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Meat Tray

PEORIA, Arizona -- I have no idea what people see in Sergio Mitre.

He has come through the Cub farm system without any seriously terrific stats, and didn't do that well as the rotation replacement for Mark Prior last year.

It's a good thing that Prior threw off a mound today and may be ready to get into simulated games soon, because Mitre stunk out the otherwise lovely Peoria Sports Complex today, in front of a sellout crowd of mostly Cub fans (10,361) and the Cubs lost to the Padres 9-5 on an afternoon that was really nice when the sun was out and somewhat coolish when it ducked behind one of the fair-weather cumulus clouds that scudded by most of the day.

Nomar had himself a day today -- two homers and a sac fly before being lifted in the 8th, but he also made three throwing errors -- at least that's the way I scored them. Aramis Ramirez also let a ball go off his glove for an error.

The second Nomar error, after the first two men made easy out in the fourth, proved Mitre's undoing. He gave up a single to pitcher Woody Williams (his second of the game), a ringing double by Dave Roberts, and then a long home run by Cub-killer Brian Giles, which was caught barehanded by a guy sitting about 20 feet from me, Krista and Krista's sister Carolyn -- Jeff having decided to spend the first few innings watching his alma mater Southern Illinois lose 85-77 to Oklahoma State. He joined us for the last few innings, the first day our bleacher group has begun to reconstitute itself in the Valley of the Sun.

Here's a weird bit of trivia about Dave Roberts, who the Padres acquired from the Red Sox over the winter.

He is the fourth Dave Roberts to play in the major leagues. The latest three of them have all played for San Diego, and the other one had his entire career before there was a franchise in San Diego.

Yeah, I know. You don't care.

I really like Peoria Stadium -- they have the best food stands in the Cactus League. I had a double cheeseburger at "Randy Jones' MVP Stand", then was still hungry so I wolfed down a turkey sausage. We sat in just about the same spot we'd be in if we were home at Wrigley Field -- only from there, there is a huge light standard which blocks part of the view of the scoreboard. So I couldn't see strikes, hits or errors; I had to stand up and walk a bit to check the error count.

You don't care, I know.

After Mr. Meat Tray had given up eight runs (for his ERA, the last four were unearned after Nomar's error), the rest of the staff had a nice afternoon. Mike Remlinger got stretched out today and threw two innings, and even came to bat, a rarity in any game, much less seeing a relief pitcher hit in a spring training match, and he celebrated by getting a hit.

How rare is that for him? He's a .073 lifetime hitter and has not had a hit in a regular-season game since 1998, when he was a rotation starter for the Reds.

LaTroy Hawkins and Will Ohman also threw scoreless innings, and Ohman was particularly impressive, striking out the side sandwiched around a pinch-hit double. Ohman is getting very close to making the club as LOOGY specialist.

Odd sight #1: Jeromy Burnitz having to run over to the RF line on three consecutive pitches that were all fouled down the line, with no ballboy/girl there to retrieve it. He flung all of them into the seats.

Odd sight #2: A very large man dressed in White Sox cap and Magglio Ordonez jersey. Figured he got lost on his way to Tempe, where the Sox lost to the Angels today.

Tomorrow, another auditionee for a starting role, Ryan Dempster, will go against the Royals. Dempster's made the team in any event, but the way he's thrown so far this spring, and after today's disaster, we hope even more fervently for a fast Wood and Prior recovery.