Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart gets a high five after hitting a fourth inning solo home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers at HoHoKam Stadium. Credit: Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE
MESA, Arizona -- Dale Sveum unveiled his Opening Day lineup Friday afternoon at Mesa, including starting pitcher Ryan Dempster.
I'd quibble with a few things, including batting Starlin Castro third (I think I'd hit him second) and Geovany Soto eighth. Why not hit Soto third and move Darwin Barney down to the eight spot? This bothers me, too:
Sveum said he will probably tweak the lineup against left-handers, having Barney slide into the leadoff spot.
Barney leading off? A guy who posted a .313 OBP in 2011 and walked only 22 times all year? (He had a .324 OBP against lefthanders last year.) David DeJesus didn't do so well in 2011, but he did post a .384 OBP in 2010 and in his career hitting leadoff he's got a .365 OBP.
Please tell me Sveum hasn't fallen prey to the "scrappy leadoff guy" meme. Please. I thought we were done with that.
Dempster threw well enough; he was lifted with two out in the fifth inning having allowed just one run. This drives me crazy. We're in spring training -- and Dempster threw six innings in his last outing -- and you can't leave him in to get one last out? I guess I understand the concept of bringing in James Russell to face James Loney -- lefty/lefty and all -- but still, this is supposed to at least in part be about getting the starting lineup and rotation ready.
Russell retired Loney on a fly ball to left on one pitch and then left for a pinch-hitter.
That's when things got messy. Manuel Corpas came in and threw a 1-2-3 sixth, and retired the first hitter in the seventh. This is a former closer who's trying to make the team as a setup man. I'm not sure I understand why he was left out there for a second inning of work. The first one was quite efficient. I think he still has a real shot to make the team, and don't forget, he's a pitcher who was a closer for a World Series team (2007 Rockies), coming off Tommy John surgery. This kind of dumpster-diving is quite similar to when Jim Hendry rescued Dempster, who was quite effective for a long time.
Next was Lendy Castillo. For all those still promoting Castillo, he simply does not belong in a major-league bullpen. Yes, he has a good arm. The Cubs should try to figure out some sort of deal to ship him to Double-A so he can work on his command. He was all over the place again, and gave up a single that charged Corpas with his third run. In the next inning, he made a wild pickoff throw that helped lead to yet another run.
Keep him in the organization? Fine. In the major-league bullpen? Not this year.
Also, if the Cubs are still auditioning for the final bullpen slots, why was Marcus Hatley throwing the ninth inning? He's nowhere near the major leagues.
It appears that four bullpen slots are locked in: Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood, James Russell and Rafael Dolis. I'd give Corpas the next spot, which leaves two open spots among the following three: Alberto Cabrera (who also lacks command), Rodrigo Lopez and Shawn Camp.
I'm thinking the brass is scanning the release and waiver wires this weekend to see if they can find another reclamation project. This article says the Cubs could wait till the last minute to decide:
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Friday that the final decisions may not be announced until the 11th hour.
"It'll probably go down to possibly the workout on Wednesday [at Wrigley Field] to make those decisions," Sveum said.
Offensively, the Cubs were pretty offensive today. Ian Stewart homered. That's good. Marlon Byrd tripled in the ninth and scored on an infield out; that might have meant more if Hatley hadn't given up a run in the top of the inning.
Attendance watch: 10,102 was the announced total Friday, making the season total 135,067 and the average for 14 dates 9,648, which is slightly above the 2011 average of 9,443. It should go up on Saturday -- a sellout is expected for the only appearance of the Angels in Mesa this spring. We won't know if Albert Pujols will play until Saturday morning, but we do know the starting pitchers: Paul Maholm vs. Garrett Richards. Richards is trying to nail down the fifth-starter role for the Angels. The game will be televised on CSN Chicago and carried nationally on MLB Network.