MESA, Arizona -- Before the game the Cubs announced that Sam Fuld, Jose Ascanio and Jake Fox had been optioned to Iowa, two non-roster invitees (Jason Waddell and Bobby Scales) had been reassigned to minor league camp, and perhaps most importantly, Richie Robnett had been outrighted to Iowa, off the 40-man roster.
To me, this says: "Trade coming." There are now two open spots on the 40-man roster, almost unheard of at this time in spring training. There wouldn't seem to be a reason to do this unless a deal was in the works.
And while the Cubs are looking for infield help, they may be looking for some pitching assistance as well; today's messy, long, 9-8 Cubs win over the Rockies, their sixth straight spring win (say that six times fast!), was pitched (and I use the term loosely) by eight different Cubs, none of whom had real good outings. Most alarming was Jeff Samardzija's inning; he issued a walk and gave up three hits and was charged with two runs. Mike Stanton, who will probably be in the next round of cuts, gave up a three-run homer to ex-Giant minor leaguer Daniel Ortmeier. That was the last scoring in the game, making it 9-8 in the 7th; David Patton had a shaky but scoreless eighth (one walk) and Chad Fox (who will be given his gold watch for meritorious service at the end of camp) finished it off by striking out, of all people, ex-Cub Mark Bellhorn (didn't he retire two years ago?).
The worst of it was Chad Gaudin, who started today but only went two innings, giving up two walks, a couple of hard singles, and two runs, only one of which was earned after an Aaron Miles error. Interestingly, after Gaudin was yanked, Miles left the game an inning later -- was Lou upset with him? Gaudin sure didn't increase his trade value today; I imagine Lou and the brass will be having a number of roster discussions on the off-day tomorrow.
The single-game Cactus League attendance record was broken for the fifth time today; 13,289 crammed into HoHoKam Park on a beautiful afternoon, with temperatures in the upper 70's and a light breeze. No sign of recession here, although I checked out the prices in the gift shop -- $31 for a basic low-rise spring training cap seems excessive, and there were a lot of lookers, not many buyers, in that shop. The attendance figure raised the spring total to 159,583, an average of 10,639. Today's record might be shattered on Friday when the White Sox visit Mesa.
Cubs who had good days today included Alfonso Soriano, who walked twice (!) and singled and doubled. He was thrown out stealing by Colorado's Chris Iannetta, but looked like he was running without any of the leg problems that have plagued him the last two years. Micah Hoffpauir, in for Derrek Lee in the 6th, slammed another double down the line (I gotta admit, the guy can hit). Milton Bradley looked like he's getting his timing down, hitting a single, homer and double before leaving for pinch-runner Joey Gathright. And the eventual winning run was scored by Reed Johnson, tagging up from third on what was a medium-deep fly ball, something that during the regular season with an 8-5 lead you might not even go on, but during the spring he (and Mike Quade) probably thought, "Hey, let's try this, see if it works." The right fielder, of course, was ex-Cub Matt Murton, whose arm (or lack thereof) we discussed many times on this site. The play was close, but Johnson was safe. Reed also walked in addition to the triple that put him on third. All told, Cub hitters walked eight times today, patience that they began to exhibit last year when Kosuke Fukudome joined the team.
If Dome does nothing else for the Cubs, give him credit for helping teach his teammates plate discipline. Dome will return to the lineup Thursday night in Scottsdale vs. the Giants, playing CF and batting second. Meanwhile, today Ted Lilly threw 70 pitches in a simulated game and will start Sunday against the Indians. Sean Marshall will go Thursday, and Rich Harden is still scheduled to go in a minor league game at Fitch Park tomorrow.
Enjoy the off-day, the Cubs' last until the season begins. We're almost there -- just 13 more days!