Lahair Club Not Just for Men
Bryan Lahair cranked a three-run homer to tie the game and then later doubled and scored, leading the Cubs to an 11-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in Cactus League action at sunnny and warm Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa this afternoon, in what was the first-ever appearance by the Reds at HoHoKam Park. (The Reds relocated their Spring Training camp from Sarasota, FL to Goodyear, AZ this year).
Battling for a spot in the Cubs starting rotation, lefty Sean Marshall did nothing to hurt his chances, throwing three very solid innings (49 pitches - 33 strikes, 4/3 GO/FO). He allowed just a solo HR to Reds third-baseman Juan Francisco (a LH hitter, BTW) and a single to Wladimir Balentien. He struck out two (Jay Bruce and Paul Janish), and didn't walk anybody. Marshall threw strikes and got outs.
Meanwhile, Reds starter Homer Bailey shut out the Cubs through the first two innings, before the Cubs broke-through with a single run in the bottom of the 3rd. James Adduci sliced a double into the LF corner (he had three hits today, for a total of five over the last two games), advanced to third on a Starlin Castro ground out (three ground outs for Castro today), and scored when Darwin Barney grounded a single into RF that scooted just beyond the reach of Reds second-baseman Brandon Phillips.
Adduci has been working with new Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo on elevating his swing such that he might perhaps hit some HR (Adduci is a big guy, and looks like a 25+ HR hitter, except he hits mostly singles). But while he hasn't hit a HR yet, the extra work in the batting cage seems to have helped Adduci's overall approach to hitting. He has suddenly turned into an aggressive, ferocious hitter the last few days, after struggling at the plate early in camp. With his ability to play all three OF positions (and 1B), and with his plus-speed (he runs VERY well for a big guy, with 35 SB last year at AA Tennessee), he might actually be in the mix for the 4th OF gig, especially if Sam Fuld continues to struggle at the plate, and if the Cubs want Tyler Colvin and Brad Snyder to play every day at AAA. Piniella seems to really like Adduci. (BTW, Adduci's dad played in the big leagues with STL, MIL, and PHI back in the 1980's).
2009 Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the year (and NRI RHP) Casey Coleman entered the game in the top of the 4th, and really struggled with his control throughout his two innings of work (39 pitches - just 18 strikes, including a 25-pitch 4th inning where he threw just nine strikes). Coleman also struggled with his control in his last outing, and that's no way for a young pitcher to make a favorable impression on a manager who hates walks as much as Lou Piniella does.
Coleman walked Brandon Phillips leading off the 4th inning, before surrendering a long HR over the left-centerfield fence to Juan Francisco (the husky third-baseman's second round-tripper of the day), and then escaped what could have been a much-worse inning when Yonder Alonso hit a rope-liner right at shortstop Starlin Castro, allowing the Cubs to double Wladimir Balentien (who had walked with one out) off 1st base (Balentien was running on a 3-2 pitch). Then with one out in the 5th, Paul Janish homered over the LF fence, giving the Reds a 4-1 lead.
But that was the last time the Cubs trailed, as they rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the 5th, scoring all of the runs on one swing of the bat, the Bryan Lahir game-tying three-run tater off Reds RHP Micah Owings that the powerful ex-Mariners 1st baseman ripped over the RF fence with two outs, following an Adduci single and a Barney walk.
With Micah Hoffpauir having had a terrible Spring at the plate so far, Lahair may be passing Hoffpauir on the depth chart behind Derrek Lee. Barring an injury to D-Lee, neither Hoffpauir nor Lahair are going to make the Cubs Opening Day 25-man roster, but Lahair might get the call over Hoffpauir later in the season (like maybe on September 1st, when rosters expand) if the Cubs wish to add a LH power-hitting 1B at that time.
Rule 5 RHP Mike Parisi pitched the 6th and 7th for the Cubs, and was a perfect six up/six down (L-9, Ks, F-9, P-3, 3-U, and 6-3, on 21 pitches - 16 strikes), probably further solidifying his spot in the Cubs bullpen. Being a Rule 5 player, the Cubs are going to give Parisi a longer look than they might give to another pitcher who isn't subject to getting reclaimed by his former team (in this case, the division-rival St. Louis Cardinals), but he still has to perform well in Spring Training outings if he wants to make the Cubs 25-man roster. And so far, he has performed very well indeed.
While Parisi was holding-off the Reds, the Cubs scored five runs off Reds NRI RHRP Jon Adkins, and then two more off LOOGY Pedro Viola.
Chad Tracy led-off the Cubs 6th with a line-single to left-center, and then Alfonso Soriano pulled a line-drive double into the LF corner (Sori's second hit of the game). For some reason (brain fart, perhaps?), temporary 3rd base coach Ryne Sandberg (Mike Quade was with the split squad in Las Vegas) inexplicably decided to send Tracy home. But Tracy was obviously a dead duck, so much so that he turned around half-way home and tried to get back to 3rd base, where he was tagged out for the 1st out of the inning. But DH Bobby Scales picked-up Tracy (and Sandberg), following the gaffe with an RBI double, a sharply hit grounder down the 1st base line and into the RF corner that scored PR Ty Wright (up from Minor League Camp) from 2nd base with the go-ahead run. Koyie Hill followed with a line single to right, advancing Scales to 3rd, and then after Adduci struck out swinging, Hak-Ju Lee (also up from Minor League Camp) lined a two-run double into the LF corner, scoring Scales and Hill (and the speedy HJ Lee was standing on 2nd base before K. Hill even hit 3rd!). While Starlin Castro may be the Cubs top position-player prospect going into the 2010 season, Hak-Ju Lee (rated the #1 prospect in the Northwest League by Baseball America in 2009) is not far behind. Lee sprays line-drives from foul line to foul line.
Now up 7-4, the Cubs added four more in the 7th. Lahair almost decapitated Reds first-baseman Miguel Cairo with a lead-off low-flying line-drive double smoked down the first-base line, advanced to 3rd base on a Tyler Colvin single to left-center, and, after Chad Tracy struck out looking against Reds lefty reliever Pedro Viola (who had just entered the game), scored on a Ty Wright line-drive single to LF. Bobby Scales then hit into a FC (advancing Colvin to third), and Colvin and Scales both scored on a double off the top of the LF fence (a near HR) by catcher Chris Robinson. (With Uncle Lou having seen Robinson actually get a key two-out RBI extra-base hit, the Cubs might be more-willing to call-up Robinson if Geovany Soto or K. Hill get hurt, something they were not willing to do last year when Soto went on the DL in August). Adduci then plated Robinson with an RBI single to right to complete the Cubs scoring for the day.
RHRP Jeff Stevens (in contention for a job in the Cubs bullpen, but having a bad Spring) worked the 8th inning for the Cubs (18 pitches - 11 strikes, 1/2 GO/FO), allowing just a one-out double to NRI OF Josh Anderson (an outstanding diving-try near-miss by LF Ty Wright), but no runs.
RHP Esmailin Caridad worked an easy 1-2-3 16-pitch 9th (Kc, 5-3, F-8) to finish-off the Redlegs and send Cub fans home happy.
Besides Lahair's big day (he also made an outstanding catch in foul territory, reaching into the stands to grab a pop up), James Adduci and Tyler Colvin had three hits a piece, and Darwin Barney reached base three times on two singles and a walk. Barney also made a sterling defensive play in the top of the 2nd, ranging far to his left, diving to make the stop, and then nailing the base-runner at 2nd base with a throw from his knees.
While one Cubs squad trounced the Reds in Mesa, the other squad was in Las Vegas, edging the White Sox 8-7. Ryan Dempster threw three innings of one-hit ball in the hitter's paradise known as "Cashman Field," allowing just one unearned run, walking none, while striking out two.
The Cubs play the Angels tomorrow afternoon in Tempe.