You Can't Catch It If You Can't See It
Jered Weaver threw five innings of one-hit shutout ball while striking out nine (no walks), and Cubs pitchers were battered to the tune of 16 hits (including one triple, two doubles, and three home runs), as the Los Angeles Angels pounded a Cubs split squad 11-0 in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in sunny Mesa, Arizona, this afternoon.
Carlos Zambrano made his last Spring training start in preparation for Opening Day next Monday in Atlanta, and "Z" did not have his best stuff today.
He pitched four innings (73 pitches - 45 strikes), and actually looked OK in the middle of his outing, even retiring eight of nine hitters at one point.
But it was the beginning and the end that wasn't too good.
Zambrano gave up a lead-off single to Maicer Izturis in the top of the first, but then got some serendipity when, with Izturis on the move (big jump) and Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot running over to cover second base, #2 hitter Mike Ryan lined a shot right at Theriot, who caught the ball at his shoetops and then easily doubled Izturis off 1st base. So two outs, nobody on base. But then Brandon Wood ripped a single, and clean-up hitter Mike Napoli blasted a home run off the scoreboard in LF to give the Angels a 2-0 lead.
Zambrano more-or-less cruised through the next couple of innings, getting the first man he faced in the 4th (Mike Napoli) on strikes (swinging). But then Zambrano walked Robb Quinlan on four pitches, and local lad Peter Bourjos roped a triple into left-center, scoring Quinlan. Terry Evans followed that with an RBI single (Evans had five hits and three RBI today), before getting picked-off 1st base as an alert Geovany Soto made a pinpoint throw to nab Evans as he tried to get back to the bag.
Sean Marshall worked an easy nine-pitch 1-2-3 5th (6-3, F-9, 5-3) in relief of Zambrano, but then Jeff Samardzija got hit hard in the 6th, allowing a two-run HR to Peter Bourjos and two hard-hit singles. The Shark just could not keep his pitches down today, and Cubs Manager Lou Piniella really should be worrying about his bullpen if Samardzija has a featured role in it.
With the Cubs down 6-0, rookie LHP James Russell entered the game in the 7th, and the Angels proceeded to load the bases on three straight singles, although one was an infield hit to short (Ryan Flaherty could knock it down but was unable to field it cleanly) and another was a routine fly ball that Marlon Byrd lost in the sun (by my count the 4th time he has done that this Spring... but I guess if you can't see it, you can't catch it, even though most-other outfielders out here don't have that much trouble doing it).
But Russell actually responded pretty well to his bases-loaded & none out jam, getting the next three hitters on a strikeout (swinging), a ground out, and a fly out, keeping the damage to a minimum (just one run, and it was his first earned run allowed this Spring, too).
Justin Berg got hit like a BP pitcher in the 8th (allowing two runs on two doubles and a single), and Esmailin Caridad gave up a long two-run HR in the 9th to 5-for-5 man Terry Evans, although Caridad did get two punch-outs in his one inning of work (the first and last men he faced in the inning, both swinging).
The Cubs offense was truly offensive today, getting just two hits (a broken-bat single by Xavier Nady with one out in the bottom of the 2nd, and a line-drive single to left with one out in the 9th by AA 1B Russ Canzler, who was up from Minor League Camp for the day).
The Cubs did load the bases in the 8th on walks (actually the Cubs drew four walks in the inning) but failed to score. Nady walked to lead off the inning, then was erased when Alfonso Soriano rolled into a 5-4-3 DP. Then Darwin Barney, Geovany Soto, and PH Brandon Guyer each drew walks, before Ryan Flaherty struck out (looking) to end the inning.
While one Cubs split squad was getting squelched ugly in Mesa, the other one was blowing a 6-4 8th inning lead against the Brewers in Maryvale.
Rookie RHP Jay Jackson started the game for the Cubs, and he would have thrown four shutout innings except for the Prince Fielder 3rd inning grand slam.
The Cubs did come back, though, scoring three in the 5th and then three more in the 7th (the big blow being a Micah Hoffpauir two-run PH double that gave the Cubs the lead). But then Iowa Cubs right-handers Alessandro Maestri and Brian Schlitter imploded in the 8th, as the Brew Crew scored eight runs, giving themselves a big lead they would not surrender.
The Cubs play the Colorado Rockies at HoHoKam Park in Mesa tomorrow.
HAGSAG: I have not seen Joe Nathan out on the field, but he is supposedly at the UAPC.
ERIC S: Best outing I've ever seen from Manny Rondon, and I've seen most of his outings since the Cubs got him from the Angels.
M. Rondon is competing with six others (Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, Jose Paulino, Pedro Silverio, Jesus Castillo, and Erling Moreno) for a starting slot at Eugene, and (as you can probably tell from the EXST box scores) the competition has gotten fierce over the last couple of weeks, With the exception of Moreno, the Eugene SP candidates have upped their game lately, and M. Rondon's outing yesterday was especially impressive/dominating.
E-MAN: Pierce Johnsion was mixing a 92-94 MPH fastball with a plus-change-up AND curve, and he threw strike-after-strike-after-strike with all three of his pitches. I believe that was the best command and pitch-efficiency I've ever seen from Johnson, who often pitches from behind in the count and issues too many walks.
Of course now he has to avoid a recurrence of the lat strain (whch he has had previously in his career) as well as all of the other miscellaneous physical problems he's had over the last three years (hamstring, quad, back, etc).
PHIL: Any movement on P. Johnsons pitches? What was his "out" pitch? I know he was working on a 4th pitch, so wondering what he is looking like these days. Thanks.
AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.
Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!
Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.
With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.
it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.
It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.
Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.
That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.
I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.
Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...
These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.
No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.
a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...
it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...
Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.
Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.
Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.
soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.
he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that close...one he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.