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Get These Clouds Out Of Here!

PHOENIX, Arizona -- In my thirteen spring trainings, I've never seen as many cloudy days as this year. Today was sunny in the morning, then it clouded over in the afternoon, though it was quite a bit warmer than yesterday.

And, for a change of pace, I decided to not go to HoHoKam today, with the ballpark I don't really like and the human air-raid siren, and opted instead for the split-squad game at Maryvale vs. the Brewers. My friends Carole and Ernie, who sit in the bleachers with me during the season, arrived in town last night and joined me for the game.

I like the ballpark at Maryvale -- it's a bit out of the way, in a not-so-great part of town, but the complex is first-class, and the ballpark wasn't nearly full -- only 3300, about half-full.

The Cubs sent three regulars -- Alex Gonzalez, Damian Miller and Bobby Hill, along with semi-regular Eric Karros, to start vs. Milwaukee, and Carlos Zambrano started.

As good as Zambrano looked last Friday, that was as shaky as he was today. He couldn't throw strikes -- walking three in three-plus innings -- and gave up hits to just about everyone in the Brewers' split-squad lineup, which included regulars Alex Sanchez, Richie Sexson and Jeffrey Hammonds. He was pulled in the fourth with the Cubs trailing 4-2.

Well, no one wound up pitching well today; Brewers starter Matt Kinney was OK till the fifth, when an error and a hit batsman led to a five-run Cub rally. Mike Matthews came in and couldn't get anyone out, and Eric Karros' grand slam was the final blow in the Cubs' 13-6 win. With the 2-1 victory at HoHoKam, led by Hee Seop Choi's 2-run homer, the Cubs are now 10-9 on the spring.

Highlights today were the three hits and homer by Eric Karros, who had 5 RBI; Alex Gonzalez also homered; Bobby Hill walked and got hit by a pitch, after which he tried to steal second. The throw hit him in the helmet, after which he was removed from the game as a precaution.

Lenny Harris and Phil Hiatt were given starts, presumably to see whether they can play different positions. Harris started at 3B and made several nice fielding plays; Hiatt started in RF and made only one putout. Of the two, Hiatt had the only hit, a single. Tom Goodwin was given the leadoff slot, and predictably, was poor -- walked once and reached on an error in 6 plate appearances. Maybe this will convince Dusty Baker that he can't lead off, though Dusty wasn't at Maryvale today -- Jerry Reuss, a spring training instructor, ran the show.

Apart from Zambrano, the pitchers were OK -- Will Cunnane threw well for two innings; Francis Beltran and Joe Borowski each struck out three, though to be fair, by then the Brewers' fifth stringers were in the game.

It was nice to see the second squad generate some offense, though to be fair again, they weren't facing much of a pitching staff. I don't think any major decisions could be made off today's game; it was nice to see Karros hit the ball well, and glad Choi homered in the other game.

The Maryvale park staff invited the sausage characters from Miller Park in Milwaukee down for the game and they had the traditional sausage race, won by the Polish.