Cubs Drop Cactus League Home Opener

The San Francisco Giants rallied to defeat the Cubs 8-6 this afternoon at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.

 box score

The game was played under sunny skies with temperatures in the 80’s, but it was far from a capacity crowd at HoHoKam, as the announced attendance was only 8,838. There was a time when the Cubs Spring Home Opener was an automatic sell-out (which would be just under 12,000), but not this year.

Carlos Zambrano started for the Cubs and worked two innings (34 pitches – 23 strikes), allowing one unearned run on two hits, no walks and two strikeouts. Zambrano contributed to his own problems, failing to field a bouncer between home and first that would have given “Z” a 1-2-3 first inning. A stolen base and two two-out singles followed, giving the Giants an early 1-0 lead. Zambrano followed with an impressive 1-2-3 second inning, however.

Meanwhile, the Cubs scored three in the bottom of the 1st, as they touched San Francisco starter Jonathan Sanchez for three runs on three hits and two walks, as the Giants starter threw in excess of 30 pitches before getting three outs. Alfonso Soriano led off the inning with a walk, and after Ryan Theriot struck out swinging, Kosuke Fukudome worked the first of his two walks, setting up Derrek Lee with an RBI opportunity.

D-Lee came through with a line single to RF, but Cubs 3rd base coach Mike Quade held Soriano at 3rd. However, Giants right-fielder Nate Schierholtz bobbled the ball, allowing Soriano to come around and score the Cubs 1st run. Mike Fontenot followed with an RBI ground-rule double that bounced off the rock-hard warning track and up and over the wall in left-center field, as Fukudome came around to score, with D-Lee moving up to 3rd.

Felix Pie struck out swinging, before Alex Cintron came through with a two-out RBI infield single that Giants second-baseman Eugenio Velez was unable to control.

Rich Hill worked the 3rd and 4th innings for the Cubs, allowing one run (earned) on three hits in his two innings of work. Although he threw 38 pitches (25 strikes), Hill did not walk anyone, and struck out three.

The Cubs scored again in the bottom of the 3rd, as Kosuke Fukudome and Mike Fontenot walked, before Alex Cintron knocked a two-out single to left for his second RBI of the game.

The Giants got to within one run in the top of the 5th, scoring a run off Scott Eyre. The veteran lefty reliever needed 26 pitches to get through his one inning, as he was victimized by bad outfield defense. First LF Sam Fuld misplayed a line drive that ended up sailing over his head to the fence for a two-base error(?), and then CF Felix Pie lost a pop-fly in the sun that put runners at 1st and 3rd with nobody out. J. D. Closser and Eyre combined to get the runner at third trying to score on a short passed ball, but the Giants ended up scoring a run on a one-out sac fly, after Eyre loaded the bases on a walk and a HBP.

Juan Mateo had a 1-2-3 6th (nine pitches – two fly balls and a ground out), but Shingo Takatsu surrendered a mammoth game-tying HR to AA OF Eddy Martinez-Estevez in the top of the 7th. Takatsu was throwing his usual slop, and I swear, one pitch was so slow it actually started going back toward the pitcher before it reached home plate! Takatsu definitely wasn’t fooling anybody and was lucky to get out of his one inning with no further damage.

The Cubs retook the lead 5-4 in the bottom of the 7th off veteran righty reliever Vinnie Chulk, as Andres Blanco walked, and came around to score on consecutive two-out singles by Luis Figueroa and Casey McGehee.

But then Les Walrond had the Inning from Hell in the top of the 8th, as he hit a batter, walked two, and gave up a towering PH grand slam HR to Class "A" minor league 3B Ryan Rohlinger. Walrond also was charged with a second hit, a line drive that was misplayed into a single (and it could have been scored an error) by RF Eric Patterson, as the neophyte outfielder got all messed up trying to track a hump-back liner, allowing the ball to carom off his glove.

Carlos Marmol worked a 1-2-3 9th that featured an outstanding sliding catch by CF Andres Torres to end the inning.

The Cubs attempted to mount a last-ditch rally in the bottom of the 9th. Luis Figueroa and Casey McGehee slammed back-to-back one-out doubles off the RF fence, but Eric Patterson bounced out and J. D. Closser popped up to short to end the game.

It wasn’t a good performance by the Cubs young CF candidates, as all three had a misplay in the outfield. Sam Fuld did walk twice, however.

Poor pitching performances are the norm this time of year in Spring Training, what with washed-up vets and minor league guys getting a look, so I certainly wasn’t concerned about the final score. The pitchers who matter looked very good, and that’s the bottom line.

Aramis Ramirez missed the game due to a sore right shoulder. He can hit, but he can't throw.



I mean, nice job, Phil.

Thanks PHIL:

I had a feeling the "rag arms" got hammered as all I could get was a very sketchy box score from time to time.

I am glad to hear the "pitchers who matter" look good to your eyes.

A bit troubling to learn of a poor "D" performance by all CF "hopefuls". But - you seemed to have Torres pegged properly as an upgrade on Pagan - at least today!

What is the date of the first cut?

MANY THANKS for your eyewitness report.

It was 33 degrees here today. I will be surprised if any home game will be played in weather warmer than 50 degrees until June here.

E-MAN: Based upon when the the first cuts have been made in the past, the first "group" (probably about eight or ten players) will probably be sent to minor league camp the week of March 10th. 

Minor league camp opens today, and players are usually not sent there from the big league camp at least until pitchers at the minor league camp are ready to throw "live" BP, which should be next weekend. 

Minor league Spring Training games start on Friday March 14th.

A couple questions if you get some time Phil.....

1) Any random speculation on why the game was not sold out?

2) How has Soriano looked running the bases?

3) Is Fukudome as patient at the plate as he sounds? I haven't seen him play yet, but he seems like a machine up there, completely laying off any pitch that isn't a sure strike. It would be a welcome change if so.

Thanks as always Phil!


1. I think the main reason is greed. Ticket prices have gone up again (they even have "premium" games!), and so they may have finally outpriced the market. It also doesn't help the Cubs that there are other stadiums that are newer and nicer and better located for some fans. It's now more of a "Cub-centric" crowd at HoHoKam than it used to be. 

2. Soriano was doubled-up on a 5-4-3 DP yesterday, and it didn't look like he was running at full speed. But he wasn't limping, either, so he may be consciously not cutting it loose yet.

3. Fukudome is probably the most patient Cub hitter since... Cap Anson?

How much of the outfield play was the "high sky" that we hear so much about?

John T; The sky is almost always "high" (clear blue) in Arizona this time of year, which makes it more difficult to judge high fly balls and pop ups. But as Dusty Baker would say, Felix Pie IS from the Dominican Republic, right? 

Sam Fuld made a bad first step (in) on a rope line-drive to LF (a position he rarely plays), and that's what cost him. The ball just sailed over his head to the wall. I don't understand why it was scored an error, though.

On the other hand, Eric Patterson's misplay in RF was an error (in my opinion), but it was scored a hit. E-Pat just looked totally confused in RF. He looks better when he plays CF, but he still needs a LOT of work.  

How easy is it to get tickets for Cubs spring training these days? When I lived down in AZ in 2003, I was always able to get good walkup seats on gameday, but it seems like since then games were selling out regularly.

Is the lack of an opening day sellout a sign that its a little easier to get tickets again?

Bleeding Blue: I believe some weekend games at HoHoKam are sold out, but based upon the 2/3 full stadium for Opening Day, it should be easier than it used to be to get tickets to games during the week. It will be interesting to see the attendance at HoHoKam when the kids are on Spring Break. 

"There was a time when the Cubs Spring Home Opener was an automatic sell-out (which would be just under 12,000), but not this year. "

I remember bringing midterms to HoHoKam and grading them back in the days when the weather was like this. And a lot of other grad students, instructors and prof's from ASU, Ariz, some of the local colleges, doing the same. Must not be midterms yet.

Are you a Sun Devil too?

My father spotted me on Sportscenter highlight on St Pats Day as I sat behind the dugout drinking my green beer, when I should have been in class in the early 90's.

JACOS: When I was at ASU, Bob Horner was playing 2B and Hubie Brooks played SS, JJ was catching passes, Frank Kush was the head football coach, Jim Brock was the baseball coach, and Ned Wulk was the basketball coach, and the Sun Devils were still in the WAC!

And the Cubs had their Spring Training base in Scottsdale.

That's how long ago it was.

Fork 'em, Devils, fork 'em!

AZ Phil- I was asking Iowa Cub, but that's great you too are an alumnus!!

I was there with Phil Mickelson and Mike Kelly.


You ever attend the Phoenix Open to cheer Phil on, especially on the 16th?

Jacos, that's hilarious! I succumbed too much to the Devil-ish weather down there, was a grad student for a year in the late 90s and couldn't hack it. Weather was too nice, golf courses too pristine, HoHoKam beer went down too easily, Mill Ave knocked me on my rear a couple of times. But some of the best times of my life.

Phil - Bob Horner! That brings back some memories ...

Never saw the open in person, but I watched it on TV with Phil at the 16th. It's great.

I use to hit Mill Ave, Club Rio/Devil House and couple of watering holes. Spring training was the best, I worked at a health club where Sandberg worked out and Cindy Sandberg taught aerobics.(no I didn't)

Ryno was a nice guy, but didn't find his personality like he has now.

It took my 5 years to get my bachelors, due to extracurricular activities.

AZ Phil: Any thoughts on how Juan Mateo looks so far? He was very promising before getting hurt. Thanks.

TIMMER: Mateo had an exceptionally easy 1-2-3 inning. He didn't appear to be throwing very hard (high 80's, maybe), though. He had a sore shoulder for most of last season, and he seems to have lost some velocity. He used strictly a sinker/slider combo yesterday, and it worked for him.

While he may be used as a rotation starter at Iowa this season to get him innings, I believe his future will be as an MLB middle-reliever (if he even makes it that far). He probably has zero future with the Cubs.

Good to know some things never change - Quade with a questionable maneuver at third. Have any diehards kept a running tally of the number of runs lost by a third base coach? I'd love to get that info on Quade as I've a feeling I'm overly critical of the guy, but would love some info to debunk/substantiate my distrust in his ability.

I am psyched about this year. It's almost here!!!

What do Tom Cruise, R Kelly and Scott Spezio have in common?

They all like 'em young?


Here at the new digs, you may want to choose a shorter screen name...


Another report read: “It is believed that Scott Spiezio was hiding behind this door.” [...] Spiezio’s voicemail currently says “Things are a little crazy right now.”

Well, he is a rockstar after all.

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