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Back To The Drawing Board, Part Deux

MESA, Arizona -- Today was "Pitch Your Way Off The Team" Day at Ho Ho Kam Park, as pretty much everyone on the staff got pounded around in a 16-4 loss to the Mariners.

I still do not understand the infatuation Dusty and the brass have with Sergio Mitre. He just doesn't have very good stuff. All his pitches are flat and everyone on the Mariners (and it was hardly their "A" squad today with Boone, Martinez and Ichiro sitting out) hit him hard. The Cubs website article on the game says that he had his last two innings scoreless. Well, big deal, after giving up eight hits and he only got out of the third because Aramis Ramirez speared a line drive and turned it into an unassisted DP.

I should have known things weren't going to go well when I walked to the concourse behind the plate to get the starting lineups. I do this because the Cubs are actually nice enough to post this on a board there, and besides, as I've mentioned, you cannot hear the PA on the left field lawn. Anyway, as I was writing down the lineups, a small boy came by and said, "Dad! Sammy's not playing! Let's go!"

That's pretty sad.

The Cubs did try to make a game of it, tying it up in the bottom of the first on Moises Alou's first home run of the spring, an inside-the-park job that scooted away from both the LF and CF and ran along the base of the wall long enough for even the slow-footed Alou to circle the bases. That's the first time I can remember an inside-the-park HR in a spring training game. Aramis Ramirez followed with a bomb that bounced once on the sidewalk near us and out into the parking lot.

But that was about the extent of the Cub offense, and as has been Dusty Baker's wont the last few home games, a few players bused over from the minor league complex at Fitch Park finished up the game.

The pitching today was... well, it was awful. Gary Glover relieved Mitre, and picked up where he left off on Friday (5 runs in 1 inning vs. the Rangers), and allowed three runs including a monstrous center-field HR to Hiram Bocachica, his fourth of the spring (and he may not even make the Mariners' roster); Andy Pratt came in for the second day in a row and struggled and wound up getting charged with two runs when Mike Wuertz allowed a double to Dan Wilson. Even Joe Borowski had nothing today, giving up doubles to the first two batters he faced, after Kent Mercker had been pounded pretty hard (although a generous scoring decision to give an error to substitute 3B Donny Leon made all Mercker's runs unearned) ... well, you get the idea.

The rotation is now set -- Kerry Wood will go tomorrow and then Opening Day, then Greg Maddux on Thursday, Carlos Zambrano Friday and Matt Clement Saturday.

But that leaves the question -- are the Cubs really going to send Mitre out there every fifth day to get pounded like this? With Sports Illustrated picking them to win it all this year (and thanks a lot for jinxing Kerry Wood by putting him on the cover), the Cubs need a major league quality pitcher for that slot and it's not Mitre. I hope Jim Hendry is on the phone right now trying to make a deal. There's one guy out there -- Mark Guthrie, who just got released by the Pirates -- who might be helpful in the bullpen until Mike Remlinger comes back. Why not call him, and try him out for a couple of days?

Enough preaching. Today, Jeff & Krista pretty much just laid out and worked on their tans, and Howard tried to keep score but gave up in the sixth, and I guess I can't blame him, and despite the fact that he hasn't seen a win yet here, I won't blame him for today's loss either. There's enough of that to go around.

I was about ready to give up scoring myself after not for the life of me being able to figure out Bob Melvin's double switches, especially since there were four players with numbers in the 90's playing for Seattle today. It got so bad that Pat Borders, who is nearly 41 years old and among whose rookie year teammates was Mike Flanagan, pinch hit for the Mariners in the 9th (he popped out), and Todd Dunwoody played half the game in right field, and... well, you get the idea. We spent part of the game talking sports with a real intelligent-sounding 12-year-old from Calgary, who says that of all sports, he'd much rather be playing baseball. Smart kid!

The near-sellout crowd of 12,058 pushed the spring season attendance to 176,854 for the season, breaking not only the Cub club record (set in 1999) but the record for any team in spring training (the 1996 Yankees had held the previous record of about 173,000), and with one home date left Thursday, the total will be about 189,000.

It was also 97 degrees today, the hottest day since I've been here, though it really was fairly pleasant with extremely low humidity (10%) and a nice breeze. I cannot remember a March when it has been this consistently above normal temperatures (average this time of year is the upper 70's).