Final Tune-Up for Garza Sucks Gas
A. J. Pollack reached base five times on four singles and a walk, Kelly Johnson had four hits including a double and a three-run HR, ex-Cub Xavier Nady had four hits (including a grand slam HR) and scored three runs, and David Winfree had three hits including a solo HR and a three-run HR, leading the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 15-8 drubbing of the Cubs in what was the final Cactus League game for the Cubs (although they will be playing what's billed as an "intrasquad charity game" tomorrow morning at Dwight Patterson Field before flying to Chicago later in the day).
RHP Matt Garza got the start for the Cubs today, his final Spring Training tune-up. And he did not have a good day, allowing seven runs on 11 hits (including one double and one HR) and two walks in 3+ innings of work (92 pitches - 63 strikes). The one positive note was seven strikeouts in just 3.0 IP, and he did make some good pitches every now & then, but he was mostly pitching out of the stretch all day.
Four of the first five D'back hitters singled in the 1st, but Arizona could only plate one run thanks to a diving stop by 2B Jeff Baker behind 2nd base that kept the bases loaded ("Keep it in the infield!" as the coaches say), allowing Garza to pitch out of the jam by striking out the side, although he did throwc 24 pitches (17 strikes) in the process.
After throwing a scoreless 2nd inning (two two-out singles around an F-7, a K, and and an L-7), Garza had troubles again in the top of the 3rd, as Xavier Nady and Ryan Wheeler singled and David Winfree lined a three-run HR over the LF fence to give the Diamondbacks a 4-0 lead.
The Cubs came back in the bottom of the 3rd against AZ starter LHP Joe Saunders, putting up a five-spot and taking the lead. With one out, Reed Johnson was hit on the foot by a pitch, and moved up to third when Starlin Castro ripped a double down the LF line (it hit the 3rd base bag). Jeff Baker grounded a single to left to score Johnson, and then Aramis Ramirez roped a line-drive single to score Castro. Geovany Soto grounded a single to left to load the bases, before Carlos Pena came through with a bases-clearing three-run double into the left-center alley to give the Cubs the lead.
But the D'backs came right back in the top of the 4th, loading the bases against Garza on a Kelly Johnson double and two walks (Garza was obviously tiring once he hit 80 pitches). LHP Scott Maine (up from Minor League Camp) relieved Garza and had a REALLY bad inning, giving up a towering grand slam HR to Nady, another long ball (solo shot) to David Winfree, and finally, after Aramis Ramirez made a lazy throw to 1st base resulting in an E-5 that prolonged the inning, a three-run HR over the right-centerfield fence to Kelly Johnson (batting for the second time in the inning). In just 1.0 IP, Maine allowed five runs (although technically only two were earned) and four hits (including three HR). Maine also threw 31 pitches (20 strikes) to get through the one inning, an inning he will likely try very hard to forget.
Now down 12-5, the Cubs back again in the bottom of the 4th against Joe Saunders, as PH Nate Samson (up from Minor League Camp) reached base on an E-5, Starlin Castro drew a one-out walk, and Jeff Baker lined an RBI single to left. Aramis Ramirez walked to load the bases, Geovany Soto hit a sacrifice fly to CF to score Castro from 3rd, and after LHRP Joe Paterson hit Carlos Pena with a pitch to re-load the bases, all the runners moved up (and PR Darwin Barney scored) when Paterson committed a bases-loaded balk (something you don't see everyday).
So the Cubs were back in the game, down just 12-8, going into the 5th.
RHP Jeff Samardzija (who had been pitching better lately) relieved Maine to start the 5th inning, and immediately got into trouble, allowing back-to-back lead off ground ball singles to Miguel Montero and Xavier Nady. Ryan Wheeler walked to load the bases, but Samardzija struck out David Winfree, who had already hit two HR in the game. However, The Shark's control just wasn't there when he needed it, and he walked Cody Ransom with the bases loaded to force-in a run, before surrendering a SF to plate a second run. Samardzija then walked the bases loaded again, before retiring Kelly Johnson on a line drive to CF.
Samardzija threw a whopping 42 pitches (only 23 strikes) in just one inning of work, and Geovany Soto caught 177 pitches through just the first five innings! (Give that man a Dr. Pepper, please).
RHP Esmailin Caridad (up from Minor League Camp threw two decent innings (6th and 7th), allowing a run on two hits and an HBP with one strikeout (28 pitches - 21 strikes, 2/3 GO/FO), and both Sean Marshall and Kerry Wood threw 1-2-3 innings (both with one strikeout and a 1/1 GO/FO).
But the Cub offense went silent after scoring in the 4th, getting shut down on just one hit (a Matt Spencer line-drive single to right-center with two outs in the bottom of the 9th) over the final five innings. Even though they scored eight runs, the Cubs did so on only seven hits, although they did draw six walks along the way.
The players are required to perform with minimal thinking, relying on reflex, reaction, and muscle memory (or, as you say, rhythm). I think this point of view doesn't lend itself well to changing things up. Wearing Zany suits, on the other hand, does sound like fun and definitely keeps things interesting.
Scared me for a minute with your anagram for "Almora".
I think while I get you're saying with moving around a lot of baseball is very rhythm based and for many players moving around a lot could disrupt that. It's the same reason many players aren't cut out for phing or dhing since they need to be in the rhythm of the game to hit.
Of course then you have players like LaStella who are terrible as starters and should only PH. Really hope Madden doesn't get enthralled with him starting too much.
KKVG: Among the players at Extended Spring Training, Isaac Paredes is the most-impressive position-player from the Cubs 2015-16 IFA class (I'm not including OF Eddy Julio Martinez, because he skipped EXST and began the season at South Bend). Paredes has legit game power and handles himself well at SS, although I think he will likely eventually end-up at 2B or 3B (maybe not this year, but down-the-line). It is possible that Paredes will get assigned to Eugene (and skip AZL) next month, and I would say he's the only one of the Cubs 2015-16 IFA position players who could.
Having been a mediocre HS player, I would think at a professional level - and in their 20's - doesn't it sound actually FUN to have a chance to play different positions in a 162-Game, uber-long season?
It has to take some of the monotony out of the job and keep you on your toes.
In fact, the best manufacturing floor job satisfaction training theories include job rotation as a way to improve employee satisfaction.
I hope Maddon can keep it going.
(It's usually KK, because his DNA is more like ours.)
Not just Maddon, but the organization as a whole. If the rumors are to be believed, they did a good job of letting Baez learn that he needed to change his approach, and Baez has done a good job listening to their instructions an adapting. Hopefully the same is true of Alomar, who is ripping up AAA.
Previous management teams haven't been as good at this (e.g. Corey Patterson).
Man, this team makes you greedy. Going into Pittsburgh -- with Cole vs. Hammel Game 1 -- I was hoping for 2 out of 3. After winning the first 2 games 14-3, I now want a sweep. Same thing happened in STL. Very, very fun.
Repeating myself, but I give Maddon a lot of credit for Baez's success. Instead of talking about monster HRs and high K totals, he has talked up his defense, versatility and being a "special" player. The kid seems to have responded.
BOB: The attendance has taken a big hit since you left.
K-DUB: I think the Cubs might consider skipping Dylan Cease past South Bend and starting him at Myrtle Beach next season, especially if he gets some time at South Bend this season and pitches well there. As a southern kid with TJS history, pitching at Myrtle Beach in April is probably a lot more attractive than pitching in South Bend, but Cease can't go to Myrtle Beach if he isn't ready for Hi-A.
His story makes him someone I completely root for to succeed but it's interesting that he's not succeeding in the way anyone thought when he was just a prospect. Great defense and contact instead of power. I think failing so glaringly and getting sent back down might have been the best thing for him and his ego.
He still swings at too many balls out of the strike zone but he's making a lot more contact on them which I think is helped by the less violent swing. So we might not get all the HRs we were expecting but I'll gladly take what he's giving.
"KingKongVsGodzilla"? So - was there a winner?
Baez is looking like a pretty special player.
Love checking TCR for your writeups. Quick question - any of these 2015 positional IFAs stand out to you yet? I'm most specifically referring to Kwon, Sierra, Paredes, and Amaya, but I know there's a couple other guys from that class in EXST as well.
bored...looking at stats for the hell of it...
felix pena (26yo) moving to the pen in AAA is looking like an insanely good fit so far in a smallish sample size
13ip 4h 3bb 20K
remembering back to spring training he was regularly hitting mid-90s (though he didn't have a good spring stats-wise). as a starter in the minors he usually worked low-90s.
this could be an arm worth keeping an eye on even if he's only a 1-inning guy who was "demoted" to the pen to start the year.