Chicago Cubs vs. Oakland Athletics, Mesa, Arizona, Sunday 3/4, 2:05 CT: Baseball Is Here!

Detailed view of an official baseball sitting on the field during Chicago Cubs spring training workouts at Fitch Park. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

At last, after a long winter, Cubs baseball has returned, with the first of 35 spring training games (16 at HoHoKam Park, 17 at other Arizona spring training sites and two in Las Vegas) to be played Sunday afternoon in Mesa.

Rodrigo Lopez will start for the Cubs. Other pitchers scheduled to go today include Carlos Marmol, Dae-Eun Rhee, Rafael Dolis, Lendy Castillo and Marcos Mateo. Today's lineup:

Soriano LF, Stewart 3B, Castro SS, LaHair 1B, Byrd CF, DeJesus RF, Baker DH, Barney 2B, Castillo C

The Soriano-at-leadoff idea is a really bad one. Dale Sveum says:

"The one thing about Soriano is that his numbers as a leadoff hitter are pretty good in his career whether he's leading off a game or leading off an inning," Sveum said. "If you want to get into the details of why you might come up with something like that, it could be as simple as that.

"We don't have the bona fide guys at any position in the order. We don't have any guys that drive in runs in the big leagues. (Starlin) Castro is obviously probably the most sound hitter we have to hit third. Do we have that base stealer, leadoff and on-base guy? (David) DeJesus probably fills that as much as anything. But we don't have a lot of cut and dried spots to say, 'This guy is this' and 'This guy is that.' "

While it is true that the Cubs don't have a true leadoff guy, Soriano hasn't batted leadoff since July 2009. It's not just that his baserunning speed is gone; his on-base percentages have been dropping in the two-plus years since he regularly led off.

David DeJesus doesn't have much basestealing prowess either, but from 2004-2010 (discounting 2011 because he was hurt much of the year), he posted a .360 OBP, and was as high as .384 in 2010. That'd be good enough for me in the leadoff slot.

Brandon McCarthy will start for the Athletics. Others expected to pitch for the A's are Sean Doolittle, Brian Fuentes and Andrew Carignan. Manny Ramirez, who is in A's camp after a retirement suspension retirement, is not expected to play today; perhaps we'll see him the next time the Cubs play the Athletics. Here's their lineup for today:

Crisp cf, Pennington ss, Reddick rf, Carter dh, Allen 1b, Suzuki c, Sogard 2b, Cowgill lf, Timmons 3b

More game info after the jump.

There is no TV for today's game, but you can listen online via this link to the MLB.com Mediacenter. It's my understanding that spring training audio is free, but you have to have a MLB.com account to log in. Today's game is via cubs.com and announcers Len Kasper and Mick Gillispie. There's also a link to the A's broadcast, if you are so inclined.

MLB.com Gameday

Note that for spring training gameday links, you probably will not get pitch-by-pitch as during the regular season; these are unofficial links. Each play will be posted, but might not be updated until after each half-inning.

I'm not going to post overflow threads for spring training games unless it appears that there will be demand for them. If this thread gets too slow, feel free to post an overflow in the FanShot section.

Please visit our SB Nation A's site Athletics Nation.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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