SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- I confess right up front that I heard almost none of this game; I lost the MLB At Bat app signal in eastern Arizona and didn't get it back until the ninth inning, when I managed to hear the Cubs score a pair of runs. That was too late to change the result; the Cubs lost to the Giants 9-7 in front of a sellout crowd at Scottsdale Stadium on what I heard was a perfect weather day. I'm getting ready to enjoy that myself.
From what I understand, Carlos Villanueva threw much better in his second outing; he went three innings and allowed just one run, a home run by Pablo Sandoval, and there's no shame in that, given that Sandoval hit two off the best pitcher in baseball in one game during the World Series last year.
It's the rest of the staff that didn't do well today; Barret Loux had a chance to impress and instead was touched up for four runs. Jaye Chapman gave up a home run to someone I'd never heard of before today, Adam Duvall.
The Cubs did score bunches of runs; Steve Clevenger, trying to make the team as a backup infielder, had two hits and two RBI, and Brian Bogusevic also had a pair of hits. Dioner Navarro drove in two runs, and Brett Jackson had one.
The Clevenger thing is interesting. They're trying him at first base. He has played 91 minor-league games there. What's more intriguing was a mention on the WGN radio broadcast of maybe trying him at third base. Clevenger played four minor-league games at third base. He might not be any good -- but maybe he would be, in which case he might make the club as a utility guy if Ian Stewart isn't ready. It would be useful to have a third catcher who can play other positions and maybe be a decent bench bat. Clevenger didn't hit at all after he came back from his oblique injury last year, but as you likely know, those are tough ones to come back from.
Clevenger hit .309/.370/.424 in 1829 minor-league at-bats. Not much power, but the guy can get on base. If he is healthy and can hit anywhere near that, the Cubs might have found themselves a good reserve.
Now, the injuryu news that's worth mentioning: Starlin Castro has an "inflamed left hamstring" and will be out a week. This isn't good news, but better now than during the regular season.
Scott Baker, who is rehabbing after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, also is projected to be ready in mid-April. Baker had his second live batting-practice session on Friday. "He said he felt way better this time the day after [he threw] than the day after he threw live BP four or five days ago," Sveum said. The plan is for Baker to have one more live BP session, then pitch in a simulated game before he's ready for a Cactus League game.
It's hard to calculate exactly when that might be, because it's not clear how long he'd have to go in between those things, but it seems as if Baker might be pitching in actual games in about two weeks -- which might give him time enough to be ready sometime in early April (remember, the Cubs could skip the fifth starter the first time around due to the off day after Opening Day).
The Cubs have their first split-squad day Sunday. At Mesa, Edwin Jackson will face the Brewers' Marco Estrada. At Tempe, Nick Struck will get the call against the Angels' Joe Blanton. I will not be at either of these games; I'm taking the day to get organized here before heading to Mesa for my first game Monday. If you're going to be there, stop by on the left-field lawn to say hello.