SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- It was a gorgeous, not-a-cloud-in-the-evening-sky night in the Valley of the Sun.
A full house, nearly half Cubs fans, at Scottsdale Stadium. (Including a mother and daughter who sat down in front of us, downed about 8 beers between them -- probably at a cost of over $50 -- and then left in the 6th inning, having not watched more than a play or two.)
And while the likely Opening Day starting lineup failed to win Wednesday afternoon in Mesa, a lineup cobbled together with exactly one regular (Geovany Soto), a few backups (Daryle Ward, Matt Murton), a couple of guys who are trying to make the roster (Eric Patterson, Ronny Cedeno), and assorted others, defeated most of the regular Giants' lineup 4-2, in a game that was, well, mostly yawn-inducing.
Jon Lieber didn't have his best stuff but threw well enough to give up only one run in five innings. He was helped by two slick double plays started by Cedeno -- and the second one, Ronny should have asked for help because he was almost bowled over by Ray Durham when he decided to take the play at second by himself instead of flipping to Mike Fontenot.
The rest of the bullpen did a fine job -- Scott Eyre, Bob Howry and Carmen Pignatiello gave up two hits in three innings.
Note that I left someone out in that description. More on that in a moment.
Cedeno, who singled, doubled and tripled yesterday, hit a booming two-run HR in the fifth inning that provided the margin of victory. It landed about 20 feet to our right on the LF berm. With Alex Cintron hurt -- and it must be serious, because had Cintron been healthy, I assume he would have started at 3B in this game -- it seems likely that Cedeno may have played himself onto the roster with his performance the last two days.
Ronny Cedeno has talent. He can hit -- he's hit each of the last two springs, although that hasn't translated to the regular season -- and he can make the spectacular, Web Gem type plays, while occasionally screwing up in the field on what should be routine grounders. As we saw last season, he occasionally lacks basic baseball smarts (really, how can you get thrown out oversliding second base on a walk??). But if he can smarten up and not play for getting on SportsCenter, he might be a valuable addition to this team.
I said I'd come back to the bullpen, and Jose Ascanio, who also has talent, came in to a save situation in the 9th and nearly blew it. He walked the first two men he faced -- barely getting near the strike zone, he had no command at all -- and after getting the next two hitters to fly out, he gave up a double down the line to Rajai Davis that scored the Giants' second run and put the tying run in scoring position. A visit to the mound by Larry Rothschild -- in which he probably said something along the lines of, "Hey kid! It's late, let's get out of here!" -- produced a popup to Murton in foul territory to end the game. Talent isn't going to be enough for Ascanio -- he's going to have to learn to throw strikes, and will likely be doing so at Iowa this year. I was surprised to not see Neal Cotts tonight, given the fact that I have heard teams want to scout him. He hasn't pitched since Saturday, and tomorrow is the deadline to cut players and not have to pay them their full salary. I see some moves coming. (No, not THAT move, although there was a Roberts sighting tonight. DAVE Roberts, the Giants' left fielder.)
Night games in the spring seem -- well, a little odd. The crowds seem more subdued, and tonight, of course, no "regular" Cubs (save Soto) played. Still, it was a pleasant way to enjoy an Arizona evening, and a win is a win (I'm sure Lou was pleased at that, anyway). Off to sleep. It's late, and that "Yawn" in the headline is overtaking me.