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Andres Blanco looped a single over the third-baseman's head to score Reed Johnson from second with one out in the bottom of the 9th, as the Cubs squandered an early 7-1 lead only to come back and defeat the Cleveland Indians 9-8 before a sparse crowd on Spring Training "getaway day" at Ho Ho Kam Park this afternoon in Mesa.  

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Nate Spears and Brad Snyder smacked home runs, but it wasn't enough, as the Sacramento River Cats (the Oakland A's AAA affiliate) scratched out a 10-5 victory over the Iowa Cubs this afternnon at the Papago Park Sports Complex in Phoenix.

Torii Hunter crushed a lead-off first-pitch home run to ignite a seven-run 4th inning, propelling the Angels to an 8-4 victory over the Cubs at Ho Ho Kam Park this afternoon in Mesa, as the Cubs set an all-time single-season Cactus League attendance record. (It probably helped that the 2009 Cactus League season was extended by a week and a few extra home games to accomodate the WBC).   

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Mark DeRosa drove in four runs with two long home runs and a sacrifice fly and scored another run after reaching base on a double, as the Cleveland Indians defeated the Cubs 7-5 before 13,097 fans at sunny and breezy Dwight Patterson Field at Ho Ho Kam Park in Mesa this afternoon.

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Cubs Manager Lou Pniella generally prefers to delegate pitching matters to his pitching coach (that would be Larry Rothschild), but one aspect of the pitching staff Uncle Lou believes he understands is how to get his bullpen ready for Opening Day.

And a big part of this preparation is Piniella's belief that each of his relievers need to throw on back-to-back days once or twice during the last ten days of Spring Training, and each reliever needs to throw two innings one time, too.   

That's where Minor League Spring Training games can really come in handy. 

While Ryan Dempster, Jeff Samardzija, Randy Wells, and Kevin Hart made the two-hour bus trip to Tucson to pitch against the Colorado Rockies at Hi Corbett Field, Kevin Gregg, Chad Fox, and Luis Vizcaino took the 20-minute van ride to the Papago Park Baseball Complex in Phoenix (a former WWII POW Camp) to get their work in versus the Oakland A's AAA squad in a minor league game.      

The Cubs scored seven runs in the bottom of the 1st, and cruised to a 9-4 victory over the White Sox this afternoon at Ho Ho Kam Park in Mesa, in front of a Cactus League record crowd of 13,327, a game that I'm sure many of you watched on WGN-TV.

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I had so much fun watching the Iowa Cubs yesterday at Fitch Park, I decided to follow the Cubs' AAA affiliate to neighboring Tempe today as they took on the Angels AAA affiliate (the PCL Salt Lake Bees) at the Angels Minor League Complex at Diablo Park. 

While it isn't unusual for one or more Cubs major leaguers to play in a AAA game (esprcially when the big club has a night game), that wasn't the case today  

Kyle Reynolds smashed a two-run homer and Doug Deeds blasted a solo shot, but that's all the runs the Cubs could muster. And since tthe four Cubs pitchers were (mostly) ineffective, the I-Cubs lost, 7-3.

Here is today's abridged box score (Iowa Cubs players only). Some of the more observant among you might note that most all of the I-Cubs who played today were at big league camp not too long ago...  

Rich Harden threw four shutout innings and Welington Castillo's two run home run capped a five-run 5th, as the Iowa Cubs (Cubs AAA affiliate) edged the Sacramento River Cats (Oakland A's AAA affiliate) 5-4 before an unusually large Minor League Camp crowd of 50+ at cool & breezy Fitch Park Field #3 this afternoon

Cubs Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild and Assistant Pitching Coach Lester Strode were in attendance, and the place was absoluely crawling with beat writers, bloggers, and assorted Cubs fans intent on watching an actual Cubs major league pitcher throw on a day when the big club had the day off, and they were not disappointed.

However, very few stayed for the whole game. 

So for those of you who want to know how Harden looked, but also just HAVE to know how the Iowa Cubs did it,.. here is... the... rest...of... the... story...

The Cubs have released 2003 #1 draft pick OF Ryan Harvey.

The 24-year old Harvey had one of the top two or three RF arms in the organization and awesome power (he hit four home runs for Daytona in one game a couple of years ago), but he just was not a good hitter (he is a first-ball fastball hacker--247/298/448 with 83 HR and 539 strikeouts in 471 career minor league games), and he suffered from nagging injuries (knee, hamstring, back, etc) throughout his career,

Harvey's release comes almost exactly a year after the Cubs released Harvey's one-time HS teammate and fellow slugger 1B Brian Dopirak (Cubs #2 pick in 2002). Dopirak signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays after he got released and spent most of the 2008 season playing in hometown Dunedin, FL. B-Dope then re-signed with the Blue Jays (he was a minor league free-agent post-2008) and got an NRI to ST with the Jays this Spring as part of the deal (although he has been returned to Tornoto's minor league camp) 

So I wouldn't be surprised if Harvey follows Dopirak to the Blue Jays organization, even if it means he has to go back to the Florida State League again (where he would play for his hometown team) in 2009, although the Jays would probably agree to give him a shot in AA first.  

Harvey's release is definitely not a surprise. He will be a minor league free-agent after this season, and was just not progressing fast enough to think that he would be a candidate to get added to the Cubs 40-man roster post-2009. So cutting him now is probably just the best thing for everybody, especially for Harve. .

Harvey was a combination RF-RHP in HS, and I had thought (and have written here at TCR) that he might be converted to pitcher at some point with the Cubs when he continually struggled as a hitter, but while the Cubs have converted more than a dozen postion players to pitcher over the past couple of years (and no organization converts position players to pitcher to the extent that the Cubs do), they never do it unless the player agrees to the move. So I think it's pretty likely that the Cubs asked Harvey to consider a move to pitcher, but he declined.  

 

Alfonso Soriano drove in two runs and reached base four times on two singles and two wallks, Milton Bradley had three hits including a double and a solo home run, and Geovany Soto drove in two runs with a double and a sacrifice fly, leading the Cubs to a hard-fought 9-8 victory over the Colorado Rockies this afternoon in front of a record Ho Ho Kam Park crowd of 13,298.

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