Unlike yesterday, today it is 34 degrees outside my window and for the last hour it has been puking snow, so I feel much more like Opening Day weather...
and so putting today's game on TV via ESPN made me feel much warmer, particularly seeing the sunshine which has escaped much of Arizona this winter, and the Cubs' easy 9-4 win over the Rangers was a pretty sight as well.
For the first time since game one of the spring, the Cubs did not play in front of a sellout -- 7,113 attended at Surprise Stadium, about 3,000 short of capacity. This isn't a -- ha ha -- surprise, given that it was Monday, early in the spring, well before spring break, and Surprise Stadium is, well, a pretty long drive from Mesa, where most Cub fans are headquartered. Still, it sounded like at least half the crowd was rooting for our favorites.
Greg Maddux gave up two runs in his two innings. So what? Maddux likes to work on things during the spring, as he told Gary Miller in a dugout-box interview after being lifted from the game (and I don't think I've ever seen a player dress and look composed quite as fast as Maddux did. He was showered, shaved, changed, in three innings' time, and looked like a guy out for a day on the golf course). Maddux was asked if he had to work less in spring given the fact that he's had so many years in the majors, and he perceptively said, no, he works harder since he realizes his stuff isn't what it was years ago. Thus, he has to, in his words, "pitch better".
Maddux never went to college, but he may be the smartest man in the game, or at least one of the smartest. If he chooses to, he'll make a great pitching coach or manager when he retires.
I'm not worried about the two runs he gave up, because he was throwing strikes, and that was one of the worrisome things about him early last season, that he couldn't find the plate. Joe Borowski threw his scheduled inning and also threw strikes, after nervously walking the leadoff hitter in the inning. The best thing I saw about Borowski was that he walked off the mound after the scoreless inning was over, NOT holding or favoring his right shoulder.
LaTroy Hawkins pitched the third inning. He didn't give up any runs, and it seems odd to have a setup man pitch that early in the game, but that is likely because Dusty Baker, as most managers, likes to use his minor leaguers and non-roster guys in the later innings, as he did today.
The Cubs hit Ranger scrubs (Lou Pote, trying to hang on, and a kid named Nicholas Masset) for three homers, one each by Jerry Hairston Jr., Angel Echevarria (ESPN spent an awfully long time showing the scoreboard shot of his uniform number with a silhouette rather than a picture, after the homer), and a long two-run bomb (hey! back to that again!) from Jason Dubois.
Good. I hope Dubois hits a homer every time he's in the lineup. Maybe that'll impress Dusty enough to play him.
Onward to split-squad games tomorrow.
Oh, and Eric Karros has a really bright future ahead of himself in the TV business. He's a terrific analyst, and he hasn't even been at that game for more than half a season.