Surprise, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Joe Mather is congratulated by third base coach Pat Listach after hitting a two run home run during the second inning at Surprise Stadium. Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
SURPRISE, Arizona -- Yet more proof that spring training results don't mean much can be seen in today's 11-4 Cubs win over the Rangers.
Yes, that's the Texas Rangers, who have won consecutive American League pennants and came within a strike of their first World Series title last October. They are now 5-13 and have the worst record in the Cactus League, and this afternoon, what amounted to most of their regular lineup got just three hits off Cubs pitchers, all singles.
Thanks to some sketchy Cubs defense in the fourth inning, the Rangers scored three runs and tied the game 3-3. This is yet another reason I'm leery of Bryan LaHair as the regular first baseman. With one out and one run already in, in that inning, Brad Hawpe hit a double-play ball to Blake DeWitt. DeWitt flipped to Darwin Barney, playing shortstop today, for the second out of the inning, and then Barney's relay to LaHair was in the dirt.
We have seen good defensive first basemen on the North Side for the last several seasons in Derrek Lee and Carlos Pena. Either of those men would have scooped Barney's throw and completed the double play. LaHair couldn't; the error was charged to Barney on the throw, and two runs wound up scoring on the play. LaHair made another error in the next inning on a ball hit by Josh Hamilton that wound up down the right field line; Hamilton made it to second, but was stranded.
People have mentioned LaHair's lack of hitting this spring. I'm more worried about his defense.
The Cubs offense took care of any possible issues with that inning with a 15-hit attack that featured four home runs, one each by Joe Mather, Alfonso Soriano, Ian Stewart and Brett Jackson's. The latter two, I want to note in particular.
Stewart's was a majestic blast that hit the top of the party tent in right field, his first homer in a Cubs uniform, probably 420-430 feet. Jackson's was a line drive that kept rising as it was going out, a laser beam to center field that landed behind the 410-foot sign, probably also a 420-430 foot poke.
I keep hoping that Theo & Jed can find a taker for Marlon Byrd so that Jackson can make the team and start in center field. It's clear to me that he's ready.
Marcos Mateo faced Michael Young and walked him, and then threw two pitches to Luis Martinez and signaled for the trainer. He left holding his elbow; late reports have him scheduled for an MRI. He seemed a longshot to make the team anyway.
Frankie De La Cruz, just picked up on waivers from the Brewers, relieved Mateo for his first Cubs appearance. He is as advertised -- a hard thrower who can't throw strike. He walked two of the six batters he faced and only got out of the first inning he threw because of a slick double play.
James Russell had a nice outing today, retiring all five hitters he faced, and Rafael Dolis, who appears to have made the team as a middle relief/setup guy, had a 1-2-3 ninth to end it. It was announced earlier today that Dale Sveum will name his Opening Day starter on Friday, and it'll be -- to no one's surprise -- either Garza or Ryan Dempster. Both those men did well in their last outings. Dempster has the longevity with the team, Garza was clearly the Cubs' best pitcher in 2011. If I were choosing, I'd choose Garza. We'll find out tomorrow.
Friday, the Cubs visit Talking Stick near Scottsdale to face the Rockies. Frankly, I'm happy about that for this reason -- there was a horrific traffic jam coming back from Surprise and it took almost 90 minutes to make what was a 45-minute drive out there. Jeff Samardzija will go for the Cubs; Tyler Chatwood will start for Colorado.