Cubs 9, Royals 9: Tying One On

Al Yellon

The Cubs and Royals plodded on for three hours, 32 minutes, and neither team won.

SURPRISE, Arizona -- There's an old saying: if you watch baseball long enough, eventually you'll see something you've never seen before, no matter how many games you've watched.

That happened Thursday night in Surprise, when the Royals' Chris Getz went 6-for-6. Six hits in a spring-training game? Are you kidding me? How many times does a player even get six at-bats in a spring-training game? Not only that, but when Getz came to the plate to lead off the 10th inning, he needed a home run to hit for the cycle.

That would have completed the spring-training trifecta (six AB, six hits, cycle). Getz singled, and was promptly erased when Billy Butler (who was described by a Royals fan sitting near me as "running like a dinosaur") hit into a double play. Jeffry Antigua, who's been in the Cubs organization for six years but has yet to pitch above Double-A, struck out Mike Moustakas, and three hours and 32 minutes of very strange baseball ended in a 9-9 tie, the Cubs' first of the spring. Some teams in the Cactus League have as many as four ties this spring; given the fact that the Cubs play at noon Thursday, I was surprised Dale Sveum even agreed to play one extra inning, further considering the fact that the game was approaching three and a half hours by the time the ninth inning was over.

It was a game played more like a regular-season game than any I've seen so far this spring; the Royals played most of their starters and only one (Eric Hosmer) was taken out of the game. The Cubs, too, played much of their Opening Day lineup and David DeJesus, Alfonso Soriano, Scott Hairston and Darwin Barney of that group also played all 10 innings. (You can bet that will not be the case Thursday afternoon in Mesa.)

Scott Feldman began the game by being awful. He hasn't pitched well all spring and this game was the worst yet; he faced 25 batters and 12 of them got hits. Four of those hits were home runs, and the rest of the hits were all hit hard. Somehow, Feldman managed to register four strikeouts, but when he walked Lorenzo Cain with one out in the fifth inning, Sveum had seen enough and pulled him for Michael Bowden with the Cubs trailing 7-0. Feldman was wearing No. 89 instead of his official No. 46 -- maybe trying to go incognito? He finishes his spring with an ERA of 11.25 and WHIP of 2.20 in 20 innings.

The only possible way to look at Feldman's spring with optimism is to note that Matt Garza had a spring nearly as bad as Feldman in 2011, posting a 10.38 ERA and 2.26 WHIP in 21⅔ innings, and then Garza had a really solid season for the Cubs that year.

The Cubs had managed just one hit to that point, a single by Hairston, who was promptly erased on a double play. The Cubs chipped away at the lead with a pair of runs in the fifth, and then exploded off Luke Hochevar in the eight. Hochevar was the Opening Day starter for the Royals in 2011, but has apparently been demoted to the bullpen. They might want to think about demoting him further than that after Wednesday's performance, in which he faced eight batters: groundout, single, triple, double, walk, single, flyout and double; five runs scored. It was marginally better than Carlos Marmol's horrific outing the night before; he managed to retire two hitters, while Marmol got no hitters out.

It was 8-7 K.C. at that point; the Royals pushed across a run off Zach Putnam in the eighth, but the Cubs tied it in the ninth, and the players were either too tired or too bored to score any more runs after that.

Hector Rondon, who, as I have written before, is by far the best Rule 5 pick the Cubs have made in recent years, threw a scoreless inning, striking out two (both called). He lowered his spring ERA to 2.00 and has eight strikeouts and two walks in nine spring innings. Small sample size and all, but I think Rondon will be a solid addition to the bullpen. Finally, a Rule 5 keeper.

Steve Clevenger played third base for the first seven innings and touched the ball twice. He started a double play in the fourth inning, and then made a nice stop of a sharp grounder toward the shortstop side of the base off the bat of Salvador Perez in the sixth and retired him easily. Small sample size again, but it does appear Clevenger could handle the infrequent game or three at third base; that increased versatility has won him the last spot on the bench and means that the Cubs can use him (or Dioner Navarro) as a pinch-hitter, while still having a backup catcher.

Also, Cory Wade won't be on the Opening Day roster, leaving the final slot in the bullpen for Hisanori Takahashi, unless someone drops into the Cubs' lap off the waiver wire in the next few days. That makes the 25-man roster set heading to Pittsburgh Monday, barring a last-minute acquisition.

Thursday brings one final Cactus League game and the final Cubs home game at HoHoKam Park, at 2:05 CT (an hour earlier than usual) against the Mariners. Carlos Villanueva will face Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma.

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