Spring Training

Happy Groundhog day (again and again). From the heart of Snowmageddon this surgeon gets his first "Snow Day" since the big snow of 1967. So here comes an impromptu odds & ends post.

The first order of business is to remind those digging out from the Thunder-Blizzard (and to warm them up) that the CUBS PITCHERS and CATCHERS report to Mesa in 11 DAYS, officially on February 13th (per Carrie Muskat at mlb.com). Position Players report on Feb 18th and the FIRST SPRING TRAINING GAME is in 25 DAYS as the Cubs play Oakland on Feb 27th at Mesa.

Snow Angels and more, after the jump...

Micah Hoffpauir crushed a grand slam in the bottom of the 5th, turning a two-run Cubs deficit into a two-run Cub lead, as the Cubs defeated the Dodgers 5-3 in the Cactus League opener for both clubs at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in sunny and warm Mesa, Arizona 

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Minor League Camp doesn't open for another couple of weeks, but here are the projected Cubs Minor League Camp rosters for the five squads (141 players) at Minor League Camp and also the DSL Cubs Reserve Lists (two teams - 70 players).

I was meaning to write a nice update of spring training storylines like Rob has done in the post below, but I'm too busy reading rejection letters from Universities being chased by spurned Valentines to scour the globe for the informative content that you, the reader deserve.

Then I remembered that it's spring training, and the stories write themselves.

So here are your Mad Libs that need filling in.  The story itself is below the fold.  (No peeking until you've entered your words!)

 

1. A Cubs Player

2. A number

3. A celebrity

4. A food

5.  A gerund (a verb + ing) 

6.  A noun

7. A Cubs Player

8.  A body part

9.  A medical procedure

10.  A number

11.  A roster position

12. A Cubs Player

13. An adjective

14.  A Cubs Player

15.  An Adjective

16.  A player from another baseball team

17.  A sports reporter

18.  A retired player

19.  An adjective

20.  A roster position

21.  A feature of Wrigley Field

22. +  23.  Two corporations

24.  An occupation

25 + 26.  Two Celebrities

27.  A tragedy

28.  A Cubs Player

29.  A noun.

The Cubs signed Michael Wuertz for $1.1M today, thus avoiding any ghastly arbitration cases with any of their players. Not including auto-renewals - which Arizona Phil on the right sidebar estimates at around $3.5M total -  the Cubs payroll for 2009 is at $134.1M, so they still have a few million in wiggle room.

They also released their NRI list for spring training.

While the rest of his teammates spent the weekend in Las Vegas before heading back to Chicago for Opening Day, Rich Hill remained in Arizona and made his final Spring Training tune-up start versus the Angels' Salt Lake AAA club at the Diablo Park minor league complex in Tempe this morning.

Hill struggled with his control a bit in the 1st and 3rd innings (he walked a batter to load the bases in the bottom of the 3rd and then hit a batter to force-in a run), but he also retired the side in order in the 2nd, 4th, and 5th innings, including the last eight men he faced.

With a mandate from Larry Rothschild to throw between 80 and 90 pitches, Hill ended up throwing exactly 80 pitches (22-14-23-10-11 in innings 1-2-3-4-5, including 50 strikes and 30 balls).

In his five innings of work, the left-hander allowed one run (earned) on three hits, with two walks, four strikeouts, and a HBP, with a 6/5 GB/FB. 

Micah Hoffpauir slugged two home runs to help rally the Cubs from an 8-4 deficit, but then grounded out with the winning run on third with two outs in the bottom of the 10th, leaving the Cubs and Brewers tied at 10 in what was the final Spring Training game for the Cubs in Arizona.

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With the Cubs most-recent roster cuts, there have been an accompanying series of roster moves at Minor League Camp at Fitch Park: 

Among the more noteworthy are:

Felix Pie went 3-3 with a bunt single, a double, a triple, and a sac bunt, leading the Cubs to a 7-6 victory over the Texas Rangers before a capacity crowd at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park this afternoon in sunny Mesa.

The Cubs and Rangers were tied 6-6 entering the bottom of the 9th. Facing Rangers reliever Robinson Tejada, Mark DeRosa struck out swinging and Henry Blanco lined out to short to start the inning, but then Pie smoked a triple into the right-centerfield alley, setting up a chance for Eric Patterson to be the hero. And that he was, as E-Pat lined a game-winning single into center, scoring a hand-clapping Pie from 3rd with the winning run.

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The Cubs rallied for three runs in the bottom of the 10th to tie the score, but the winning run was left stranded at 3rd, as the White Sox and Cubs played to an 8-8 Selig Special at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park this afternoon in sunny and warm Mesa.

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Following the most-recent cuts from big league camp and reassignments (demotions and outright releases) at Minor League Camp, here are (best as I can determine) the current rosters at Fitch Park:  

Matt Murton doubled twice and Henry Blanco homerred, as the Cubs rallied to defeat the Colorado Rockies 8-6 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park this afternoon in sunny Mesa. 

But the real story today was Rich Hill.

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In what was definitely his best performance of the Spring  Ryan Dempster threw 5 innings of one-hit shutout ball at Mesa's HoHoKam Park today, although the Cubs went on to lose the game to the Oakland A's by a score of 5-2.

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Coming back from an atrocious outing last week, Dempster was very sharp today, posting a line of no runs on one hit and two walks with seven strikeouts in 5.1 IP, throwing 78 pitches (46 strikes), with a 5/7 GB/FB.  

However, A's starter Joe Blanton was also on his game (six shutout innings), so the game stayed scoreless going into the bottom of the 7th inning. 

The Cubs struck first, as Derrek Lee lined an opposite-field home run into the right-field bullpen off A's reliever Andrew Brown to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Aramis Ramirez walked, and then Henry Blanco smoked a double into the left-center field alley, scoring Ramirez all the way from 1st.

Kevin Hart entered the game in the top of the 8th, a "back-to-back" outing following his strong inning of work yesterday. But Hart was terrible today, allowing a double, a single and two walks, before being relieved by Carlos Marmol, with the Cubs leading 2-1, one out, and the bases loaded. And Marmol was no relief, either. .

As has been the case in most of his appearances this Spring, Marmol could not find the plate, and was behind on every hitter. He displayed a lot of negative emotion on the mound, and looked to be very frustrated with himself.

Marmol walked the first batter he faced to force-in the tying run, and then gave up an RBI line single to right and a FC RBI, before finally retiring the side. Marmol allowed another run in the 9th after walking the lead-off hitter. 

The Cubs loaded the bases in the bottom of the 9th (single by Ramirez and walks to Fukudome and Blanco), but with the tying runs on base, Felix Pie flied out to deep right to end the game.    

Henry Blanco had a good day at the plate today, going 2-3 with an RBI double, a single, and and a walk, and he also threw out a runner trying to steal. Aramis Ramirez was also 2-3 with a walk and a run scored, and Ryan Theriot was 2-4 with a triple.

Other notable pitching performances by the Cubs today included:

Michael Wuertz (who gave up a double and a single in the top of the 6th after relieving Dempster, but no runs thanks to a strong throw by Kosuke Fukudome to cut down a runner at the plate to end the inning),

Sean Gallagher (who walked the bases loaded before being relieved with one out in the top of the 7th),

and 

Les Walrond (who somewhat surprisingly struck out two batters with the bases loaded in relief of Gallagher).

The Cubs will play the second half of their "Split Squad Wednesday" this evening versus the Giants in Scottsdale.

Casey McGehee bounced a PH GW RBI single between short and third, scoring Ronny Cedeno with the winning run in the bottom of the 9th, as the Cubs rallied to defeat the Royals 6-5 at HoHoKam Park this afternoon.

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A day after he drove in the winning run with a PH single in the bottom of the 9th, Alex Cintron apparently escaped serious injury when he was struck in the face by a line-drive off the bat of Mark DeRosa while standing in the on deck circle in the bottom of the 6th inning of this afternoon's game between the Angels and the Cubs at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.

Upon seeing what had happened, DeRosa jumped into the air and then went to his knees with his face buried briefly in his hands.

Cintron lay motionless on his stomach for a couple of minutes before finally rolling over and sitting up, and being helped to his feet by the Cubs training staff. He walked into the clubhouse under his own power, and DeRosa was able to resume his AB, relieved that his teammate was apparently not seriously injured.

I couldn't help but be reminded of the possible career-ending eye injury suffered by Cardinals outfielder Juan Encarnacion last year, an injury that occurred under almost identical circumstances (struck by line drive while standing in on-deck circle)..  

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