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The Cubs traveled down the Red Mountain Freeway (AKA "Loop 202") to Tempe Diablo Stadium today, facing the Angels before a capacity crowd of 8,808 (probably more than half of them Cubs fans) under the bright, sunny Arizona skies. 

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Loop 202 was closed for most of the day yesterday due to a tractor-trailer fire that involved a HazMat response by the Tempe & Phoenix fire departments. Too bad it wasn't closed again today, because then the Cubs could have just stayed home in Mesa and saved themselves a trip.

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

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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.

OK, so it wasn't literally "Peter Gammons Day" (per se), but the Hall of Famer was at Fitch Park today, as the Cubs continued their workouts in preparation for the 2008 season.

It was a cold, blustery, overcast morning in Mesa today, as the Cubs continued their Spring Training work-outs at Fitch Park.

Today marked another milestone in the annual Cubs Spring Training ritual, as the "full squad" took the field together at Fitch Park for the first time (which is to say Aramis Ramirez finally arrived) under sunny skies and temperatures in the high 50's, and under the watchful eyes of The Brain Trust (Jim Hendry wandering from field-to-field with a cell-phone glued to his ear while patting players on the back, Lou Piniella with a cup of coffee in hand schmoozing with the fans, Randy Bush and Oneri Fleita following Hendry around, Gary Hughes tooling around in a golf cart, Carrie Muskat feverishly taking notes, et al).

The Cubs have signed 29-year old switch-hitting FA middle-infielder Alex Cintron to a minor league contract with an NRI to Spring Training. He is expected to report to Fitch Park with the rest of the position players tomorrow.

A native of Puerto Rico, Cintron is a veteran of 598 MLB games over parts of seven seasons, the first five with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the last two with the White Sox. He has a 277/315/401 career line, but hit only 243/281/324 last season as a back-up middle-infielder with the Sox. His best season was in 2003 with Arizona, when he hit 317/359/489 with 13 HR, but he hasn't come anywhere close to that since. He had elbow surgery after the 2006 season.

Signing Cintron is presumably insurance in case the Cubs end up trading Ronny Cedeno to Baltimore as part of the long-rumored package that would be required to get second-baseman Brian Roberts from the Orioles.

Or the Cubs could opt to keep both Cedeno and Cintron as extra men, although that might cause a problem since they might also feel the need to carry a right-handed hitting or switch-hitting "4th OF" who can back-up all three OF positions and also (if necessary) play CF against LHP.

Since Daryle Ward, Henry Blanco, and Matt Murton (if he doesn't get traded) would seem to be assured of three of the five bench gigs, carrying two back-up middle-infielders on the roster would probably rule out keeping a "4th OF" on the bench.

If he isn't traded, Cedeno (who is out of minor league options) could conceivably prove to be the right-handed hitting alternate CF the Cubs are seeking, but that is far from a sure thing (Cedeno played only about a dozen games in CF in the Venezuelan Winter League), and a lot would depend on how he adapts to the position during the course of ST.

With security understandably tight (well, there was one off-duty Mesa cop in the players parking lot), the Cubs had their first "official" work-out of the 2008 season under mostly cloudy skies (around 60 degrees, with a wind chill of about 59) this morning at Mesa's Fitch Park, as Pitchers & Catchers and eight position player "early birds" took the field. It was a smaller crowd than usual for the first day (maybe about 40 or 50 fans), but at least nobody got arrested.

With Cubs pitchers & catchers scheduled to report to Fitch Park in Mesa this week, and with position players scheduled to report next week, let's take a quick look at the Cubs 2008 Spring Training roster:

The Cubs have signed 37-year old RHP Chad Fox to a minor league contract and have invited him to Spring Training.

Fox last pitched in the big leagues in 2005 with the Cubs, when he suffered what was thought to be a career-ending injury to his right elbow in a game at Houston in April of that season.

But back when he was healthy, Fox had some decent years as an MLB reliever, and had some excellent IP/K ratios and OppBA numbers. In 214 MLB games, Fox went 10-11 with 45 saves, a 3.57 ERA, and a 1.43 WHIP, but in 224.1 IP, Fox allowed only 193 hits, with 128/261 BB/K.

Somebody must have some reason to believe Fox is healthy enough to compete for a big league job. I mean, I enjoy blood and gore as much as the next guy, but I really don't necessarily want to see his arm fall off in front of the old folks and kiddies at HoHoKam.

Although their complete list of Non-Roster Invitees (NRI) to Spring Training has not yet been released, and while additional players may be subsequently signed to minor league deals and get an NRI to ST, I believe the Cubs NRI list will ultimately probably look something like this:

(And again, this is just speculation on my part)

Who says the Milwaukee Brewers aren't nice guys? On behalf of Cubs fans everywhere, allow me to extend deepest thanks to Brewers GM Doug Melvin, who just couldn't wait until after December 1st to sign Cubs FA catcher Jason Kendall.

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