Rich Hill Shows Up Clueless at HoHoKam
Matt Murton doubled twice and Henry Blanco homerred, as the Cubs rallied to defeat the Colorado Rockies 8-6 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park this afternoon in sunny Mesa.
But the real story today was Rich Hill.
After struggling for most of the Spring to find his '07 mojo, Rich Hill had (by far) his worst and most worrisome outing yet, failing to get out of the second inning and having no clue on the mound whatsoever.
Hill walked five of the first six and six of the first eight batters he faced, finally being relieved after retiring only one hitter in the 2nd. For the day, Hill threw 50 pitches,but only 19 for strikes. He also made an errant pick-off throw, and totally ignored the runners he did put on base, allowing four uncontested stolen bases (unfairly charged to Henry Blanco, who had no play) through outright neglect. .
After being relieved, Hill could be seen throwing in the Cubs bullpen beyond the RF fence, presumably to complete his expected 75-80 pitch outing by throwing an extra 25-30 in the pen.
As amazing as this sounds, there now must be speculation that Rich Hill could lose his spot in the rotation. With the other five starter candidates throwing the ball very well recently, Hill could find himself in Iowa to start the season if he doesn't turn things around in his next scheduled start on Tuesday. I have a feeling Uncle Lou is not real happy with Rich Hill right now. .
Down 3-0, the Cubs tied the game with a three-run second, as Matt Murton (near HR off right-centerfield fence) and Mark DeRosa slugged back-to-back doubles, and Henry Blanco followed with a two-run Home Run over the left-field fence to the base of the scoreboard. Blanco, who went 2-3 with a walk yesterday, had a 2-2 day today and is swinging the bat REALLY well right now..
Tim Lahey got an early long relief call today, and was not particulary effective, allowing two hits and a walk, including .a two-run homer to Ian Stewart in the 3rd. Henry Blanco threw out a potential base-stealer to help Lahey finish the 3rd. As it was, it took the rookie RHP 26 pitches to get through that inning.
Kerry Wood's back was apparently healthy enough to allow him to throw an inning (the 4th), and although he did allow a run on two hits (a single and a double), he also got two strikeouts (one swinging and one called) and looked to be throwing with decent velocity, albeit not quite as effeciently as in his previous outings (21 pitches - 14 strikes in just one inning of work today)
Neal Cotts worked two shutout innings (the 5th and the 6th), but was not particularly impressive. He threw 34 pitches in his two innings of work, walking two and allowing one hit. He benefitted from a CS (nice throw by Casey McGehee) and a timely 5-4-3 DP to get around the walks.
Meanwhile, the Cubs scored a run in the third, manufactured by Ryan Theriot, The Riot walked to start the inning, advanced to second on a wild pick-off throw by Rockies starter Franklin Morales, before stealing 3rd (uncontested) and scoring on a wild pitch.
The Cubs scored two more in the 5th (lead-off line single to left by Geovany Soto, double into the left-field corner by Alfonso Soriano, sac fly to deep right by Derrek Lee, and line-drive RBI single by Aramis Ramirez), and then two more in the 6th (lead-off double into the left-center field alley by Murton, a 5-3 sac bunt by DeRosa, and then PH RBI single by Daryle Ward, single by Casey McGehee, and RBI single by Ryan Theriot).
After Matt Avery and Geoff Jones (both up from the minor league camp) tip-toed their way through the 7th, Michael Wuertz was brought in with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the 8th, and retired all four men he faced on two fly outs to Felix Pie in CF and two strikeouts.
Kosuke Fukudome started in CF today (Murton played RF), and although he had no plays in CF, he did have one really bad day at the plate, striking out three times against left-handed pitchers (twice against Franklin Morales and once against Brian Fuentes), and looking absolutely lost in the process. Fuku's swing agianst two MLB-quality lefties made Jacque Jones look like Ted Williams.
On defense, Aramis Ramirez made an outstanding diving catch to his right in the 7th, Mike Fontenot made two excellent plays at SS, one where he threw out a runner at 1st from deep in the hole with a one-hop strike to D-Lee, and another as middle-man in a clutch 1-6-3 GIDP in the 8th, and Felix Pie made an outstanding running catch into the deepest part of CF with his back to the infield.
On the Cubs transaction front, RHPs Jose Ascanio and Sean Gallagher were optioned to Iowa, and NRI OFJosh Kroeger was sent to the minor league camp.