GLENDALE, Arizona -- The Cactus League attendance record set yesterday lasted all of 24 hours, as 13,413 jammed Camelback Ranch this afternoon, eclipsing the old mark by 22 people. Despite that, the White Sox/Dodgers complex seemed less crowded for today's 8-4 Cubs win over the White Sox; there were small pockets of empty seats and the lawn sections didn't appear quite as jammed as they did on Thursday.
I discovered yesterday that if you arrive early enough, it's first come first served at some tables right above the left field bullpen (today, inhabited by Cubs -- yesterday the LF pen was the Dodger pen). So I had a closeup view when Marlon Byrd's fourth-inning homer smashed into a table two away from mine, breaking the cellphone of a Sox fan wearing a Jake Peavy jersey. He threw the ball back -- I'd have taken it -- maybe he should have thrown the phone instead.
The Cubs slammed out four homers; the one hit by Alfonso Soriano in the sixth inning was definitely aided by a wind that started gusting about 20 MPH in the middle innings. Derrek Lee's bomb in the third and Byrd's blast needed no help.
I can't say definitively whether Xavier Nady's eighth-inning homer was or not, because by then I had left the park -- only to try to avoid the traffic nightmares of yesterday. That was, apparently, the right call -- getting out was a piece of cake, and all I really missed was the just-demoted Andrew Cashner walking the bases loaded; he was yanked and Marcos Mateo got out of the jam with only one run scoring, and Nady's homer.
Apart from that, it was a pleasant day, with the breezes cooling things off from the heat of the day before. There seemed to be a few more Cubs fans than White Sox fans, and the bantering back and forth between the two groups was fairly good-natured, befitting a spring game. One thing both sets of fans could agree on was tomorrow's Blackhawks/Coyotes game -- I talked to quite a number of people who said they were going to that game (had considered going myself, but got a ticket to the Paul McCartney concert on the 28th -- it was one or the other, at those prices). If you watch the 'Hawks game tomorrow, it should sound like a home game for them -- I'd expect a full house, with maybe 2/3 rooting for the Blackhawks.
Randy Wells threw 4.2 good innings -- he must have reached a predetermined pitch count when he was yanked with one out to go in the fifth -- and allowed a pair of runs, the first of which shouldn't have scored, because Gordon Beckham's double down the left field line was foul by about a foot. Today, only three umpires were on the crew, and with no 3B umpire at the time (there was a runner on first, so the base umpires had to cover first and second), no umpire was anywhere near the left field line to make the call. The tables were literally about 30 feet from where the ball fell and I had a clear view of it. No one argued -- I guess it's not worth it in a spring game.
James Russell threw well in relief of Wells and has not allowed a spring run in seven innings (over five appearances), with eight strikeouts. Russell has limited Triple-A experience -- half of last year -- but he throws strikes and as a lefthander, probably has a leg up on John Gaub, who hasn't pitched well this spring. I'd say Russell is still a long-shot candidate to make the Opening Day roster.