Mitch Atkins, Your Ticket To Des Moines Is Waiting: Cubs 1, Diamondbacks 9

I must confess, I was out running errands this afternoon and missed most of the Cubs' 9-1 loss to the Diamondbacks.

Apart from Atkins, Cubs pitchers shut the D'backs down on five hits and one run, with seven strikeouts (and an unsightly six walks), until Angel Guzman got cuffed around for three runs in the ninth inning.

The bad news story of the day was Atkins -- he got bounced around for four hits and five runs, including a three-run homer off the bat of Arizona catcher Chris Snyder. He also hit two batters. Atkins does have talent and we probably shouldn't judge him from one horrendous outing, and maybe the two HBP mean he had a case of nerves -- but in this spring training, in which a lot of spots are already decided, and, as Lou has said, pitchers are competing to be the sixth or seventh starter (meaning, likely, the first recall from Iowa in case of injury), Atkins didn't do himself any favors today.

The good news for him is, that with the lengthened spring, he'll probably get another chance or two.

Meanwhile, the two pitchers we were really watching today, the two Carlos'es (Z and Marmol), both had fine outings; neither allowed a hit and both registered two K's, Z in two innings and Marmol in one. Marmol's off to the WBC and we can assume Z will be given one more inning his next time out.

The offense did nothing today against Dan Haren and a bunch of miscellaneous Diamondback pitchers -- Juan Gutierrez, who last pitched in the majors with the 2007 Astros, Hector Ambriz (who had a 4.89 ERA in Double-A last year), and Jon Coutlangus, a LOOGY-type who gave up one earned run in 1.1 IP vs. the Cubs as a Red in 2007. All told the Cub hitting amounted to five singles and a walk (drawn by Derrek Lee), until the 9th inning, when a pair of doubles by Micah Hoffpauir and Andres Blanco gave the Cubs a consolation run off Dan Schlereth, the D'backs' #1 pick in last year's draft. (So Taguchi drew a consolation walk off Schlereth, just to prolong the agony, until Doug Deeds K'd to end it.)

Better luck tomorrow, we hope, against former Cub Sean Gallagher, who will start for the A's at Mesa, in a battle of the Sean's (Sean Marshall will go for the Cubs), when again there will be audio (MLB.com announcers) for the game.

Attendance today was 9,605, not bad for a random Monday before spring breakers arrive; the 85-degree sunny day probably had a lot to do with drawing a larger-than-you'd-figure crowd on a weekday. The four-home-game average increased to 9,310.

Meanwhile, Milton Bradley took BP today, but:

"The bottom line is for him being ready for Opening Day," Cubs hitting coach Gerald Perry said Monday. "I wouldn't take any chances right now with anything. You'd rather be safe than sorry."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Bradley's condition had improved but couldn't say when he would get back in the lineup.

OK by me. Bradley played in only a handful of spring games last year and hit fine during the season. He does need to be healthy enough to play 135-140 games, though.

MLB Florida and Arizona Spring Training -
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