Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs' Joe Mather at HoHoKam Park. Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- With temperatures barely scraping 50 degrees and rain all over the Phoenix area, I decided not to go to today's game in Mesa. The rain -- the first significant precipitation in the Valley of the Sun since December -- managed to cancel three games (Rockies/Padres in Tucson, Rockies/Mariners in Peoria and Rangers/Brewers in Maryvale, the latter two after they had already started) and force one other (Angels/Dodgers in Glendale) to end after six innings in a 1-1 tie.
But the rain skirted around HoHoKam Park in Mesa -- it was windy and chilly but not a drop of rain fell. The Cubs and the HoHoKams breathed a sigh of relief, because this game was sold out, and they didn't have to refund any of the tickets. The announced attendance was 12,496, bringing the season attendance total to 87,703 and making the nine-date average 9,745.
They saw the Cubs lose to the White Sox 7-5 in 10 innings. The Cubs came from behind with a two-run rally to tie the game in the eighth, though it could have been more, because they had the bases loaded with nobody out. Then the White Sox won it on a Jordan Danks home run off Marcos Mateo in the 10th. Josh Vitters, Starlin Castro and Tony Campana all had two hits this afternoon.
Casey Coleman actually threw three nice innings against the White Sox, allowing just two hits with no walks and three strikeouts. I doubt this increases his chances of making the team, though; Coleman is likely headed to the Iowa rotation. Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol followed, also both throwing scoreless innings, though Marmol can't seem to get through any inning 1-2-3; he issued a walk.
Andy Sonnanstine, though, was pretty bad -- six hits and five earned runs allowed, and he got hit hard, including a home run by his former Rays teammate Dan Johnson. That makes Dale Sveum's decision about Sonnanstine easy -- he'll also go to Iowa to be part of the rotation there.
Meanwhile, it appears Jeff Samardzija will make the starting rotation. If Shark really has developed a good third pitch, he could be a useful starter. Personally, I'd still rather see him in the bullpen, because if he doesn't have the stuff or stamina to regularly get into the sixth inning or beyond, who's going to bail him out?
The 8,622 who saw the Cubs defeat the Rangers 3-2 in Las Vegas also shivered through 50-degree temperatures. Chris Volstad seemed like he put a lock on the No. 4 spot in the rotation with another solid performance, four innings with four hits and one run allowed, no walks and three strikeouts. Blake Parker threw two scoreless innings and Lendy Castillo had one.
And Joe Mather appears to be this year's Scott McClain or Micah Hoffpauir, someone who comes out of nowhere or close to nowhere to make the team. Mather started the Vegas game in right field and hit his second home run of the spring, this one a game-winner, in the ninth inning off the Rangers' Sean Green (no relation to this guy or this guy). Mather is hitting .379/.467/.724 (11-for-29 with three walks) this spring.
Rafael Dolis closed out the Rangers in the ninth inning for his first spring save, although he put a runner on base by hitting him to lead off the inning. Dolis is likely going to make the team and be the second setup man along with Kerry Wood.
But this game, and this day, can perhaps be best summed up by this tweet from Carrie Muskat:
I'll be back to the ballpark tomorrow when the Cubs head to Peoria to take on the Mariners. Travis Wood will go for the Cubs against Seattle's Jason Vargas. The Cubs have also added a morning "B" game against the Indians at Goodyear (10 a.m. Arizona time), where Randy Wells will throw against Cleveland's Derek Lowe.