Before the season began, many wondered how Andrew Cashner would do in the Cubs starting rotation, especially since the longest outing he had in spring training was only five innings. Would he be stretched out enough to start?
He didn't throw that many pitches today -- 72, with 43 being strikes -- but after he walked Willie Bloomquist with one out in the sixth inning, trainer Mark O'Neal came out on the field and Cashner departed, at one point pointing to his shoulder. The preliminary word was "shoulder tightness", and let's hope it's nothing worse than a young pitcher's shoulder getting a little tight on a cold, windy day and the team being very cautious with him. His next start wouldn't be until next Monday in Houston -- indoors -- and if necessary, with the off day Thursday, the Cubs could skip his turn. A late tweet from Carrie Muskat indicates that Cashner is headed to have a MRI on the shoulder with this ominous quote from Mike Quade:
"He didn't have any trouble in camp. This caught us off guard completely."
Like I said, let's hope it's just the cold weather and he'll be OK.
The bullpen was a bit shaky after that -- James Russell gave up a game-tying two-run single after Jeff Samardzija and Marcos Mateo had loaded the bases with walks. Seriously, what is Mateo doing in the major leagues? Great arm, yeah, yeah, I know. But the guy cannot throw strikes and if he does, they wind up deposited in the seats. Nevertheless, after the Diamondbacks tied up the game in the seventh inning, the offense came through to get the lead back and the Cubs held on for a 6-5 win. Russell got out of the inning and had a decent eighth, and Sean Marshall allowed a run in the ninth when he couldn't quite handle what might have been a game-ending DP smash. Starlin Castro made a terrific play on it to get at least one out, and then Marshall K'd Bloomquist to end it.
This marks the first time the Cubs have been over .500 since the last day of the 2009 season. Yes, it's only a 3-2 record, but the team wasn't over .500 all of last year (they made .500 three times at 4-4, 10-10 and 13-13, then not again), and now, let's hope they can keep it that way.
Tyler Colvin played first base in place of the injured Carlos Pena -- who said he wanted to play today and could have pinch-hit -- and did a decent job at first base, including turning a slick 3-6-1 DP in the eighth inning. He also hit a two-run homer, his first of the season. But that wasn't all the Cubs offense was able to muster -- in all, they put together a nice long-sequence offense, drawing five walks and posting ten hits, three of them from Marlon Byrd, who also drove in a run.
The day started out sunny, but northwest winds blew some clouds in and the wind and cold temperatures made it just about the same day as Monday's chilly series opener. The announced crowd of 27,039 was about 800 people more than yesterday, some perhaps attracted by the Starlin Castro bobblehead that was given away; it pictures him in a Tennessee Smokies uniform. At first that was a bit of a head-scratcher, but I understand that this is part of a series depicting Cubs players, including Tyler Colvin and Geovany Soto, who were developed in the system wearing the uniforms of the minor league teams they played for. Makes sense, I guess.
Of that 27,039, maybe half that number, 12,000-13,000, were actually in the house today, including BCB'er elgato, who sat with us this afternoon. The bleachers were about 2/3 full; the rest of the park, not so much, and the wind-blown upper deck was mostly empty by the middle innings. I wouldn't expect many more -- if that -- tomorrow, when the forecast is for showers and temperatures near 50 degrees. The Cubs will have a shot at a series sweep (and their eighth straight win over Arizona dating back to last year) tomorrow; Ryan Dempster will face near-perfect pitcher Armando Galarraga.