In Houston, Ted Lilly straightened himself out after a ragged beginning—four-pitch leadoff walk to Kaz Matsui, gopher ball to Miguel Tejada; Miggy's first home run in 116 at-bats this season—as the Cubs beat the Astros, 8-5, to sweep the two-game series at Minute Maid Park.
The Cubs have now won six of seven and have climbed to four games above .500 for the second time this year, heading into a weekend series in Milwaukee.
Cubs Manager Lou Pniella generally prefers to delegate pitching matters to his pitching coach (that would be Larry Rothschild), but one aspect of the pitching staff Uncle Lou believes he understands is how to get his bullpen ready for Opening Day.
And a big part of this preparation is Piniella's belief that each of his relievers need to throw on back-to-back days once or twice during the last ten days of Spring Training, and each reliever needs to throw two innings one time, too.
That's where Minor League Spring Training games can really come in handy.
While Ryan Dempster, Jeff Samardzija, Randy Wells, and Kevin Hart made the two-hour bus trip to Tucson to pitch against the Colorado Rockies at Hi Corbett Field, Kevin Gregg, Chad Fox, and Luis Vizcaino took the 20-minute van ride to the Papago Park Baseball Complex in Phoenix (a former WWII POW Camp) to get their work in versus the Oakland A's AAA squad in a minor league game.
The Cubs have re-signed FA RHP Chad Fox to a 2009 minor league contract, and Foxy also gets an NRI to Spring Training. Because he signed his minor league contract prior to December 11th, he will be eligible for selection in next week's Rule 5 Draft, and I'm sure he'll be in great demand.