Cubs Swept In Two Different States

Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs pitcher Paul Maholm during spring training workouts at Fitch Park. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

PHOENIX, Arizona -- The Cubs' losing streak reached six Saturday afternoon with a 4-3 loss to the Athletics in Phoenix and a 12-7 smacking from the Rangers in Las Vegas.

I didn't see or hear anything of the Vegas game (played in front of a less-than-sellout crowd of 9,899), so all I can point out is a few good things that appear in the box score: Jeff Samardzija throwing four decent innings, Adrian Cardenas going 3-for-4 with a pair of runs scored and Steve Clevenger hitting his second home run of the spring.

Bad was Trever Miller, who gave up five runs. Miller was expected to have a chance to make the team as the second lefthander. Perhaps Chris Rusin will get his shot at that after all. Also bad was Casey Weathers, who has already been reassigned to the minor league camp.

After the jump, thoughts from the game I attended, the one against the A's at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

Bad defense doomed the Cubs in this game. Josh Vitters let what should have been an inning-ending grounder go through his legs for an error. That scored the A's first run, and Paul Maholm struggled through at least 20 more pitches in the inning, eventually allowing two more runs on Seth Smith's double. Maholm gave up no earned runs, and I wonder whether he'd have been allowed to throw the fourth inning if he hadn't thrown that many pitches in the first.

Vitters had a rough day at the plate, too, hitting into a pair of double plays, including one that ended the game.

That first-inning run turned out to be the difference in a one-run game; Geovany Soto brought the Cubs to within 3-2 with a long home run in the fourth and, in the sixth, in another example of the aggressiveness Dale Sveum is trying to bring to the team, Marlon Byrd was thrown out at the plate on a Soto double. In spring training, I don't have any problem with doing things like this. It's unfortunate that Byrd couldn't score, but this is the time to experiment with baserunning. Perhaps it will pay off during the season.

Ryan Rowland-Smith, in camp on a minor league deal, threw two competent innings. Rowland-Smith hasn't pitched in the majors since 2010 (and he was bad then), but had three good years before that as a spot starter and middle reliever for the Mariners. If he can show anything like this the rest of the spring, he could wind up in the Iowa rotation.

Manny Corpas gave up a run in two innings of work, but perhaps more importantly, Esmailin Caridad was impressive in his one inning, striking out three A's, all of whom have at least some major league experience (Brandon Moss, Chris Carter and Michael Taylor). I always thought Caridad had a really good arm. Maybe he, too, can work his way back to the major leagues.

Now, about Yoenis Cespedes: It's clearly early and one game doesn't mean everything. But there are definitely holes in Cespedes' swing. He struck out once and went 0-for-3. I suspect he'll be one of the highest-paid players in Triple-A when the season begins. Maybe eventually he'll be as good as the hype, but for now, count me unimpressed. He is, however, an impressive physical specimen with a great athletic body. That, at least, is as advertised.

And Manny Ramirez got a rousing ovation from the assembled 8,799 (a sellout) at Phoenix Muni. He reached on an error, walked and hit into a double play before being given the rest of the afternoon off. It's quite possible he'll be the A's DH, that is, 51 games into this season.

Wins & losses don't mean much in spring training, as we all know. But losing and watching losses every day aren't much fun.

On Sunday, weather permitting (and it might not either in Mesa or in Las Vegas), Chris Volstad will face the Rangers' Matt Harrison in Vegas, and Andy Sonnanstine goes against the White Sox' Gavin Floyd in Mesa.

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