MESA, Arizona -- So this is what being at an early spring-training game is like.
Lots of runs scored. Even more players you've never heard of with numbers in the 90s and no names on their backs. Not very many fans. Result: a 13-5 Cubs loss to the Indians that wasn't anywhere near that close.
Alfonso Soriano, as noted above, homered for the Cubs. One other run scored in that inning, the second, when Brad Nelson doubled in Steve Clevenger, who had walked. At the time, that RBI double tied the game 2-2, but Alberto Cabrera and Brooks Raley took care of that in a big hurry. It was the seventh inning before any Cubs pitcher could hold the Tribe scoreless for a complete inning. Not one of the five pitchers used today by Dale Sveum -- Ty'Relle Harris, Casey Coleman and Marcus Hatley were the others -- has any real chance of making the major-league 25-man roster. Cabrera is being stretched out in an audition for the Iowa starting rotation. This, um, wasn't a very good showing, unless he was simply working on some aspect of his game. He gave up homers to Lonnie Chisenhall and Mark Reynolds and was tagged for seven hits and five runs overall.
Chisenhall. Chisenhall. Haven't I heard that name mentioned around here before? Oh, yes. It was from some of you who thought maybe the Cubs might try acquiring him to play third base. It's just one game, but Chisenhall sure looked good today; he went 3-for-3 with three RBI. Nick Swisher homered and drove in four runs. Drew Stubbs, who used to smash Cubs pitching very hard while he was a member of the Reds, continued that Monday afternoon by going 2-for-4 with three RBI.
Junior Lake flashed some major glove in the second inning, starting a slick double play and then making a nice diving stop on the next hitter. He was charged with an error two innings later on a throw that was just a bit wide at first, pulling Brad Nelson off the bag. That was a tough error; Anthony Rizzo probably makes that play.
The Cubs barely nicked the offensive columns after the third inning; they had just three hits the rest of the way, scoring a pair of runs after a walk drawn by Jorge Soler. Soler stole second and scored on an Alberto Gonzalez single; Gonzalez took third when the Indians center fielder... hmmm, let me look this up because by then I was watching a Double-A game... ah, here it is, Cedric Hunter, overran his hit. Gonzalez scored on a groundout.
Let me go back to Soler's sequence. He had a really nice at-bat, working Trevor Bauer for a walk on a 3-2 pitch. He was very, very patient all the way through with Bauer, and didn't hesitate to take off for second. Base stealing isn't going to be Soler's strong point, but just to know he can do it gives him another weapon. He also singled in this game. Bauer got Soler back in the ninth inning by striking him out.
Incidentally, I'd once again like to mention that I think Bauer's warmup routine -- where he runs at the pitching rubber and fires a ball lord-knows-where -- is juvenile. This is the major leagues. I don't see other pitchers doing that. There was some talk when Bauer was sent to Cleveland from the Diamondbacks in the three-team, nine-player deal involving the Reds (Stubbs also came over to the Tribe in that deal) that there were some coachability issues with Bauer. Otherwise why would you essentially give up on a guy you picked with the third overall choice in the draft less than two years earlier?
That said, Bauer has talent; he mixed fastballs and breaking balls quite effectively, giving up three runs, but also striking out a pair. Johermyn Chavez accounted for the other run off Bauer by homering.
Just 5,465 showed up on an absolutely gorgeous, 77-degree, cloudless afternoon. Yes, I know it's still early spring. Yes, I know it's Monday. But the Cubs simply are not drawing this year. Maybe it'll change before the end of the spring, but that makes the total for seven games just 40,177, an average of 5,740. No game has come close to selling out. Even if the Cubs drew an average of 10,000 for the 11 remaining dates -- and they won't -- they'd average fewer than 8,400 per date. Last year's average was 9,580, so you can see demand is down.
HoHoKam hasn't changed in a year, nor would I have expected it to. Concession and souvenir prices are pretty much flat from a year ago; some a bit higher, most the same. Perhaps the arrival of the White Sox Thursday will increase the crowd total, though again, the one spring home date vs. the White Sox is early, and a weekday.