The Cubs faced the Rockies on Sunday as they kicked off the count down to Opening Day. Four more days Cub fans. On to the game notes.
Opening Day starter Ryan Dempster made his final tune up start of the Spring, and manager Mike Quade set up the Spring rotation perfectly as Dempster is in line to go on the regular four days rest going into the game on Friday at Wrigley. Unfortunately the Cubs ace was not able to have a perfect ending to his stellar Spring, as he gave up three runs and five hits in four innings of work. Regardless, I have no concerns of Dempster imploding come Friday.
James Russell, who started the Spring competing for a rotation spot, relieved Dempster and gave up two runs of his own. His 8.03 Spring ERA is not pretty to look at, but he has shown enough to be worthy of a bullpen spot, and will be the third left handed pitcher option. The depth of the Cubs pen has been well repeated here on Cubbies Crib, but Quade has extended that depth with the addition of Russell. Most teams around Major League Baseball consider it a luxury to have even two southpaws on their bullpen staff, and Russell will Quade the ultimate flexibility when it comes to playing the left handed batter versus left handed pitcher match up chess match. Russell would also be a consideration for long relief duty since he was stretched out a bit this Spring for the rotation competition.
Russell can also be an option if John Grabow struggles. The veteran Grabow has been solid when he has been able to get on the mound this Spring, but he did give up an unearned run yesterday. Carlos Marmol finished off the game with a strong two strikeout inning of work.
The Cubs defense committed yet another error, but the Cubs outfield did get to flash their arms by twice throwing a runner out at third base. Brett Jackson hit the cut off man Starlin Castro to tally the first outfielder assist in the second inning, and Alfonso Soriano followed with an assist in the seventh inning.
The Cubs offense was a bit of a disappointment as they were shut down by Clay Mortensen, a prospect that will not break camp with the Rockies. Brett Jackson was put in the leadoff spot and he impressed with a 2 for 4 day at the plate. Luke has done a great job keeping us in the loop on Jackson’s skills and potential. Despite the veteran log jam in the outfield on the Major League roster, it will be interesting to see if Jackson can force a quicker call up by showing he can be an option out of the top spot in the minors, and if Quade fails to find a productive leadoff hitter through April and May.
Other than that, the only other highlight of the day was Tyler Colvin’s grand slam in the bottom of the 8th out of the three spot in the order. Colvin has had a quiet Spring compared to the break out March he had last year, and it was good to see him get some numbers for the box score as Opening Day quickly approaches.