires today. During BP Jim Hendry enthusiastically said "Johnny Cash!" when the song "Ring of Fire" started playing in the ballpark, and then started singing along....hey, who isn't a Cash fan? The Cubs now know they will be playing the Japanese WBC team this Thursday the 12th at Hohokam, facing their own teammate Kosuke Fukudome. Should be an interesting match-up, and as public address announcer, my pronunciation skills will have to be sharp that day.

Our fans haven't been particularly good at catching foul balls this season, in fact the right fielder tossed a ball that had gone foul into the stands only to have it bungled back onto the field by a fan. The security guy then tossed it into the same area of fans, only to have the same thing happen. As if it wasn't silly enough, it happened a 3rd time. Finally security just picked up the ball, ran to a spot he could reach and handed it to fan. I did see a young guy out in the grandstands actually catch one later in the game-a bit of redemption.

One thing I can tell you about Milton Bradley, he gets outwardly upset with himself when he doesn't get on base. He expects to get on base every time he gets up, I gotta say I love that attitude. Cubs face off against the Kansas City Royals tomorrow at Hohokam, talk with you after the game.

About the Other Day

In my last blog entry Friday in which I posted my scorecard and didn't write a game update due to lack of time...The reason for this was far less sensational than the rumors circulating around the Internet. Those rumors, possibly started by the chatty grounds crew that I was running chase down drills (otherwise known as the game "hotbox") with the spring training Hooters girls is completely unfounded. I categorically deny any rumors about me, the hooters girls, tequila, fungo bats, and unauthorized running of the sprinkler system.

That being said, I will be back with a full report after today's game at Hohokam where the Cubs will face off against the Texas Ranges, Sean Marshall getting the start. Another gorgeous day expected here in AZ, plentiful sunshine with a high of 75 degrees.

Friday, March 06, 2009

5-4 L

The Cubs lost another close one today 5-4 to the Dodgers, in front of 12,913 fans at Hohokam. I'm unable to write a blog now so here's my scorecard...more later. Have you watched the CubsAZ video yet?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Vegas Today, Mesa Tomorrow

So the Cubs lost a couple split-squad games yesterday, big deal...It's only spring training. Or as Cub fan Bill Murray chanted in the movie Meatballs "It just doesn't matter". It sounds odd but it's really true, when the Cubs won the division in 1984 and 1989 they had horrible spring records in terms of wins and losses. Wins and losses take a back seat to getting the team ready for the season, which is the only purpose of spring training...However, the spring games are now a revenue generator so the atmosphere must be at least similar to a regular game in terms of the ball park experience. In my first years as Hohokam PA Announcer starting in 1984 we didn't even have music or advertising between innings, it was truly a laid-back baseball experience.

I won't go into the games of yesterday other than to say it was good to see Milton Bradley get his first hit of the spring. And it was fun to actually watch the Cubs on TV last night, in spite of the outcome. Before the Cubs left for Vegas I had a chance to sit down with Cubs play-by-play man Len Kasper and talk Cubs, you can see part of that interview on this weeks CubsAZ video show, which will be up on our site this evening. The new CubsAZ show will be in the media/TV box on the home page and multimedia page...It lasts about 6 minutes.

Speaking of multimedia, I did a spring training audio report for my friends over at Cubscast.com today...I talked about some of the new additions to the team, Joey Gathright, Aaron Miles, and Milton Bradley. Cubscast has a great website with unique podcasts; right now they're running a photo caption contest with one of my Fitch Park photos of Dempster and Harden.

I will also be on the WGEM radio SportsCenter show tomorrow at 8:35am Central Time...You can listen live on streaming audio over the net. Now I'm going to go watch the Cubs and Sox go at it again on TV.

I'll be back tomorrow with a blog after the game at Hohokam as the Cubs host the Dodgers. So to recap and shamelessly promote - Check out the new video episode of CubsAZ here at Boys of Spring which will be available this evening, stop by the Cubscast website and listen to their podcast, and drop by WGEM radio tomorrow morning on the web for SportsCenter and Cubs chat at 8:30 am. Hey, I'm just trying to make it as easy as possible to get what you want...more Cubs for those who can't get enough Cubs!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Cubs Tater A's

The Cubs belted their way to victory today, beating the Oakland Athletics 6-4 at Hohokam in front of 6,520 fans. Starting the game off Soriano took former Cub Sean Gallagher deep on the first pitch of his first at bat. In the third, Jake Fox continued the power with a fly ball that just seemed to keep drifting until it landed in the right field bullpen for a 2 run HR. Aramis Ramirez went yard the next inning on one of those A-Ram bombs that you know is long gone the split second you hear the crack of the ball hitting the bat. That 3 run homer would give the Cubs 6 runs, and all the scoring they would need to finish off the A's.

Sean Marshall, looking to lock up the 5th starter spot was solid today going 3 innings allowing no runs, and no hits. Kevin Gregg worked a scoreless Fourth. Mike Stanton looking to catch on with the staff allowed 2 runs in the Fifth, off 3 hits and 1 walk. Luis Vizcaino pitched a scoreless Sixth, going 1-2-3. Then it was the Cubs 2008 number 1 draft pick Andrew Cashner's turn (photos below). Cashner struggled allowing 2 runs on 3 hits with a base on balls and a wild pitch. Lou had seen enough and pulled Cashner after only a third of an inning. Neal Cotts came in and took care of Cashner's mess getting out of the inning without further damage, stranding two A's. Randy Wells and Esmailin Caridad also pitched scoreless innings.

A couple nice defensive plays turned in: One by Ryan Theriot as a hard grounder caromed off the mound and possibly Vizcaino's foot high into the air, Theriot grabbed the ball bare handed as it was coming towards the ground and gunned Giambi out at 1st. So Taguchi made a nice sliding grab at the end of a long run on Rob Bowen's flair to short left field.

Milton Bradley was doing some running drills separate from the rest of the team with strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss before BP. Bradley looked to be moving pretty well from what I could see. Jim Hendry was signing autographs during BP, I later spotted Jim chatting with Cubs beat writer Paul Sullivan by Jim's seat in the 7th inning.

Today's game was quick, especially for a spring training game, two hours 34 minutes. Len Kasper sat down and talked to me before the game, part of my conversation with him will be featured on our next CubsAZ video program, look for it in the large media/TV box on the home page or multimedia page in the next day or so.

The Cubs have a split squad tomorrow, heading out to Goodyear to take on the Cleveland Indians who are back in the Cactus League this year after leaving for Florida in 1993. The other half of the Cubs ballclub travels to Las Vegas to take on the White Sox tomorrow night and Thursday afternoon. I wish I could head off to Vegas with the team, but I have other obligations in Phoenix but will watch the game on WGN tomorrow night.

Sorry these photos aren't as good as my Fitch Park stuff, I'm taking them from my booth at a long distance with a screen between me and home plate.


Andrew Cashner Cubs 1st round pick in 2008


Cashner


Cashner feeling the heat

Monday, March 02, 2009

A Tale of Two Pitchers

The Cubs went down to the Diamondbacks 9-1 today at Hohokam in front of a crowd of 9,605. It was a nice warm day in Mesa with the game time temp 85 degrees according to the Cubs media relations department.

Cubs seasoned veteran Carlos Zambrano in his first Cactus League start tossed 2 solid innings. Big Z faced only 6 batters, striking out 3, ending his short day with a double play to close the 2nd inning after having walked Dbacks Chad Tracy. After Big Z, Carlos Marmol had an easy WBC tune-up with a one-two-three inning in the 3d, striking out two of the three batters he faced. After facing only 9 DBacks batters in the first 3 frames things changed.

Enter the kid, Mitch Atkins. Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season, Atkins fast track to the bigs took a bit of a detour today, as he was shelled in the 4th for 5 runs. Atkins gave up 4 hits, including a 3 Run HR to Chris Snyder. He also beaned two DBacks hitters in the inning. Another disappointing outing for a Cubs pitcher today was Angel Guzman, who came in for the 9th inning only to allow 3 runs on 3 hits with a walk and a hit batter.

Not much in the way of hitting for the Cubs today as they didn't notch their first hit until Koyie Hill's single in the 5th. The Cubs avoided a shutout only in the 9th inning as Micah Hoffpauir doubled then was knocked in by Andres Blanco's double.

The Cubs did have some nice defensive plays, Joey Gathright made an outstanding diving somersaulting catch of Chris Roberson's sinking liner in the 3rd. Gathright came back with another outstanding diving grab on DBacks' Chris Snyder in the 5th. With Gathright's defensive prowess and speed, he could be a very useful man off the bench. Mike Fontenot had a strong relay throw to gun down a DBack at the plate in the 7th. Alfonso Soriano had an extra base hit taken away by Chris Roberson, who snatched his deep fly up against the fence.

No worries about Milton Bradley's health...Yet. In BP batting lefty he crushed several balls deep into the grass berm, directly into the teeth of about a 15 mph wind. The Cubs will DH him on Wednesday.

I saw Cubs TV man Len Kasper today for the first time this spring and he's very excited about the upcoming season. Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and Cubs fan George Will was up in the press box before the game looking for the Cubs Media Relations people, saying he needed a ticket. I later saw him watching the game in one of the empty press booths.


Z today


Mitch Atkins today