On Saturday the Cubs split their squad, leaving half the team in Mesa while taking the other half on their annual trip to Las Vegas. The Cincinnati Reds were willing to split their squad as well. How did the Cubs fair in both games? I will start at HoHoKam Park first.
Carlos Silva was the starting pitcher for this game and the fact that he was stretched to five innings was one positive. In fact he set down the first six batters he faced. Silva’s statistic line at the end of his appearance was not pretty, having given up four earned runs, but it is still an improvement.
Todd Wellemeyer did not help his diminishing chances at a starting rotation spot with a bit of a wild appearance himself. His two innings of work included three walks and four hits given up.
The Cubs matched the Reds in the field with one error.
Pitching aside, Silva contributed a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the 4th to help eventually bring a run across on a ground out by Fernando Perez. The former Tampa Bay Ray followed up with a two out single in the 5th to bring in two more runs, giving the lead off hitter of the day a 1 for 4 stat line with 3 RBIs. Bobby Scales also had a big day, going 3 for 5 with two runs and 2 RBIs.
Veterans Marlon Byrd and Aramis Ramirez continued their good Springs, going 2 for 3 and 2 for 4 respectively. Unfortunately the pitching staff could not hang onto the lead the offense provided with the big 5th inning rally, and the Cubs lost 6-7.
Meanwhile, there were a couple hitters in Las Vegas that are hoping what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas come April.
The Cubs got off to what is becoming their trademark 1st inning lead. If the decision were up to Starlin Castro, he would have Kosuke Fukudome lead off come Opening Day. Twice the Japanese right fielder walked in front of Castro’s at bat in this game, and the shortstop phenom twice followed up with a home run. Scott Moore matched Castro with two home runs of his own. Both infielders finished the day with amazing box scores, with Castro going 3 for 3 with four RBIs and Moore finishing 4 for 4 and 2 RBIs. Tyler Colvin added a 4 for 5 day at the plate with a RBI. Koyie Hill got his first hit of the Spring, a sharp ground ball right down the third base line for a double.
We are almost at the half way point of this Spring, but you have to like the way some of these rookies and invitees have been performing to push the other candidates for the bench spots. It is going to make for a tough decision for manager Mike Quade and the front office, and it will be interesting to see if there will be any surprises, including a possible end of Spring trade.
The Cubs were able to keep their errors at a minimum, only committing one.
James Russell got the start in Vegas, but the change of scenery did not help as he struggled through another outing. Russell has some starting experience in the minors, but he ended the 2010 season fairly well out of the pen, and I am curious as to why the Cubs continue to trot him out this Spring as a rotation candidate, as he has pitched eight innings so far in three appearances. The competition for a rotation spot has increased now that Randy Wells has one of the jobs on lock, in my opinion, and if I were the manager I would love to have the luxury of two left handed arms in my bullpen. The consistent Sean Marshall is the automatic choice for one based on his past production and good Spring, but so far we have only seen John Grabow make only one appearance this Spring. Russell may not be lights out from the pen yet, but at this point I would be preparing him to compete with Grabow for the second lefty job in the bullpen.
Carlos Marmol finally had a “bad Carlos” outing. He was a bit wild, giving up a walk and two runs, while still striking out two. However if he can mirror this ratio over the course of a regular season, right now we are looking at a similar save conversion rate to that of last season, when he saved 38 out of 43 opportunities.