As Jordan mentioned yesterday, the 25 man roster the Cubs will be taking up to Wrigley Field on April 1st is pretty much set. As a result, the players in the lineup could relax and just go play right? On to the game notes.
All Spring the Cubs have not made it a secret that they want Andrew Cashner to be in the rotation. Just before his start on Saturday the news was released that he had won the 5th spot in the rotation over Carlos Silva. Cashner promptly responded by giving up five runs in the first inning. All of a sudden doubt starts to creep in and you are wondering if the Cubs made the right choice. Cashner was leaving his fastball up in the strike zone to be pounded on.
But the youngster settled down for the rest of his outing and went five innings. The key was that he was able to get his fastball down in the zone, and he had better execution of his breaking pitch. He ended the day with five strikeouts and earned the “W” thanks to the Comeback Cubs offense. I think this outing is the perfect capsule of what we are going to see out of Cashner this year. There are going to be some bad innings or even bad games, as we are looking at a second year MLB player who is trying to be a starting pitcher on the fly. But when he is keeping the ball down, we also saw that he has enough of a secondary arsenal to be a quality starting pitcher. The Rangers may not have had their Opening Day line up hitting against him, but the batting order did feature many of the big bats Texas will rely on along the way in 2011.
For the second straight day the Cubs bullpen backed up their starting pitcher with a scoreless effort for the remainder of the game. Jeff Samardzija capped it off with a two inning save that featured two strikeouts, a positive sign as he will be in the bullpen when the Cubs break camp.
Part of Cashner’s struggles in the first were due to his awkwardness covering first base on balls hit to Carlos Pena. He recorded the out the first time around despite the off beat timing of the play, but the second time it happened Cashner whiffed on the throw and was charged with an error.
Geo Soto flashed a strong, accurate arm on stolen base attempts, but was only able to throw out one of the three runners for the day. The other two though were stolen off of pitcher Cashner and not Soto.
Reed Johnson made a nice running catch a step in front of the wall to help Samardzija settle in. I do not know about you, but it is good to see Johnson flashing his glove again in Cubbie blue.
The Cubs scored in each of the first four innings, including three runs off Rangers Opening Day starter CJ Wilson, to claw back from five runs down and back up starter Cashner. Johnson kicked things off with a lead off double and also tallied a RBI for the game. Soto was 2 for 4 with a run and a RBI, and the big knock came off the bat of Marquez Smith in the third, when his double brought in two runs to tie the game at five.