MESA, Arizona -- Mike's first spring training trip ends today with him seeing absolutely zero Cub wins, as they lost dispiritedly to the Padres 9-5 this afternoon on the warmest, most sun-drenched day since I arrived on the 17th. Temperatures reached 75, though it felt warmer, and the sky was filled with wispy cirrus clouds and an annoying buzzing little airplane towing a banner promoting a local morning disk jockey.
Here's what I mean by luck: Will Ohman, throwing for the third day in a row, faced four batters, walking two and getting the other two to pop up. After that, for some unfathomable reason, Dusty decided to switch to Stephen Randolph, the other LOOGY candidate.
Bang! Eric Young -- yes, the same guy who was a Cub four years ago and is nearly thirty-eight years old -- slammed a bases-clearing triple over Corey Patterson's head (doesn't it seem like I've written the words "over Corey Patterson's head" WAY too many times this month?) and then scored on a Randolph wild pitch. He'd have scored anyway on the next pitch, as Brian Giles singled up the middle.
Result: Ohman, who pitched OK, gets two ER in 0.2 IP and the loss. Randolph settled down, threw one more inning, and allowed just the run that Young scored.
Really, we should be more worried about Ryan Dempster. He will start game #3 of the regular season at Bank One Ballpark and he got hit hard for the second time in a row, allowing five runs in less than four innings, which is certainly less than Cubs brass hoped he would go today.
All told, Cub pitchers walked six Padre hitters, and four of them scored, and there's the difference in the game.
I was talking to a "reliable source" and we agreed that the Cub bullpen is perhaps the number one worry right now. He passed along the information that the Cubs are scouting Cliff Bartosh, a 25-year-old lefty who LOOGY'd 19 IP in 34 appearances for last year's Cleveland Indians.
Why not? He couldn't be much worse than what we have seen this month. LaTroy Hawkins, put in in a non-save situation, must have thought it was one, because the first two hitters got hits, resulting in a run, and the first hitter was Padres farmhand Drew Macias (no relation, but no major league hitter either. Come to think of it, maybe that would make him related to Jose, after a fashion).
The only Cub pitcher who showed well today was Michael Wuertz, who could be a real sleeper in the bullpen. I'd have to say he's very close to making the team, and if it were up to me I'd give him a shot at closing.
We do know this: Cub relievers can hit, at least. For the second time in a week a Cub reliever (Eddie Oropesa) batted and got a hit, a solid single up the middle. Oropesa's not going to make the club (and with a career ERA over 7, you should be happy about that), but it produced some unexpected cheers from the crowd, another sellout of 12,709.
For the first time, four Cub starters/regulars played the entire game: Patterson, Aramis Ramirez, Jeromy Burnitz and Nomar Garciaparra. Nomar made some slick fielding plays, and singled sharply right after Jeff said to me, "Bet he swings at the first pitch!"
Despite that, Mike's observation after the game today was that he hoped this was just what happens in spring training, as he didn't see or feel much energy from the ballclub in any of the three games he saw. I'd have to agree. They're going to have to step it up in the last week of camp.
The biggest hit today was a two-run David Kelton HR, his first of the spring, that landed about 30 feet to our left, and I hope lots and lots of scouts from other teams were here watching that. Kelton was removed in the 7th and I said to the assembled group, which included our California friends from Friday, that "Hey, maybe he's been traded!" There was a photo taken that included me, Mike, Jeff and Rob McMillin of the 6-4-2 Dodger/Angel blog -- but it was with Rob's camera, so he'll e-mail it to me when he gets back to California, and I'll post it here during the week.
Rob and I had spirited discussions about the West Coast teams, the NL Central and baseball in general, and in his recap yesterday he described me as voluble and jovial, and I'm not quite sure what he meant by that. Rob's wife Helen is a Cubs fan, which is why he attended two games at Ho Ho Kam Park, and they also brought their friends Jen and Jo, Padres fans, who helped me out today by identifying several minor-league Pads, and being surprised when backup catcher Miguel Ojeda played half the game in right field, at one point making a nice running catch, to which I said, "Well, that's why they had a catcher out there, right? To catch the ball?"
If Howard had been there he'd have smacked me with his clipboard.
Speaking of Howard, we called him during the game, pretty much just to make him jealous, and while he was talking to Jeff he said he had spotted Mike walking along the fence that was right behind us, near the scoreboard. How do we know this? Because he described precisely what Mike was wearing.
The Cubs made a minor deal yesterday, acquiring ex-White Sox and Brewer catcher Mark Johnson for minor league outfielder Travis Ezi. Johnson will back up top prospect Geovany Soto at Iowa, and be injury protection for Michael Barrett and Henry Blanco.
Sight seen: a very young-looking beer vendor wearing a shirt that was hand-stenciled on the front: "THE BEER BOY" and on the back "WATER IS FOR PLANTS".
Another sight seen: former major league pitcher Mike Fetters, standing in the back of the lawn section by himself. My understanding is that he is trying to become an agent. Later I spotted him on his cellphone. Could he have been talking to Jim Hendry?