USA TODAY Sports
The Cubs smashed three home runs, but the late-inning pitching wasn't good, and the team lost its first game in three spring efforts.
Dontrelle Willis made his Cubs debut in this game -- 13 years after the team drafted him -- wearing uniform No. 89. He threw seven pitches, issuing a walk to the first batter he faced, and then called the trainer out to the mound. He left the game. I hope that his career doesn't end that way, whether or not he makes the Cubs staff. There were shots of him sitting in the dugout, apparently with something wrong with his shoulder, clearly not happy. Not that Willis had much of a chance to make the staff anyway; even if he'd been effective, he was likely headed to Iowa. Still, you don't want to see a comeback attempt go bad due to injury after just seven pitches.
Meanwhile, the Cubs lost Monday's game to the Dodgers, thanks in part to a pair of runs balked in by Robert Whitenack and Michael Bowden, and Willis' replacement, Jensen Lewis, allowed the eventual winning run in the bottom of the eighth; the final score was 7-6 Dodgers, the Cubs' first spring loss.
Nevertheless, the good news is that the Cubs are breaking out early in games, scoring bunches of runs off actual major-league starting pitchers.
Monday, it was Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley who was the victim of two Cubs home runs, one by Nate Schierholtz (and this is nothing new for Schierholtz; he's 9-for-23 lifetime against Billingsley with three doubles and a triple in regular-season play), and another, a three-run shot by Darnell McDonald.
This is all good. This isn't: Carlos Villanueva had a really bad outing, issuing two walks and not making it out of the first inning. The very first batter of the game, Dee Gordon, worked a 17-pitch at-bat off Villanueva before drawing a walk. Eventually, after a couple of runs scored, Blake Parker worked out of the jam and threw a scoreless second. Barret Loux was also impressive, throwing two scoreless innings. Whitenack? Not so much, with a pair of walks and one of those balked-in runs.
Luis Valbuena, who is off to a hot start this spring -- maybe too hot, because it could fool management into thinking he can be a fulltime third baseman -- doubled, as did Darwin Barney, before they both got the rest of the day off.
It was nice to hear Vin Scully call a Cubs game; unlike his regular-season TV efforts, he called the entire game. There wasn't much of a crowd at Camelback Ranch; on the Dodgers TV broadcast you could hear, in the middle innings, someone yelling something about ice cream. He must have been right next to one of the field microphones; he almost drowned Vin out for a few seconds. Attendance was just 3,655 in a stadium that seats over 13,000. Granted, it's February, long before the peak of spring break season, and the temperature was just 60 degrees; still, that's a very, very small crowd. Most of them had left by the time this ridiculously long game was over; it ran over three and a half hours.
Oh, and can anyone tell me why Brian Schlitter is back? (After the inning he had, he probably won't be around long, anyway.)