MESA, Arizona -- ... and, well, you probably know the end of that old phrase.
After a day on which the Cubs split into two teams and won twice, the reconstituted squad (pretty much the Opening Day lineup, minus Derrek Lee) managed only four hits and lost to the Diamondbacks 6-0. And so with little to report on from today's game -- time for some Cub and other team news. I got a ticket today from Brian's friend Tom -- and it was a great seat, four rows right behind the plate, from which I took the photos below. Unfortunately, the screen was in the way, but the pics still came out pretty good, particularly the one of Juan Pierre bunting in the first inning (he was thrown out - if I do say so myself, that's one of my best photos this spring). Yes, that's a Livestrong bracelet on plate umpire Rick Reed's wrist. Also, note the "vents" in Pierre's helmet -- this is the new Rawlings Coolflo helmet that a number of teams, including the Cubs and Diamondbacks, will be using this year.
First bit of news came when I wrote the lineups down -- Brad Halsey was supposed to start for Arizona, but Kevin Jarvis was announced. That's because just before noon, Halsey was traded to the A's for ex-Cub Juan Cruz.
At first, I thought this was yet another shrewd deal by Billy Beane; that he knows something about Halsey that no one else does, and I said to Dave, who I sat with today (Dave and his entire family, including Mrs. Dave, was there), that maybe if Halsey pans out, the A's would be more willing to deal Barry Zito later in the year.
While he agreed, he also said that Cruz has gotten a bit of a reputation as a clubhouse problem in Oakland, and that's why Beane was willing to deal him. The Diamondbacks' bullpen will be helped by Cruz, if he can put that reputation behind him.
We talked about another guy who has been on four teams in the last three years, now a D-back, Eric Byrnes. Byrnes has talent, but also has a reputation as a bit of a showoff. Dave says that this can piss off teammates; there's a fine line between being aggressive and showboating. Byrnes proved this in the sixth inning when he, for some reason, decided to jaw with plate umpire Reed about a pitch that was clearly a strike. This produced a curious little stageplay in which Reed gestured over to D'backs manager Bob Melvin, and Byrnes held up the game for a couple of minutes.
Meanwhile, the next pitch was high, but Byrnes swung and missed for strike three, to derisive laughter.
I'm a bit ahead of myself. Jae-Kuk Ryu started -- but not after the game was delayed about five minutes because of a huge swarm of bees that was flying around the screen and around both on-deck circles. It was bad enough after that, as it moved toward the Arizona dugout, that umpire Reed told the D'back hitters that they could "stand wherever you want" on-deck; Orlando Hudson was so spooked by the bees that he took his practice swings standing in front of Dusty Baker's folding chair next to the Cub dugout.
They didn't bother him so much that he couldn't hit; he doubled off Ryu in the first and scored, and then homered off Michael Wuertz in the fifth. Dave said, and I agreed, that Wuertz' velocity was down, and in fact, all the Cub pitchers' velocity seemed down today. Ryu lasted only three innings, allowing four hits and two runs. He did strike out three. Conclusion on his future: inconclusive.
Conclusion on Todd Wellemeyer's future: rumor has it that the Cubs are seriously looking to deal him before next weekend, because there isn't a place for him in this bullpen and he absolutely won't clear waivers. Why? Because he's got a good arm, and many GM's, seeing that sort of arm, think, "We can fix that!" Wellemeyer gave up a homer too, to Arizona reserve OF Jeff Davanon, and another run when after a pop-fly single (that fell in front of Marquis Grissom -- please, Jim, get rid of him, he really can't run any more) and a stolen base by Craig Counsell (seriously -- Counsell's fast, but Michael Barrett could have thrown him out if he hadn't triple-pumped on the throw), two fly balls brought in the second run. Of the five batters Todd faced, four of them hit the ball really hard.
And yet -- Wellemeyer's job might have been saved. Scott Williamson came in to pitch the sixth (before Wellemeyer's poor inning), and his third pitch hit Conor Jackson on the wrist. After shaking his wrist multiple times in pain, Jackson left the game for a pinch-runner... and Williamson called the entire coaching and training staff to the mound and left the game, slightly limping. It could be a hamstring problem; it didn't seem as if it was his arm, although he threw no warmup pitches to "test" it. This cannot be good news; Williamson had pitched very well before today.
Ryan Dempster had a shaky inning-plus today, after having thrown all of five pitches in the last week; the first three hitters he faced reached base (walk, single, single, for a run), but then he struck out three of the next four.
Why does this always happen? It's 6-0, last of the ninth, one out -- and two of the scrubs decide to stretch things out; Ryan Theriot walked, John Mabry singled, and then a minor leaguer named Jesus Valdez decided to have a ten-pitch at-bat before flying to left. Grissom then ended the game -- and maybe his career -- by flying meekly to CF.
Finally, one last good rumor I heard today -- it is possible that Corey Patterson might not make the Orioles' 25-man roster. After a good start he is now hitting .259 with a .290 OBA -- two walks in 63 PA. He's got competition from ... Luis Matos, who has been in all those Todd Walker trade rumors (no, it's not going to happen) and also from Baltimore's 2003 #1 draft pick, Nick Markakis. Stay tuned.
Finally, before the game I was walking down the main aisle behind the box seats; there was a line snaking around, about 200 people long. Why? Waiting to walk up to the radio booth to get Ron Santo's autograph. He's got to be the most popular figure associated with the Cubs right now.
Jae-Kuk Ryu pitching on Sunday; Juan Pierre lays down a bunt in the first inning; the coaching staff.
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