Cotts No Relief for Cubs

Felix Pie hit a solo HR and Andres Torres hit a two-run shot, but it wasn't enough to overcome an atrocious relief outing by Neal Cotts, as the Giants defeated the Cubs 8-6 before a capacity crowd at sunny, cool, and breezy HoHoKam Park in Mesa (otherwise known as the far, FAR southwest side of Chicago) this afternoon.

box score

Ted Lilly got the start for the Cubs, and he pitched OK. Not great, could have been sharper (not enough strikes), but certainly more than good enough for a first Cactus League start in early March.

Lilly worked two innings (31 pitches - 18 strikes), allowing one run on two hits, a walk, a HBP, and two strikeouts. Lilly was also the main cuplrit in allowing the Giants to steal four bases without challenge during his two innings, by essentially totally ignoring the Giants baserunners. 

Juan Mateo worked the 3rd inning for the Cubs, on the heels of his nine pitch 1-2-3 outing on Friday. This time the right-hander surrendered a walk, but otherwise retired the side without a threat on 17 pitches (11 strikes). He still does not appear to be throwing very hard.

Flame-throwing Jose Ceda followed Mateo, working a shutout 4th inning (13 pitches - 9 strikes). Ceda was much better today than he was in his Cactus League debut versus the Giants in Scottsdale on Thursday (when he couldn;t even finish his inning), although he did hit the first batter he faced with his very first pitch today, and then after the runner was thrown out trying to steal second, he allowed a two-out double.

The Cubs came back to tie the score in the bottom of the 4th, capitalizing on a throwing error by Giants third-baseman Eugenio Velez (who stole THREE bases today) on a near-certain 5-4-3 DP ball, after Derrek Lee had walked and Geovany Soto singled to open the frame.

But then Neal Cotts entered the game, and it all went to crap. Unable to finish his assigned inning, Cotts threw 31 pitches (only 17 for strikes) and allowed five runs on three hits and three walks in just 2/3 of an inning. A pop-up bunt to the catcher on his very first pitch likely saved him further destruction.

RHP Jose Ascanio (acquired from the Braves in exchange for Will Ohman and Omar Infante in December, and literally given a black eye during the course of an attempted armed robbery outside a Scottsdale convenience store last week) followed Cotts to the mound, and although he did surrender an RBI single immediately upon entering the game in relief of Cotts in the 5th, he also did throw a 1-2-3 6th inning. For the day over 1.1 IP, Ascanio threw 24 pitches, but only 13 strikes. 

Veteran Japanese RHP (and ex-White Sox closer) Shingo Takatsu pitched the 7th inning, throwing his usual slop (slow, slower, and slowest). And although he did somehow manage to strike out the last two hitters he faced (and they should be embarrassed!), he also once again gave up a towering HR, this time a two-run job to left-center by one Travis Denker, a 21-year old second-baseman who has never played above "A" ball.

Kevin Hart and Carlos Marmol each worked a scoreless inning to close out the pitching line for the Cubs (Hart the 8th and Marmol a 1-2-3 9th), and both threw the ball well. Hart did allow a line-drive double that was misplayed by LF Sam Fuld, however. This is the second time in three days that the usually reliable Fuld has turned a rope line-drive hit to left into two bases for the opposition, and this will not help his cause with Uncle Lou in his effort to beat-out Felix Pie for the starting CF job.

Fuld did better offensively, though, reaching base twice, once on an infield single, and once via a two-out walk (loading the bases during a stillborn 9th inning Cubs rally).

As for Pie, he had an interesting day, striking out swinging against Giants starter Matt Cain in his 1st AB in the 3rd, before slamming a home run in the 5th over the right-centerfield fence off RHP Brad Hennessey, grounding out 3-1 with a runner in scoring position to end the 6th, and drawing a walk off ex-Cub Scott Williamson in the 8th.

Unfortunately, Pie's propensity to make mistakes attempting to steal a base reared it's ugly head again this afternoon, as the speedy youngster was picked-off 1st base by Williamson at a key moment in the 8th (one run in, Cubs down 8-6, runners at 1st & 3rd, only one out, Eric Patterson at the plate). He tried to get to second, but was tagged out.

Offensively the Cubs came back rather nicely after finding themselves Cotts-down 6-1, scoring two runs in the 5th on Pie's homer and back-to-back doubles by Alex Cintron (1-2, with a double, a run scored, and a sac-fly) and Eric Patterson (2-5 with an RBI double and a bunt single, plus two strikeouts, one swinging and one called).

E-Pat played second-base again today (possibly as a showcase for the Orioles scout said to be in town "bird-dogging" the Cubs in preparation for a possible Brian Roberts deal), and was originally supposed to hit 6th, before being moved into the lead-off slot after Alfonso Soriano was a late-scratch. (Matt Murton replaced Soriano in LF and hit 6th, going 0-2 with a walk).

The Cubs also scored two in the 7th on a two-run opposite-field dinger by Andres Torres (hitting right-handed) following a single by Andres Blanco, and another run in the 8th on a single by Fuld, walks to PH Mike Fontenot and Pie, and a sac fly to right by Alex Cintron.

Down 8-6, the Cubs mounted a last-ditch rally in the bottom of the 9th (Torres reaching 1st on a throwing error, a single by J. D. Closser, and a walk to Fuld), but with the fans on their feet screaming for a big bomb, PH Jake Fox (who hit a HR at Tempe yesterday) popped up to short to end the game with the bases loaded.

After both got a day off yesterday, Kosuke Fukudome got the start in RF and Derrek Lee got the start at 1B for the Cubs today.

Kosuke went 0-3 (reached base on an error by the shortstop, took a called third strike, and grounded out 4-3). He also made a strong throw trying to cut down a runner at 3rd base, although it was not successful.

D-Lee went 0-2 with a walk and a run scored, and a strikeout (swinging). 

It was also (possibly) noteworthy that the Giants started Rajai Davis in CF and hit him in the lead-off spot. Davis is one of a select few of right-handed hitting MLB "4th OF" candidates the Cubs might possibly be looking at right now, and it could have been a matter of the Giants "showcasing" Davis for the Cubs for future reference. If that was the case (and I don't know if it was), Davis went 0-4 with a HBP and a "K" and played an errorless game in CF.

The Cubs travel out to the west-side tomorrow, where they will be facing the Seattle Mariners at the Peoria Sports Complex (a megaplex baseball facility shared by the Mariners & Padres).


Thanks AZ Phil. Reading your reports helps ease the pain of not being there... One of these days.

What do you think the story is with Cotts? Has he completely lost it? He was solid not so long ago. Does he show any signs of regaining his form?

Solid? his 2005 was abnormal, otherwise he has just sucked.

5.65 ERA in 2004
5.17 in 2006
4.86 last year

It's still early enough to give everyone a flyer for a bad performance. But if Cotts still looks like that after a couple more outings, then I would be concerned.

Yeah, I'm thinking about all last year too!

OT - But did you guys hear about the ray gun?

Maybe Wrigley Field could invest in one and point it at the batter's box and zap the batters as they are being pitched to during key points in the game. That'd be freaking sweet.

My god was Cotts bad. What has happened to him since he was with the Sox? I just can't see how he could have become this bad.

Just wanted to pass along some information. It looks as things with Roberts are finally coming to a end. According to my information, we have received final offers from two teams, Cleveland and Chicago. AM and his staff are reviewing each offer and will be attempting to make a decision in the near future.

isn't that the same guy who got busted for releasing info so they set him up by deliberately giving him a false rumor?

in the near future wow must mean by the all star game

Yeah View From The Bleachers, Cotts was really good that year and bad the rest. If you look at that roster, you will see a few others that fall into that same category. The White Sox in 2005 was one of the flukiest teams to win a WS in the recent past. So many had career years, or at least well above normal years, along with no pitching injuries, that got them that title. And yeah, I am jealous...:)

i'd take a fluke year like that any day

2006 Cardinals winning WS on the strength of 83 regular season wins was pretty flukie as well.

Actually if you look most of the 2005 White Sox players did not have career years. Their starting pitching and most of their bullpen had normal years. The offense was below normal for most of the players. Hermanson, Cotts, and Politte were the only ones that truly had career years on the team. But having that backend of the bullpen and their top 4 starters make 33, 33, 32, and 32 starts repsectively played a big role in the championship.

az phil- thanks as always.

how is it that fuld is auditioning for cf by playing rf? or lf either? seems counter-productive to me...

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  • RIP Arnie. We could use a lot more like you -- a man who succeeded and failed on his own terms, a true original, and, finally, a remarkable example of graciousness towards others.

    billybucks 7 hours 54 min ago view
  • Cubs finish 33 over at home. I was, personally, one game over at 3-2, which was one of my better years in a while.

    I do hope that's the last time we see the Cardinals this year. A lot of power, which is dangerous, particularly in a short series, and they have really shut down KB all year.

    Oh, and Jon Lester? Damn!

    billybucks 8 hours 5 min ago view
  • Yes. Boating accident at 3AM. Very sad, but stupid. Young men do stupid things.

    billybucks 9 hours 1 min ago view
  • lester puts 2 on and is taken out at 96 pitches. oh well.

    edwards in.

    crunch 9 hours 45 min ago view
  • 2 out in the 7th, lester at 84 pitches, ross taken out for the standing O.

    it's possible contreras will catch lester for another inning+.

    crunch 9 hours 52 min ago view
  • What a weird day.  Jose Fernandez and Arnold Palmer, but then Scully and, on a much more modest level, Ross....

    Transmission 10 hours 25 min ago view
  • d.ross gets his 2nd standing O on the night (last home game of the season)...hits HR #10...curtain call. baseball.

    crunch 10 hours 28 min ago view
  • as a fan, he only "owes" us the game on the field and not getting in the way of others on his team being ready to play (imo).

    it's exponentially worse to his family and friends, but this dude most likely had 15+ years of play left and even though he just turned 24 a couple months ago he had already established himself as a top guy in the game.

    crunch 13 hours 50 min ago view
  • Carrie Muskat [email protected]

    Updated #Cubs probs vs Pirates: Mon, Hendricks vs Kuhl; Tue, Lackey vs Vogelsong; Wed, Arrieta vs Taillon; Thu, Zastryzny vs Nova

    crunch 14 hours 12 min ago view
  • I know what you're trying to say, Charlie, that none of us feels what his loved ones must be feeling.

    On the other hand, what makes a death like this tragic is precisely the loss, based on Fernandez's youth and brilliance, to the baseball world.

    So, for example, we can say that Princess Diana's death meant more, in aggregate, to millions of admirers who didn't know her personally than to her loved ones.

    VirginiaPhil 14 hours 13 min ago view
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    "Over nine innings of play, Boston's staff struck out 11 straight Tampa Bay Rays hitters Sunday, breaking the major-league record for most consecutive strikeouts in a game.

    The previous record was held by former New York Mets right-hander Tom Seaver, who struck out 10 straight hitters in 1970.

    Not only that, but with a strikeout to end the ninth, sending the game into extras, Boston's staff also struck out an MLB-record 21 batters over nine innings."

    crunch 14 hours 38 min ago view
  • What a loss to baseball, which I'm sure pales in comparison to the personal loss to his loved ones.

    Charlie 16 hours 22 min ago view
  • Somehow I am sensing alcohol was involved. The highest number of boating accidents by a wide margin...

    The E-Man 17 hours 5 min ago view
  • crunch 18 hours 47 min ago view
  • Reports this morning that Marlins' pitching ace Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident - just horrible news.

    Eric S 22 hours 40 min ago view
  • Check out John Arguello at Cubs Den for great analysis & photos from Cubs AZ Instructs


    Arizona Phil 1 day 10 hours ago view