McDonald & Lake Lead Cubs to Victory
Darnell McDonald and Junior Lake each had a single, a double, and an RBI, leading the Cubs to a 5-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics in Cactus League action this afternoon at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, AZ.
Scott Feldman made his first game appearance as a Cub today, getting the start and throwing two innings. He allowed one run on two hits (a single and a triple) and two walks, with two strikeouts (one swinging & one looking) and a 2/1 GO/FO. Feldman struggled with his control over the 2.0 IP (37 pitches - only 18 strikes), and benefited from two outstanding defensive plays behind him or his day could have been much worse.
After retiring the first two men he faced on a 4-3 ground out and a strikeout, Feldman walked Josh Reddick, and then surrendered a Brandon Moss one-hop line-drive single to right. RF Jorge Soler fielded the ball cleanly and fired a one-hop strike to 3rd base to nail Reddick trying to advance for the third out of the inning.
Feldman also retired the first two men he faced in the 2nd inning (F-7 and a strikeout), before walkng Derek Norris and giving up a Michael Choice RBI triple off the CF fence. Miles Head then topped a "swinging bunt" between home and 3rd that was fielded by Feldman, but the pitcher's throw to 1st base bounced once and was a bit off line. 1B Brent Lillibridger adjusted to the situation, however, and with some fancy footwork, managed to keep his other foot on the bag as he stretched into foul territory to corral the bouncing ball for the third out, as the ball just barely missed hitting the baserunner.
Travis Wood threw the next two innings, allowing a Derek Norris solo HR onto the LF berm and a single. He threw 41 pitches (25 strikes) with a 1/4 GO/FO over the two innings, and struck out one (the final better he faced) with no walks.
It appears that Feldman and Wood are battling for what will eventually be the #5 starter slot (once Matt Garza and Scott Baker are ready to join the rotation), so it was interesting to see them pitch back-to-back in the same game. Wood looked much sharper than Feldman today, although (obviously) it is still very early.
After being shutout through the first two innings by LHP Brett Anderson, the Cubs scored three runs (one earned) on five hits off veteran RHP Bartolo Colon in the 3rd & 4th innings to take a 3-2 lead.
Brent Lillibridge grounded a single through the box leading off the 3rd, and scored on a Dave Sappelt one-out RBI double off the top of the LF fence (near-HR). Then in the bottom of the 4th, Darnell McDonald grounded a lead-off single to center, and after Jorge Soler and Dioner Navarro struck out, Javier Baez ripped a line-drive single to CF, with McDonald advancing to 3rd. Lillibridge then reached base on what should have been a 4-6 FC and the third out, but A's SS Hiroyuki Nakajima dropped the toss from 2B Scott Sizemore as Baez slid hard into the bag, allowing McDonald to score. Junior Lake followed with a rocket line-drive single to left to score Baez, who put on the after-burners to just barely beat the throw home.
Carlos Marmol threw the 5th inning and did not allow the ball to leave the infield, striking out one (swinging) and inducing an infield pop up and a weak ground out. He did walk one batter, but otherwise looked very good (17 pitches - 11 strikes).
The Cubs scored again in the bottom of the 5th, as Darwin Barney led-off and reached base on a bloop single to left. Then with two outs, Darnell McDonald laced a double down the line into the LF corner, as Barney scored all the way from 1st, sliding home in a cloud of dust.
McDonald has looked good so far, and although there are probably only five slots available on the 25-man roster for outfielders (with Soriano, DeJesus, Hairston, Schierholtz, and Sappelt the likely finalists), McDonald could win a job if Soriano gets traded, or if one of the outfielders gets hurt, or if Sappelt (who coiuld be optioned to the minors) falls flat (but so far Sappelt has played very well).
Japanese import Kyuiji Fujikawa worked the 6th and allowed one harmless single, Rule 5 pick Hector Rondon had an impressive 1-2-3 7th (3-1 GO, strikeout swinging, and a 3-U groundout), and Zach Putnam (who has been impressive so far) pitched a scoreless 8th, allowing a lead-off single before retiring the side on three straight ground outs.
The Cubs scored their 5th and final run in the 8th. Edwin Maysonet led-off the inning by roping a double into the LF corner, advanced to 3rd base on a Brad Nelson 4-3 GO, and scored on a Christian Villanueva sacrifice fly (with plenty of distance) to CF. Villanueva (acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Ryan Dempster trade last July and rated the Cubs #12 prospect by Baseball America going into the 2013 season) has been impressive both at the plate and in the field, and while he isn't MLB-ready yet, he could be in another year (he will likely spend te 2013 season at AA Tennessee). He has shown HR power in games and an advanced approach at the plate, and he is a steady (if not spectacular) defender at 3B. He obviously has been well-coached (props to the Rangers Player Development Dept).
Both Maysonet and Nelson will likely be at Iowa in 2013, providing insurance in case of injury on the big league club (Nelson in the event Rizzo goes down, and Maysonet if something happens to Castro or Barney). It's possible that Maysonet could win a job on the Cubs MLB Opening Day 25-man roster even if there are no injuries in the infield, if Ian Stewart is released, and Luis Valbuena is the everyday third-baseman.
NRI RHP Jensen Lewis pitched the 9th and recorded the save, although it wasn't easy. He dug himself into a hole right from the gitgo by allowing two doubles (both on long fly balls that bounced over the fence) and a single, resulting in one run scoring and runners at 2nd & 3rd (the potential tying run on 2nd base) and no outs. But after a visit to the mound by Pitching Coach Chris Bosio (and with Blake Parker warming up in earnest in the Cub bullpen), Lewis reached back and struck out the next two batters swinging, before recording the final out on an easy 3-1 GO.
Among the pitchers competing for spots in the Cub bullpen, both Hector Rondon and Michael Bowden have a built-in advantage because neither can be sent to the minors without first passing through waivers. Bowden is out of minor league options (and he also can elect free-agency if outrighted, because he has been outrighted previously in his career), while Rondon (as a Rule 5 player) must be offered back to the organization from which he was drafted (the Cleveland Indians) even if waivers are secured.
One other thing to keep in mind about Rondon is that he is not your trypical Rule 5 draft pick. A one-time Indians Top 10 Prospect who has been slow to recover after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in August 2010, Rondon is out of minor league options, and he can elect free-agency if he is sent outright to the minors (he was outrighted previously in his career), which means if he isn't kept on the Cubs MLB 25-man roster in 2013, the Cubs would have to outright him to the minors (presuming waivers are secured and the Indians decline to take him back), and then if he is outrighted, he can (like Michael Bowden) elect to be a free-agent. BTW, this also will likely impact Cleveland's decision to re-claim Rondon should it get to that point. The Indians would have to pay the Cubs $25,000 (half the Rule 5 Draft price) if they re-claim Rondon, but will they risk spending the $25,000 for nothing since Rondon can elect free-agency if outrighted (and a returned Rule 5 player MUST be sent outright to the minor league club from which he was drafted, in this case AAA Columbus).