First Look: Cubs vs. Rockies at Mesa, Tuesday 3/24, 3:05 CT

The Cubs get their first spring look at their NL West rivals, the Colorado Rockies, this afternoon in Mesa (and will get another one on Saturday).

In my NL West preview earlier this morning, I picked the Rockies to possibly be a surprise team this year. Despite losing Jeff Francis to injury (forgot about that, and he had a pretty bad year last year), their core offensive players (save the traded Matt Holliday) return, and will be out to prove their 2007 NL pennant wasn't a fluke.

Bruce Miles reports that Jake Fox and Sam Fuld were cut this morning (sorry, Jessica) and more cuts will be made later today. Today's lineup from Bruce:

Soriano, LF Theriot, SS Lee, 1B Bradley, RF Ramirez, 3B Johnson, CF Soto, C Miles, 2B Gaudin, P

Kosuke Fukudome will be returning to camp soon, and will have a lot to prove to fans and teammates who saw his free-fall in the second half of last year. One place he won't be going is the minors:

"I remember my first year, I stunk," said [So] Taguchi, now in Cubs camp, who came to the United States in 2002 on a three-year, $3 million deal with St. Louis. "I got in lots of trouble. I couldn't hit, so my first spring training, I was sent to the minor leagues."

Although there was some talk late last season, that's not a realistic option with Fukudome, a former MVP and batting champion in Japan who gets credit for veteran status, which means right of refusal on a minor-league assignment.

Carol Slezak says Derrek Lee is "fading", which may or may not be true:

It's obvious now that 2005 was Lee's career year. In hindsight, his 46 home runs and 107 RBI seem unreal. He hasn't come close to those numbers since. Nor has he come close to his '05 batting average of .335 or slugging percentage of .662. That was Lee at his best, and we figured it would continue. He turned 30 that September, and many of us thought he was just reaching his prime.

Um, Carol? I think all of us knew 2005 was Lee's career year in, say, 2005. There's no reason to think he can't do what he did in 2004, when he hit 32 homers and drove in 98 runs. He must stay healthy and avoid the neck problems which took him from a horrid start last year to a mediocre second half.

Funny bit in Paul Sullivan's notes column:

Sitting in the clubhouse after being removed from Monday's game, Reed Johnson's ears perked up when he heard the A's radio announcer say he was at the plate. After Johnson's replacement got a hit, the announcer said Mike Fontenot, who had also been taken out of the game, scored on the play.

"Nice job," Johnson said to Fontenot.

"Put it on my spring stats," Fontenot replied

Makes you appreciate Pat & Ron even more.

Thanks to Mike Spellman of the Daily Herald for (shameless promotion coming!) this kind review of "Cubs By The Numbers" -- now available, you can order it via the link on the right sidebar.

Today, Chad Gaudin faces the Rockies' Franklin Morales. There is no radio or TV coverage today -- that's the final time this spring, all the rest of the games will have some kind of live broadcast. Here's the rest of today's games on the MLB.com Mediacenter.

MLB.com Gameday

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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