High Ho Silva
Battling for the 5th starter's job and perhaps his big league career, Carlos Silva threw six innings of three-hit ball, retiring 17 of the last 18 men he faced, and Reed Johnson--also battling for a spot on the 25-man roster--singled twice and scored two runs, leading the Cubs to a 3-1 victory over the Oakland A's in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in sunny & warm Mesa, AZ, this afternoon
I think most of us know that the Cubs were hoping to find a reason to not release Carlos Silva and pay him $8M ($6M in 2011 salary and a $2M buy-out in 2012) to not pitch for them, and perhaps today's outing did in fact secure the #5 starter job for the veteran Venezuelan.
Silva allowed a lead-off line drive single to Coco Crisp to open the game, and after Ryan Sweney fanned, Josh Willingham doubled into the left-center alley to score Crisp and give the A's a quick 1-0 lead. But Silva then retired 16 of the next 17 men he faced, and although many of the balls hit off him would best be described as "loud outs," he did get the job done, working quickly and (in the main) throwing strikes. And his defense made all the plays required to keep him from getting into jams.
For the day Silva allowed just the one first-inning run on three hits (two singles and a double), striking out three while issuing no walks, in 6.0 IP (78 pitches - 49 strikes, 6/5 GO/FO).
Casey Coleman threw a super-efficient 1-2-3 7th (8 pitches - 6 strikes, 0/3 GO/FO), Marcos Mateo pitched a shutout 8th (16 pitches - 9 strikes, 0/2 GO/FO), allowing just one harmless single while striking out Conor Jackson (although before striking out, Jackson just missed a moonshot game-tying home run down the LF line when the ball curved foul at the last minute), and Kerry Wood tossed an easy 1-2-3 11-pitch 9th (three ground balls) for the Save.
Meanwhile, the Cubs mustered just enough offense to outscore the A's, scoring twice in the bottom of the 1st, and then adding an insurance run in the 8th.
Reed Johnson led off the bottom of the 1st against A's LHSP Gio Gonzalez with a line-drive single tio left, and advanced to second when Starlin Castro walked. Jeff Baker struck out and Aramis Ramirez flied out, but Geovany Soto and Alfonso Soriano came through with two-out RBI singles to score Johnson and Castro and give the Cubs an early 2-1 lead.
The Cubs used "small ball" to score their final tally in the 8th against submariner RHRP Brad Ziegler. Reed Johnson laid down a perfect bunt single into the "Bermuda Triangle" between the pitcher, the first-baseman, and the second-baseman to lead-off the inning, Matt Camp executed a textbook sac bunt to advance Johnson to 2nd, and after PH Blake DeWitt bounced out to the shortstop (with Johnson advancing to 3rd), the A's opted to intentionally walk Scott Moore to get to right-handed hitting Welington Castillo. But the plan backfired, as W. Castillo took a walk on a very close 3-2 pitch to load the bases, before Alfonso Soriano was hit by a pitch on the left leg to force-in a run and give the Cubs a 3-1 lead.
If Silva does in fact get the #5 starter's job, that moves Andrew Cashner to the bullpen, leaving one open spot in the pen to be filled by either Casey Coleman, James Russell, Marcos Mateo, Jeff Stevens, or NRI RHP Braden Looper. Since Manager Mike Quade is probably going to want one guy who can throw long relief/multiple innings, Coleman, Russell, and Looper probably have the edge over Mateo and Stevens at this time.
With two hits, two runs scored, and a couple of nice catches in RF, Reed Johnson did nothing today to keep him from being the heavy favorite to capture the 5th OF job, especially since Fernando Perez has had several defensive lapses in games and is hitting just .147. F. Perez does have one minor league option left, so it would be no big deal to send him to Iowa to start the season.
And while Darwin Barney has almost certainly won the middle-infielder job (and may still be in the mix for at least a part-time gig at 2B), there would appear to be a battle between Blake DeWitt, Bobby Scales, and Scott Moore for the other infielder spot, since Jeff Baker has played well enough this Spring (hitting RHP with no difficulty, something he could not do last year) to perhaps be the everyday 2B. Like F. Perez, DeWiit has one minor league option left, and sending DeWitt to the minors for at least 100 days would keep him from being arbitration-eligible post-2011, not that that would be the only reason to option him out, but it is a factor to consider when making the final decision.
The Cubs play the White Sox tomorrow afternoon in Mesa.