Colvin Grand Salami Too Little Too Late
Tyler Colvin crushed a towering grand slam HR over the RF fence to cap a Cub four-run 8th inning rally and narrow a six-run deficit to two runs, but the Colorado Rockies hung-on to defeat the Cubs 6-4 in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in sunny & warm Mesa, AZ, this afternoon.
Ryan Dempster got the start today, a final tune-up in preparation for his scheduled Opening Day start versus the Pirates at Wrigley Field this coming Friday. And he was not sharp, allowing three runs on five hits (including two RBI doubles by Jose Morales, one in the 2nd and another in the 4th) and two walks in four innings (77 pitches - 50 strikes), striking out two with a 6/3 GO/FO.
James Russell followed Dempster tio the mound and threw three innings (31 pitches - 22 strikes), breezing through the first two frames before getting hammered in his third inning to the tune of two runs on four hits (three singles and a double). And it could have been worse, too, except Alfonso Soriano cut-down Jonathan Herrera for the third out of the inning trying to advance from 1st to 3rd base on the last of the RBI hits.
John Grabow labored through a 25-pitch 8th, allowing one unearned run on two hits and a walk. In Grabow's defense, he really should have been out of the inning without a run scoring, but 2B D. J. Lemahieu (up from Minor League Camp) could not turn the back-end of what should have been an easy 6-4-3 DP, spiking the relay throw to 1st into the dirt. I have mentioned before that Lemahieu has difficulty turning the DP from the 2B position, and today's E-4 was a good example of what I mean. He has trouble getting his feet into position to make a strong and accurate throw to 1st base from a flat-footed stance, something that is required of a 2nd baseman. Lemahieu has worked long and hard to try and learn the steps, but so far he has been unable to get it right.
After having been shut-down by Colorado RHSP Clay Mortensen and two Rockies relievers for seven innings, the Cubs mounted a one-out rally against RHP Billy Buckner in the bottom of the 8th. PH Max Ramirez (making his first game appearance in about a week) drew a walk, and advanced to 2nd on a Brett Jackson single (Jackson's second hit of the game). Matt Camp walked to load the bases, and then, with the crowd cheering loudly and on its feet (about as loud and enthused as you will ever see a Cactus League crowd), Tyler Colvin pulverized a 3-2 pitch high over the RF fence, as the ball was last seen headed bounding toward the Rockies team bus parked at the top of the driveway.
Carlos Marmol threw a 1-2-3 9th (with two strikeouts), and so the Cubs had one more chance to tie or win the game in the bottom of the 9th.
With Buckner still on the hill, Ty Wright drew a lead-off walk, bringing the potential tying run to the plate. But Lemahieu grounded out to the pitcher. Bryan Lahair flied out to the warning track in deep CF, and PH Welington Castillo fanned on a check swing to end the game, with the Rockies the victors.
In looking at what will (apparently) be the Cubs Opening Day roster, I think the Cubs will find that not having a stretched-out long reliever in the bullpen at the start of the season (when the starting pitchers have not yet reached their max pitch counts) could be a problem. James Russell was stretched out earlier in Spring Training when the Cubs were considering him as a starter, and although he did throw three innings today, he did so on just 31 pitches (more-typical for a two-inning stint). Also, it's hard to be both a LOOGY (Lefty-One-Out-Guy) and a long-reliever capable of throwing three or four innings in a single game.
We have discussed this here before, but since there is no way to control the work-load for the long reliever (he might not be needed for several days in a row, and then he's needed maybe three times in a six day period), the best way to handle the long reliever slot in the bullpen is to rotate maybe three starters from the AAA affiliate to the big league team, bringing up a pitcher who is stretched-out as a starter for a couple of weeks, until either he has worked too much or not enough, and then send that pitcher back to AAA and bring up another one. Casey Coleman will soon be stretched-out as a starter at Iowa, and both Robert Coello and Thomas Diamond already have already been stretched-out for the I-Cubs in Minor League Spring Training games.