Paul Goldschmidt blasted a grand slam home run, Henry Blanco and Alfredo Marte slugged solo shots, and Ian Kennedy threw four shutout innings, as the Arizona Diamondbacks coasted to an 12-2 victory over a split squad of Cubs in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in warm & sunny Mesa, AZ, this afternoon.
Ryan Dempster got the start for the Cubs, and was not particularly effective, allowing three runs (all earned) on eight hits (including one double and one HR) and a walk in 3.2 IP (3/1 GO/FO). He struck out three. The best part of Dempster’s outing was that he was stretched-out to 68 pitches (38 strikes), but otherwise the outing was mediocre at best.
Cubs #1 LHRP James Russell relieved Dempster with two outs in the 4th, retiring LH hitting Gerardo Parra on an inning-ending ground out. Russell then allowed a run on one hit in the 5th. However, the one hit allowed was a lead-off routine pop-up in medium deep CF that Marlon Byrd lost in the sun for a gift double, and then the D’backs moved the runner around on a couple of fly outs to plate the run. But the fact is, Russell looked VERY good today, throwing 31 pitches (21 strikes) with a 1/2 GO/FO and one strikeout (Geoff Blum).
Cub closer Carlos Marmol worked the 6th inning, and he threw a shoutout inning, allowing a walk and a single. But he also had control issues, laboring through a long inning of work (29 pitches – only 14 strikes) before finally retiring the side and leaving a runner stranded at 3rd base.
8th inning set-up man & back-up closer RHP Kerry Wood took the mound in the 7th, and was unable to retire the side. He was pulled from the game after striking out David Winfree (looking) with the bases loaded (for the first out of the frame), 27 pitches deep into the inning. LHP and Cubs 2011 Minor League Pitcher of the Year Jeff Beliveau (who was optioned to AAA Iowa earlier in the day) relieved Woody, and could not find home plate, walking in two runs before allowing the Goldschmidt grand slam that landed in the parking lot beyond the LF fence.
Beliveau had big-time control problems in college and in his first couple of seasons in pro ball, before making an adjustment in his delivery and becoming a control pitcher and definite MLB LH relief prospect. But other than a dominating outing at Camelback Ranch versus the Dodgers last Sunday (five strikeouts in two innings) he has reverted to his old form this spring.
The Cub home team offense was once again mostly silent today, scoring one run in the 7th on three singles, and a another on a Michael Brenly solo HR in the 8th.
The other squad of Cubs traveled up the Loop 101 Freeway to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, losing to the Rockies 7-5. I was not at that game, but Junior Lake did hit a three-run HR in the 6th to give the Cubs a temporary 4-3 lead, and Bryan LaHair apparently began to break out his Spring Training-long slump, collecting three hits, including a double.
Marcos Mateo threw a 1-2-3 8th (striking out Brandon Wood and Tyler Colvin and retiring Jordan Pacheco on an infield pop-up) to help advance his cause to make the Cubs Opening Day 25-man roster (Mateo is out of minor league options and so irrevocable Outright Waivers would have to be secured before he can be sent to the minors).
Prior to the two games, the Cubs optioned pitchers Alberto Cabrera, Jeff Beliveau, and John Gaub (who did not pitch in a Cactus League game) and infielder Josh Vitters to AAA Iowa, and infielder Junior Lake and outfielder Matt Szczur to AA Tennessee. Also NRI catcher Jason Jaramillo (who has been sidelined with a leg injury since last month) was reassigned to Minor League Camp.
You might have noticed that there was an inordinate number of transactions around MLB today. That’s because today was the first day Draft-Excluded Players (any minor leaguer eligible for selection in the 2011 December Rule 5 Draft who was added to an MLB 40-man roster after 8-15-2011) could be sent to the minors, plus minor league Spring Training games start tomorrow.