Walk On By

MESA, Arizona -- Scott Podsednik.

Yorvit Torrealba.

Jeff Baker, Marcus Giles, Ian Stewart, Cory Sullivan, Giles again, Podsednik again, Torrealba again, Clint Barmes, Baker again, and Ryan Spilborghs.

There. In three short paragraphs, far shorter than today's interminable game, you have all twelve of the Rockies batters that Cub pitchers walked.

And the Cubs won the game anyway, 8-6, thanks primarily to Henry Blanco, who hit a two-run homer and also singled, and Matt Murton, who hit two doubles.

Rich Hill was putridly bad today. Now, you'll say, "Why isn't Al calling for Hill to be dumped from the rotation?" It's a question that can be reasonably asked, because Hill has been bad all spring, and today was about the worst -- six walks and only four outs recorded; the only hit he allowed was a deep CF RBI double to Torrealba, scoring the Rockies' third run of the game and bringing a visibly angry Lou Piniella out of the dugout to yank him.

However. Hill was also bad last spring, and it has been discussed on this site how Hill's curve doesn't break in the thin air and elevation of Arizona the way it does in Chicago, and so we shouldn't worry. But after today, maybe we should. Hill had absolutely no command of the strike zone -- he walked the first three batters he faced and the first inning would have been worse if he hadn't induced a DP ball to Spilborghs. Then he walked two more before getting a flyout to end the inning.

Even the second inning could have been worse -- or better. Aramis Ramirez was charged with a tough error after making a nice stop on a Podsednik smash; his throw would have beaten the runner if D-Lee could have held on, but it was in the dirt. Then, Hill threw the ball in the general direction of Apache Junction trying to pick Podsednik off.

Down 3-0, the Cubs tied it in the bottom of the 2nd on back-to-back doubles by Murton and Mark DeRosa and Blanco's homer.

Which bounced right in front of me, then over the little railing behind us and rolled down a small hill to the sidewalk below, where someone simply picked it up. I got quite a bit of grief for not "going for it", but without a glove, I didn't want to risk two broken wrists. BCB reader BigJohnAZ was just to my left, WITH his glove, but couldn't grab it either. BCB reader San Diego Smooth Jazz Man joined us today, but had wandered away when all the excitement was going on.

Tim Lahey, who relieved Hill, wasn't sharp either, and he allowed a two-run HR to Ian Stewart, giving the Rox the lead back. It went back and forth until two-run rallies by the Cubs in the fifth and sixth innings, by which time Kerry Wood -- obviously, not in any distress due to the back spasms of yesterday -- had come in and thrown one innning, allowing a sharp single and a run-scoring double that was just out of the reach of A-Ram at third. Most importantly, his velocity was good, he seemed in no pain from any back trouble, and along with Michael Wuertz, they were the only Cubs pitchers not to walk anyone today. Neal Cotts threw OK in his two innings, and that's good, because I still hear there are teams scouting him. Maybe this outing was enough to get him traded.

Matthew Avery, a 2005 draftee who pitched in Double-A last year, got into trouble after two slick defensive plays (by Mike Fontenot and Ramirez) got him the first tow outs, and Geoff Jones, a non-roster guy who had been warming up in Scottsdale in the 9th inning last night, bailed him out of it.

Wuertz sailed through the last four Rockie hitters and the Cubs had a very ugly victory.

So -- was Lou happy because the Cubs won, or unhappy because he had to yank his starting pitcher in the second inning? Probably a bit of both, I'd imagine, tonight.

The Cubs will travel to Tucson to face the Rockies again tomorrow afternoon. Once again, I will not make the drive down I-10, so will watch along with the rest of you -- the game is on ESPN2 tomorrow. Or, I may head to Fitch Park tomorrow afternoon, camera in hand, to check out one or more of the minor league contests over there. One final note, to no one's surprise, Sean Gallagher and Jose Ascanio were optioned to Iowa today, and Josh Kroeger was reassigned to the minor league camp. I'd expect more cuts to be made tomorrow.

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