Despite the roster cuts Jordan mentioned, Tuesday featured more split squad action for the Cubs. Entering the second half of Spring, the manager and coaching staff is now going to look to provide more at bats for position players and innings for pitchers remaining on the roster to get them even closer to a regular season routine, as well as giving the players competing for the final 25 roster spots every opportunity to show that they belong. How did these players fare against the Rockies and Athletics? I will start with the action against Colorado in HoHoKam Park.
Manager Mike Quade and the Cub front office are trying to be diplomatic by refusing to tip their hand regarding the starting rotation competition. Maybe because they do not want to discourage or add pressure to the candidates that appear to have fallen a couple steps behind in the race, but Cubbies Crib readers know that for the past week I had already penciled in Randy Wells as my fourth starter in the Cubs rotation. Despite giving up his first two runs of the entire Spring, Wells had another solid outing in which he went five innings.
Carlos Marmol relieved Wells and tossed a scoreless 6th inning, but his three walks does raise some concern. After a great start to the Spring, Marmol has struggled with his control a little bit over the last two outings. By no means does this signal the end of the world for Marmol, as us Cub fans are now more than familiar with his tight rope act as a late inning reliever. But with the newly minted contract extension and the goal of being playoff contenders over the next few seasons, I would like to see at least a little more improvement out of the closer in the control department.
Alfonso Soriano was charged with a throwing error in the 5th inning on a sac fly that ended up bringing in two runs. The error was one of two in the game for the Cubs.
Matt Camp was given the start at shortstop and also was the lead off hitter. Unfortunately he went 0 for 4. Blake DeWitt, who has yet to impress for even a platoon spot at second base, did not help his case by also going 0 for 4. Despite eight hits as a team (and out hitting the Rockies), the Cubs could only muster two runs and fell 2-4. Koyie Hill ended the game as the tying runner at the plate by looking at three straight called strikes.
Meanwhile in Phoenix, Arizona the other split squad was going up against Oakland.
It has been well repeated here on Cubbies Crib that the team is hoping that Andrew Cashner can step up into starting rotation spot. While he has yet to lock one up like Wells has, Cashner and Braden Looper appear to have a step ahead on Carlos Silva. Cashner did not hurt his cause with one run ball over 3 1/3 innings, but the three walks and shorter outing (compared to the 5 inning appearances the rotation locks are getting) still leave some question marks. Bruce Levine stated that Cashner will be moved into the pen if he does not make the rotation.
The rest of the game featured good outings from the recently cut Trey McNutt, Scott Rice, Robert Coello, and Chris Carpenter. None of these pitchers figured to have a honest shot to join the team at Wrigley Field in April, but as Luke has noted, they are all candidates that could see the Majors as early as this summer.
The Cubs also had two errors in this game to match their teammates in Mesa, Arizona. The team as a whole is leading all teams this Spring in errors.
Instead of the 1st inning runs we were used to seeing pretty regularly out of the Cubs this Spring, the offense decided to save the action for later, scoring all eight runs from the 6th inning on, with four coming in the top of the 9th alone. Fernando Perez went 0 for 4 from the lead off spot again and is now hitting .182 for the Spring. As I mentioned in one of my comments, neither Perez or Reed Johnson has done much offensively to separate themselves from each other. If I had to decide today, I would go with the veteran Johnson just on the fact that if he continued his struggles through April, the Cubs could call up Perez and give him his shot. If Perez were to make the team out of camp, Reed Johnson is cut as a non roster invitee, and if Perez struggles, then the front office is scrambling to find a replacement off the scrap heap, or praying that Brett Jackson has started out hot in the minors.
The Cub offense was solo homer happy, with Jackson going deep in the 6th, and Tyler Colvin and Welington Castillo with back to back jacks in the 8th. Castillo was in the middle of the action again in the 9th inning, hitting a bases loaded double to bring in two more runs. Max Ramirez had started the game, and went 1 for 3 with a RBI, to bring the total to 4 RBIs out of the catching spot alone.