MESA, Arizona -- When Kyuji Fujikawa ran into trouble in the sixth inning against the Rockies Wednesday afternoon, and Dale Sveum went to the mound to talk to him, followed by Fujikawa's interpreter (get used to that sight; interpreters are now permitted during such conferences), the only thing I could think was, "Just how do you say 'Throw (expletive deleted) strikes!' in Japanese, anyway?"
Humor. A bit of humor from two managers ago, when the Cubs were actually a good team. You remember those days, right?
That's about all I've got today. The Cubs were shut out by the Rockies 2-0, and at one point Colorado pitchers -- including Manuel Corpas, who the Cubs unceremoniously dumped after last season -- retired 16 straight Cubs, the first three after the Cubs loaded the bases with nobody out in the third inning.
Sound familiar? Had enough? I thought not, let's at least talk about the good things that happened in this game.
Cubs pitching was very good Thursday afternoon on a near-90-degree day in Mesa (to give you an idea of how hot that is, average high for this date is 77). Edwin Jackson could have gotten out of the first inning unscathed; Eric Young Jr. led off with a dribbler that went for a hit and then Josh Rutledge outran Javier Baez's double-play relay attempt and was safe. So the Rockies had a runner on base with one out without a ball leaving the infield. After a medium-deep fly to center, Troy Tulowitzki put one in the gap in left-center and Colorado had a 1-0 lead.
After that, Jackson was excellent. He allowed just one more hit, another infield single, this one by Tulowitzki, issued one walk that was erased when Dioner Navarro executed a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play, and struck out three. That's a very good sign for this year's rotation. Fujikawa, whose main claim to fame in Japan was his excellent control, was all over the place when he came into the game in the sixth; that resulted in the mound conference. He gave up a walk and a single, got Rutledge on a nice bender for a called third strike, then walked Carlos Gonzalez to load the bases. Tulowitzki hit a fly ball to Jorge Soler in right to score the second run of the game, and the last run of the game.
Cubs pitching gave up a couple of harmless singles to Rockies minor leaguers the rest of the way. A guy whose last name is Wrigley (Henry Wrigley his full name) played first base for the Rox for the last couple of innings and flied to left in his only at-bat.
So pitching was good Wednesday. Hitting, not so much; that bases-loaded failure in the third inning will hopefully not be a sign of things to come. With Alfonso Soriano, Scott Hairston and Navarro coming up after a walk and two infield singles, things looked good for the Cubs. But Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa struck out Soriano and Hairston and got Navarro to fly to center to end the inning. De La Rosa had six K's in all, and Rox hurlers struck out nine Cubs.
Starlin Castro made a successful return, drawing a four-pitch walk and getting one of the two hits in the third; he was then lifted for Baez, who struck out and hit into a double play. Remember, Castro is a week and a half behind, so having him go three innings and two at-bats is about right. With three split-squad dates this weekend, there will surely be plenty of time to get Castro more at-bats. Also, for any of you (and I doubt there are too many) who think Baez or Soler are ready for the majors, think again: both looked totally overmatched at the plate Wednesday.
Tom Ricketts and the mayor of Mesa, Scott Smith, had a pre-game ceremony at home plate that thanked the HoHoKams for all they'd done for the Cubs at spring training over the last five decades. Whether that was a valedictory, or something that will keep the HoHoKams involved in Cubs spring training, remains to be seen. Then Ricketts stopped out on the left-field berm to say hello, attracting the usual folks wanting to have a photo taken with him.
Attendance watch: on a gorgeous day during spring-break week, 10,875 paid to see this game. That makes the spring total for 11 dates 78,010, and the per-game average 7,092.
The Cubs head to Glendale for the next two days, taking on the Dodgers Thursday afternoon. It's an all-Chris pitching matchup: Chris Rusin gets the call for the Cubs against LA's Chris Capuano. I am not going to this game; I need the afternoon for other things (might also visit Fitch Park Thursday), and I don't particularly like the drive to Glendale nor Camelback Ranch. The usual game threads will be posted at the usual times, along with a recap.