MESA, Arizona -- Today was a day which begins a parade of various people to meet through the rest of spring training, friends and colleagues enjoying baseball.
Dan Moore, who runs the Chicago office of the Directors Guild of America, of which I am a member, was there with his wife and son, taking in a game for the first time in Mesa. They were grateful that I brought my blanket, because they forgot theirs!
I also got to briefly meet Paul Sullivan, Cubs beat writer for the Tribune. We were just getting involved in a conversation about the CBA when his cellphone rang -- it was Jim Hendry calling. Somehow I doubt that Sullivan was involved in any of Hendry's myriad of trade talks that he must be making after the Borowski injury, but work called, and Paul excused himself to run to the press box.
Ron and his wife Karen, denizens of the LF bleachers, who stay here every March for much of spring training, also stopped by to say hi.
The game? Well, the Cubs beat the Brewers 5-4 in a game that I thought was deadly dull, but when George and Bill came over about the sixth inning to say "Great game, huh?", what was I going to do? Disagree?
George, as I mentioned the other day, still has his ticket wristband on. When he packed up to leave, his quip was: "They just called my number!"
OK, that's a dumb joke, but there it is.
It was the warmest day so far -- 76 degrees, a few cirrus clouds running on by, and another sellout of 12,742 was in attendance. The lawn was very crowded, almost more so than I've seen it on some weekend days.
John Koronka was brought back over from the minor league camp to start today. It should have been Greg Maddux' turn, but I suspect Dusty is now trying to get his regular season rotation, now announced as Zambrano, Maddux and Dempster at Arizona, with Kerry Wood possible for the home opener, in order.
Koronka had a shaky first, allowing the first three batters solid hits, but he got Carlos Lee to hit into a run-scoring DP, and that was the only run he allowed. He'll be in the Iowa rotation and perhaps could help out later in the summer or as a September callup.
The rest of today's pitchers: Jon Leicester, Will Ohman, Mike Remlinger, Todd Wellemeyer and Chad Fox -- all threw well.
Well, except Fox, and I'll get to him in a moment.
Leicester allowed what should have been a unearned run (it was called earned, I suppose, because one batter later, there was a routine fly to right which would have scored the run) when Jerry Hairston, starting in CF today, misjudged a fly ball hit by J. J. Hardy and let it soar over his head, then made a bad relay throw, letting Hardy score. It's been written that Hairston looks good in the OF, but I wonder what games those writers are watching. The ones I've seen, Hairston looks like he has no clue out there, and that goes for all three outfield positions.
More work, obviously, is needed and so I'd expect to see Hairston start nearly every day in one of the OF positions.
Offensively, the Cubs struck out six times against former Braves prospect (acquired by Milwaukee in the Danny Kolb deal) Jose Capellan, but they ripped four solid hits off him in the 3rd, including Jeromy Burnitz' second spring homer. Nomar hit his sixth in the seventh off Rick Helling (when I heard he was in the game, I said, "is he still hanging around?" Yes, wearing #60, a spring training number if ever I've seen one.), the eventual difference in the game, and also had a single and double.
Nomar is ready. You can just see his quiet determination to get back to his All-Star level of play in everything he does on the field.
Now, about Chad Fox. He got ripped, there's no two ways about it. Russell Branyan led off the 9th with a 450-foot homer off him; then he gave up four more hits in a row, and it would have resulted in more runs except for a nice David Kelton throw from RF, throwing one of the runners out trying to stretch a hit into a double.
And the game ended and Fox's two-run, five-hit inning qualified for a save, when Angel Echevarria dropped a double-play relay, but the runner was ruled out and the game over for interference... which brought Ned Yost out of the Brewer dugout to argue, something you never see in a spring game.
More work, obviously, is needed.
I will not be traveling to Tucson for tomorrow's game with the D'backs. However, Jeff, Krista and Carolyn have decided it is a nice day for a drive south, so they'll go and report back to me, and you'll see it here late tomorrow.
And you can also watch the game on ESPN2 at 2:05 CT.
Finally -- anybody find it very odd that with Barry Bonds under steroid suspicion, and about to challenge the homer marks of Henry Aaron and Babe Ruth, that suddenly he may be 'out for the season'?
Well, I do. But maybe that's just me.