Cubs Hit Rare Spring Inside-The-Park HR, Lose Anyway

Rob Tringali

The Cubs lost again, and now ride a three-game losing streak. Still, there were some positive outcomes from Tuesday's game against the Rockies.

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- I estimate (because, it being spring training, I haven't kept a totally accurate count) I've seen about 250 spring-training games in the 24 springs I've been in Arizona.

I can't remember ever seeing an inside-the-park home run before, so at least there's that. Edwin Maysonet hit a ball to deep center field in the fifth inning off Rockies starter Jeff Francis. It appeared to get stuck rattling around beneath the pads, and by the time Rox CF Dexter Fowler picked it up, Maysonet was wheeling toward the plate. The throw was close, but Maysonet slid in safely with a homer. Those are exciting plays regardless of when they happen -- fun to watch, even if it's hit by a player who has about as much chance to make this team as I do.

The rest of the game -- not so much. Scott Feldman, who's wearing Ryan Dempster's old No. 46 (the last player to wear it before Dempster was Jason Bere in 2002; pitching coach Dick Pole wore it in 2003), pitched like another former Cub who wore that number. Feldman was all over the place, running long counts on just about everyone and giving up six hits and four runs, including a long home run to Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario, before Dale Sveum finally had mercy and yanked him, right after Rosario's home run in the third inning.

Before that, Feldman was the first Cub to get a hit -- and the only one besides Maysonet to get one at all in the first five innings off Francis and reliever Daniel Rosenbaum. Hey, Scott: you're not helping me make my case for the designated hitter in the National League. (Rosenbaum, incidentally, was a Rule 5 pick of the Rockies from the Nationals, and from what I hear, has a decent shot to make the Colorado 25-man roster.)

Travis Wood relieved Feldman and was excellent. He threw four innings and allowed just a single run, which scored on a double play in the sixth inning. Wood was efficient and made the game move along at a much faster pace than the first two frames, and also hit a line drive that Rox left fielder Tim Wheeler had to make a nice running catch on. Hey, Travis: you're not helping me make my case for the designated hitter in the National League. Those were the first two at-bats for any Cubs pitcher this spring.

By the time the Cubs batted in the eighth inning, trailing 5-2, the scoreboard operator couldn't keep up with Cubs lineup changes, continually bouncing the next hitter down in the order that appeared on the video board there (hint to Cubs: please put a board like this in the new complex) until the inning was over and they figured it out. The Cubs loaded the bases on a couple of walks -- one by Brett Jackson, a good sign -- but Alberto Gonzalez struck out to end the threat.

In the previous inning, the Rockies had scored when a line shot down the right-field line just got past Jorge Soler's diving attempt for a triple; the next hitter, Daniel Herrera, executed a perfect suicide squeeze. This is the time that teams should be doing that kind of thing, practicing executing squeezes with runners on third and less than two out. It was so obvious that a pitchout would have nailed the runner trying to score, but Herrera's bunt was laid perfectly back to the first-base side of the mound.

Somehow, I think this would be more useful than a bunting tournament. Last year's tournament didn't help the Cubs become good bunters. Do it in game situations like this one.

The ninth inning brought a familiar face to the mound for Colorado -- Manuel Corpas, who had some decent outings and more bad ones for last year's Cubs. He gave up an opposite-field home run to Brad Nelson, who was pinch-hitting, but struck out the side, including a K by Brett Jackson, to end the game.

Wednesday, the Cubs head to Surprise to take on the Texas Rangers; Carlos Villanueva takes the mound for the Cubs against the Rangers' Robbie Ross.

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