What do the following players have in common?
Val Pascucci, Jamie Hoffmann, Xavier Paul, Darwin Barney, Doug Deeds, Bobby Scales, Jason Dubois, Nick DeBarr, Stephen Randolph, Mitch Jones, David Patton, Esmailin Caridad, Jason Waddell
All of them played in today's Cubs Cactus League 2009 debut, a 5-3 win over the Dodgers.
And all of them have about as much chance of playing in a 2009 regular season baseball game as I do. Even Pat & Ron seemed rather bored and distracted with today's action, which was largely concentrated in Micah Hoffpauir's grand slam in the fifth inning, which turned a 3-1 deficit into the ultimate margin of victory.
(Parenthetical remark: Hey! Look! Here's someone else who won't be playing major league baseball this year!)
Danger! Caution! Warning! This grand slam was hit by a player who turns 29 years old on Sunday (he is a year older than Justin Morneau, to give you a point of reference), and was hit off Ramon Troncoso, who actually does have a chance to make the Dodgers' bullpen this year, considering he threw (and reasonably well) for them in 32 games in 2008.
Hoffpauir was the only player who's likely to make the 25-man roster who had anything resembling a good day, though Alfonso Soriano also singled, walked and scored one of the Cubs' runs (on a Hoffpauir double play ball in the first inning), and Ryan Theriot had -- what else? -- two singles. Even the supposedly die-hard Cubs fans couldn't be bothered; 7,916 showed up on an unusually warm (for late February) 80-degree day, about 5,000 short of capacity at HoHoKam Park.
Jeff Samardzija started, probably to get him into a starting routine as he heads to Iowa to be stretched out for rotation duty. He had one good inning and one bad one. Mitch Atkins, who might also be a recallable starter from Iowa, allowed three hits and a run in a pair of innings.
Oh, we did learn one thing, or more correctly, re-learned it: Stephen Randolph, who was in Cubs camp a couple of years ago, still can't throw strikes. But he's lefthanded, and so teams still think he might be a major league quality pitcher (because he can throw hard). They happen to be wrong.
Meaningless as this game was, both for evaluating what this team might do this year, and for the result itself, baseball is back! Especially with the brutal winter we have had in Chicago, hearing baseball on the radio today was welcome sound in my house. It's 54 degrees in Chicago this afternoon (probably warmer than it'll be on Opening Day). Spring's almost here.