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Sunny Day! Chasing The Clouds Away!

PHOENIX, Arizona -- I suppose I have that Sesame Street song in my head because I watched my friends Mark & Gail chase their two little boys all over the lawn at Maryvale Baseball Park this afternoon, and I mean ALL afternoon, as the Cubs beat the Brewers 13-6 in an ugly mess of a game in which the first two innings took nearly an hour (and the whole thing, three hours and twenty-one minutes, which meant fighting rush-hour traffic on the way home), and before it was over, Will Cunnane, who pitched for the Cubs in 2002, was announced as one of the Cubs' pitchers (he threw a scoreless inning).

I cannot find any references explaining when or how the Cubs picked up Cunnane. However, as first reported right here at Bleed Cubbie Blue on Sunday, the Cubs acquired LOOGY candidate Cliff Bartosh from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Ronald Bay, a 22-year-old righty who was likely going to spend 2005 at Daytona.

With neither Will Ohman nor Stephen Randolph stepping up, Bartosh will no doubt get every opportunity to make the Opening Day roster. I'd expect to see him in a game just as soon as he arrives from Cleveland's spring camp in Florida.

It was indeed a sunny day today, a bit coolish (about 70 at game time, and usually at Maryvale they announce the temperatures in Milwaukee and the opponent's city, but I know it was in the 60's today in Milwaukee and Chicago, so they didn't bother doing this). I like Maryvale a lot; the park is airy and open, they have reasonably priced food at grill stands, and bring parts of Miller Park with them for the "flavor" of home, including the "Secret Stadium Sauce", a spicy barbeque sauce, and also the Racing Sausages, who did have the 6th-inning sausage race (I believe the Polish won, but I wasn't really paying that close attention).

Before the game there was a large crowd at a table just inside the entryway. Looking closer, I found that if you filled out a short survey on how you got to the game, you received one of four Brewer "mini-bobbleheads" that were leftovers from Miller Park giveaways last year.

So, for about two minutes of my time, I am now the proud owner of a very cute mini-Ben Sheets bobblehead, which will be set up right next to my Moises Alou "Celebriduck" and my Kyle Farnsworth bobblehead. Kyle's head kind of bobbled naturally, so he's a perfect bobblehead subject.

In addition to the somewhat cool temperatures and a gorgeous blue sky, it was quite breezy today -- we had to weight down the blankets with all kinds of bags, shoes, etc. -- and you'd think that would have helped the offense.

The Cub offense didn't need the wind; Brewer pitchers obliged. Take heart, Cubs fans -- I have found a bullpen worse than ours. Today, as noted in the gameday thread, the Brewers trotted out six relief pitchers. Only Mike Adams, one of their regular setup guys, was unscored-upon, throwing a shutout ninth against mostly minor leaguers, though he got Jason Dubois looking on one of those pitches you suspect umpires call because they're tired of being out there in blowout games.

Otherwise Cub hitters had eighteen hits and NINE walks today, and the two biggest blows were a three-run rocket by Derrek Lee that nearly left the premises entirely -- probably over 450 feet -- and in his next at-bat Lee sent a shot our way in right-center that hit the very top of the wall, nearly another three-run bomb; he settled for a two-run double and 5 RBI on the day. The Cubs' six runs in the second were all unearned following a Lyle Overbay error.

Virtually everyone hit -- Jeromy Burnitz went 3-for-3, Jerry Hairston had four hits and scored twice; Michael Barrett singled and doubled, and it was gratifying to see Dave Hansen, who got the start at 3B today, get three hits. He did not have any fielding chances, but it appears that Dusty is trying to get him quite a bit of playing time, and I think there's still a chance he might make the Opening Day roster instead of Jose Macias.

Pitching-wise, let's just say it's a good thing the Cubs scored 13 runs. Sergio Mitre was awful again today, allowing four runs iin three innings, walking one and hitting a batter. Maybe the Cubs need a spare starter until Mark Prior comes back, but I don't see anything in Mitre that says "major league starting pitcher" on him.

Chad Fox threw for the second day in a row, this time to only one batter, who he retired on a popup. Eddie Oropesa -- why did this guy ever have a major league job? -- was terrible again, and LaTroy Hawkins pitched the 9th in a non-save situation, and even then dragged the inning out to about 15 minutes by issuing a walk and a single. I spotted Hawkins hanging out in the Brewers' bullpen down the RF line about the third inning -- what was up with that?

Mike Wuertz was again impressive. He did walk a batter but retired the other three quickly and efficiently. He is quietly having a very good spring, and among guys like him, Todd Wellemeyer and Jon Leicester, Wuertz appears to have the upper hand on a roster spot, and if Dusty Baker and Jim Hendry want to think outside the box for a moment, they just might have a sleeper candidate for closer in Wuertz.

I like the grass berm at Maryvale -- it's huge, but very steep -- you can't really sit on the front 20 feet or so because of the steepness and not being able to see over the wall. It's fun for little kids to tumble down the hill, though. Today's crowd of 7,348 is about twice what the Brewers normally draw, and again, as is the case for many Cub "away" games during spring training, it was about 2/3 Cub fans. Parking, which was the most expensive in the Cactus League last year at $7, was reduced $1 to $6, a slight break, but still more than any other team charges.

Finally, an off-the-wall idea: the Brewers released former Cub #1 draft pick Brooks Kieschnick today.

For the last two years Kieschnich has been a fairly effective two-way player, a middle reliever who can also pinch-hit with a bit of power.

Now, you'll say: if the Brewers have a bad bullpen (they do) and they can't use Kieschnick, what use is he to the Cubs?

Well... spring training stats can be deceiving, as you well know. Case in point: Glendon Rusch for last year's Rangers in camp. He got released. And we are happy.

I think Kieschnick's worth at least a look. If there's no room for him on the major league roster, and there may not be, maybe he'd agree to go to Iowa, with the deal Rod Beck got (and Rusch got too) a couple of years ago: if he's not called up by such-and-such date, or if he gets another major league offer, the Cubs will grant his release.

Food for thought, anyway.