Kung Fu Panda Not So Cute Today
Pablo Sandoval cranked a grand slam HR into the visitor's (upper) bullpen beyond the RF fence to cap a five-run third, and Jonathan Sanchez threw three shutout innings, as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Chicago Cubs 5-1 in Cactus League action under partly cloudy skies at cool & breezy Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa this afternoon.
Carlos Zambrano got the start for the Cubs today, and after breezing through the first two innings on just a combined 14 pitches (Ks, 4-3, and 6-3 in the top of the 1st, and then 2B, 4-3, P-3, and 5-3 in the top of the 2nd), the roof really caved-in on "Z" in the 3rd.
John Bowker, Kevin Frandsen, and Aaron Rowand singled to load the bases, and then Eugenio Velez was hit by a pitch to force-in a run (or at least his uniform was hit by the pitch...). Then with the bases loaded and still nobody out, Pablo Sandoval unloaded his grand salami, giving the Giants what turned out to be an insurmountable a 5-0 lead.
And Zambrano continued to struggle after the grand slam had cleared the bases, too, getting Aubrey Huff on a fly out to the warning track in RF, before walking Benjie Molina and surrendering a single to Nate Schierholtz. Then finally (on the inning's 36th pitch), Carlos induced Juan Uribe to ground into a most merciful 6-4-3 DP.
For the day Zambrano allowed five runs on six hits, a walk, and a HBP, one HR, and one strikeout (Aaron Rowand leading-off the game) in 3.0 IP. He threw 50 pitches (32 strikes), with a 6/2 GO/FO.
#1 LHRP John Grabow pitched the 4th inning and had a much better day than last Saturday, when he gave up three runs in just an inning of work. Today Grabow pitched a shutout inning (4-3, L-8, E-5, 5-3), although one batter did reach base when Aramis Ramirez fielded a one hopper and (with all the time the world) promptly threw the ball over Derrek Lee's head (no easy task). But Grabow looked good (11 pitches - 9 strikes, 2/1 GO/FO).
Rule 5 RHP Mike Parisi followed Grabow to the mound and had a solid outing (4-3, Ks, 1B, and F-9). He struck out Aubrey Huff, and he didn't mess around with any of the hitters (14 pitches - 10 strikes). By virtue of Parisi working just one inning (he threw two innings his first time out last Thursday), it would appear that he is not being considered for a spot in the Cubs starting rotation (although he had been mostly a starter throughout his career). But he has done nothing to hurt his chances of making the Cubs Opening Day 25-man roster so far (two outings). And being a "Rule 5 guy" (where the Cubs would probably lose him if he isn't kept on the 25-man roster) helps his chances, too.
As I've mentioned before, Parisi is in a somewhat different situation than 2009 Rule 5 pick David Patton was last year. Patton was more of a "long-term investment," not really ready for MLB in 2009 (he hadn't piched above "A" ball prior to last season), so the Cubs had to finesse him through the season by putting him on the DL for two months and then getting work for him by sending him out on a 30-day minor league rehab assignment. He only threw 27.2 IP (MLB) last year, but he was on the 25-man roster just (barely) enough days to satisfy the Rule 5 requirements regarding time spent on an MLB Active List. So he can be optioned to the minors this year (and in fact he has three minor league option years available).
Parisi, on the other hand, has two years of AAA experience (2007-08), and was available for selection in the Rule 5 Draft this past December only because the Cardinals outrighted him to the minors post-2008 after he underwent Tommy John elbow surgery. If Parisi doesn't pitch well enough to make the Cubs Opening Day roster--if he doesn't win a job by out-pitching others in Spring Training--he will probably get cut (and get reclaimed by STL) and the Cubs won't think twice about losing him. But so far, so good.
Cubs 2008 #1 draft pick RHP Andrew Cashner pitched the 6th inning for the Cubs, and (once again) struggled with his command. Though he threw only ten pitches, only four were strikes. But that was good enough to get a fly out to left and a 5-4-3 ining-ending GIDP to erase the baserunner who reached on a lead-off walk. Cashner must show better control if he is to be considered for an Opening Day bullpen job with the Cubs.
RHP Thomas Diamond made his 2010 Cactus League debut (he got rained out of his first scheduled appearance last Sunday), and looked very good. He threw a ten-pitch 1-2-3 7th inning (F-4, Ks, P-5). Based on what I saw of Diamond at the end of the AZ Instructional League last October, and then after he threw "lights out" in three starts for Mexicali (Mexican Pacific League) after that, I would say Diamond has a definite chance to win a bullpen job with the Cubs out of Spring Training. He was dominating today.
Diamond is a former Texas Rangers #1 draft pick out of the University of New Orleans (current Cubs Assistant GM Randy Bush was Diamond's coach at UNO) who was claimed off waivers by the Cubs last September. He underwent Tommy John elbow surgery in 2007 and then struggled mightily with his control after returning to action in 2008-09, and the Rangers basically just gave up on him. But he is pitching with much better control (and renewed confidence) now, and he certainly looked VERY good today.
LHP John Gaub pitched the 8th and struggled with his command (23 pitches - 12 strikes). He did walk one LH hitter (Nate Schierholtz), but he also struck out another lefty swinger (Brandon Crawford) to end the inning.
RHP Justin Berg worked a five-pitch 9th (4-3, F-8, 5-3), throwing just one ball. He just gets the ball and throws a hard sinker, doesn't really fool anybody, and then waits for his fielders to make routine plays. He's got to be Uncle Lou's kinda pitcher.
Some of you may remember my post from a week ago, where I described Byrd hitting 30 balls in a row to RF during the Cubs first work-out at HoHoKam Park, and that Manager Lou Piniella was watching intently. Well, he must have been impressed, because with LHP Jonathan Sanchez getting the start for the Giants today, Kosuke Fukudome got the day off, and Marlon Byrd hit in the #2 slot behind Ryan Theriot.
Unfortunately, the Cubs offense really sputtered today (but not because Byrd hit second!), with at least one base-runner in every inning (14 total), but they scored only one run.
1st inning: Facing Jonathan Sanchez, Theriot leads off with a line-drive single over the second-baseman's head into right-center, then is immediately picked-off 1st by Sanchez (OUTSTANDING move by Sanchez, BTW).
2nd inning: Xavier Nady (the Cubs DH today, in what was his first Cactus League action of 2010) shoots a line single to RF with one out, then Alfonso Soriano strikes out swinging and Jeff Baker is retired 1-3 on a one-hop comebacker to the mound.
3rd inning: Theriot lines a single to RF with two outs and then steals second, but Byrd is called out on strikes for out number three.
4th inning: Facing RHRP Brandon Medders, Derrek Lee draws a walk on a 3-2 pitch after fouling a ball off his foot earlier in the count, then gingerly limps off the field as Micah Hoffpauir pinch-runs for him at 1st base. Then after a WP moves Hoffpauir up to 2nd base, Ramirez lines a double over CF Eugenio Velez's head to the CF Batter's Eye, scoring Hoffpauir from 2nd. But Nady pops out to the catcher behind home plate, Soriano flies out to CF, and after Jeff Baker walks, Koyie Hill is called out on strikes. Only one run scores.
5th inning: Facing AAA RHP Kevin Pucetas, Theriot lines a single to CF and Byrd lines a single to LF with one out, but then Hoffpauir bounces into a 5-4-3 DP to end the inning.
6th inning: Facing NRI RHP Eric Hacker, Ramirez ropes a lead-off single to LF (his 2nd solid hit of the day after fanning in his first AB) and Nady draws a walk, but then Soriano bounces into a 5-4 FC, Baker lines out to short, and K. Hill grounds out 4-3 to end the inning and leave two runners stranded. (Soriano, Baker, and Hill went hitless today, and left a number of runners stranded).
7th inning: Facing NRI RHP Eric Whitaker, Starlin Castro reaches base on an infield single to deep short with one out, but then Sam Fuld grounds into a 6-4-3 DP to end the inning.
8th inning: Facing NRI RHP Steve Edlefsen, Brad Snyder and PH Chad Tracy draw one out walks, but then Darwin Barney and Jeff Baker strike out (Barney swinging, and Baker looking), leaving both runners stranded.
9th inning: Facing RHRP Waldis Joaquin, Castro lines a two-out single to CF (his second hit of the day -- the Cubs lead-off slot went 5-5!), but then Fuld grounds out 3-1 to end the game.
Manager Piniella ordered a special post-game Batting Practice for those in need (mostly the guys who aren't getting much playing time), and so Jeff Baker (getting fairly regular playing time, but in a deep slump since he reported to Fitch Park last month), Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Bryan Lahair, Kevin Millar, Bobby Scales, Chad Tracy, and Josh Vitters were able to take about 50 swings a piece.
The Cubs play the San Diego Padres at the Peoria Sports Complex tomorrow, before the team splits in two for a couple of days as one squad travels up to Las Vegas to play two games versus the White Sox (one Friday night, and the other on Saturday afternoon), while the other squad stays in Phoenix for a game against the Brewers in Phoenix (Maryvale) on Friday and at HoHoKam Park in Mesa versus the 2010 Cactus League newcomers (Dusty Baker's Cincinnati Reds) on Saturday.