I Remember Doing The Time Warp

It's just a jump to the left.
And then a step to the right.
Put your hands on your hips.
You bring your knees in tight.
But it's the pelvic thrust
That really drives you insane.
Let's do the time-warp again.
Let's do the time-warp again.

MESA, Arizona -- It felt like a time warp in Mesa this afternoon.

Carlos Zambrano throwing strikes and looking like he did in 2003. Kerry Wood throwing strikes and registering his very first save of any kind (yes, of course it doesn't count "officially", but it's his first spring save), and the Cubs efficiently dispatched a split squad of Angels 4-1, doing it in one hour and fifty-three minutes, the first time I can remember a spring game finishing in less than two hours -- ever.

For those of you who saw the game on TV and saw the (mostly) plentiful sunshine, the weather turned out much better than any of the dire predictions of thunderstorms this afternoon. There were a couple of sprinkles in Scottsdale on the way driving over, and we could see angry-looking dark clouds to the south and east of the ballpark; rain apparently surrounded us but never got there.

It's possible that the managers told everyone to "swing at the first good pitch you see", because of the threat of rain, and wanting to get the game in. Whatever the reason, I always like seeing baseball played at that fast pace; good pitching and good defense and a couple of key hits and a win and it almost happened just that fast.

Z was outstanding today. Even when he threw a first-pitch ball to several hitters, he rapidly would get ahead in the count, and registered three called strikeouts (appeared that all of them were on backdoor sliders) among his six K's. The only hit he allowed was a standup triple to Angels minor leaguer Sean Rodriguez, and even that was nearly caught by Felix Pie in center field; Pie may have shied away from the wall due to his recent, um, medical problem, and he was given the rest of the afternoon off after he batted in the bottom of the sixth.

Micah Hoffpauir -- who, I've heard, is someone Lou Piniella really likes due to his attitude and hitting prowess so far this spring -- started in right field. Why? I suppose, to increase his versatility in case he's ever needed at the major league level, or for possible trade value. He had no chances; the only ball he touched was the triple by Rodriguez, which he relayed to Mike Fontenot. It's impossible to judge someone's arm strength on the basis of one throw, but it didn't seem more than "average".

The only discordant note today was given us by Carlos Marmol, who allowed the Angels' only run, a HR by Erick Aybar. Marmol did make up for it with a couple of K's. Michael Wuertz threw a good inning, and then Wood came in, facing an actual save situation, and dispatched the Angels 1-2-3; I didn't count pitches but there couldn't have been more than ten.

Granted, Wood was facing three minor leaguers. But the real test for Kerry will come after the off day tomorrow. I'm guessing he'll pitch Tuesday, and then in one of the split-squad games on Wednesday. That would give him four appearances in six days, and three in four, which is a typical workload for a closer. If he handles the situations well, and has no ill physical effects from doing that, I'd say Lou may anoint him closer by the end of the week.

Which is exactly what I think he should do. This is one time warp I'm highly in favor of.

The sellout crowd of 12,771 was a bit restless; many of them looked up from their beer about 2:30 and couldn't believe it was already the seventh inning. BCB reader mrcubsfan joined us on the lawn today, as did my friend and BCB cartoonist Mike, who is here for the next week. We'll have more BCB readers and friends joining us as next week goes on.

Tomorrow, Ted Lilly is supposed to throw some innings in the minor league camp, since it would be his turn on the off day.

Finally, this is the last post I will make using the "old" BCB platform. Here's the time frame: about three hours from now, at 9 pm CDT, the site will be taken offline. If you come here then, you'll see a "we'll be back soon" message. This is being done to migrate all the posts, comments and diaries to the new platform, where you will still be able to access everything that's been written here since February 9, 2005.

Approximately two hours later -- 11 pm CDT -- we'll return with the new design and format, and an explanation of what some of the new features are and how they work. Since tomorrow is an off day, I figured that would be a good day for all of us to check out the new digs. Although I've had a little bit of time to play around with the new format with a private beta site that was set up for SBN bloggers, this will be just as new to me as it is to all of you.

Just know that it'll be the same site, same information, just in a shiny new package.

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