MESA, Arizona -- "Don't Rusch Me". "Rusch Hour". "Rusching Home". I've got a million of 'em.
Nope. Not today. Not me.
But today was the Glendon Rusch story, as he put up his best performance of the spring, throwing five one-hit innings and the Cubs beat the Mariners 6-1.
Or, at least they beat people wearing Mariners uniforms. The only player at Ho Ho Kam today in a Seattle uniform who is guaranteed an Opening Day start was left fielder Raul Ibanez. No Sexson. No Ichiro. No Johjima. No Beltre.
Who, perhaps not coincidentally, got the only hit off Rusch, a line-drive single that drove in their only run, after Willie Bloomquist (can anyone explain to me why Bloomquist is on a major-league roster? His career stats almost make Neifi's look good.) had walked and stolen second base.
Rusch settled down after that and even though he issued a couple more walks, he got out of two innings with double plays, one of which he started himself -- after Neifi made a bonehead play, trying to catch the lead runner going from second to third with one out, and failing.
Why any player tries to do this is beyond me. In that situation, when you have a sure out at first, why would you risk having first-and-third with one out, when you could have a runner on third only and two out?
Anyway, no harm done when the DP ended the inning.
Meanwhile, Aramis Ramirez continued his hot-hotter-hottest spring hitting, with two more hard-hit doubles and two RBI, raising his spring average to .600. I had to look at that stat line twice to make sure, but Aramis really is 21-for-35 with 15 RBI. Amazing.
Caveat: last year, Nomar Garciaparra was hitting like this in the spring, looked like he was set up for a monster year, then fell flat on his face and got hurt two weeks into the season. Speaking of Nomar, his kid brother Michael was inserted in the game late at 2B, and Will Ohman struck him out in his only at-bat.
Of course, every year is different, and Aramis looks both in shape and determined to have a year for the ages. He is 27 -- turns 28 in June -- the age at which most players turn in their best season. And the Cubs could use a monster year like that; if Derrek Lee even comes close to what he put up in 2005, that's some real pressure off the rest of the offense.
Lee, for his part, returned and promptly got hit with the second pitch he saw - right on the shoulder that he hurt in the WBC. No big deal; he stayed in the game and doubled himself later and scored what would be the eventual winning run.
Four other Cub pitchers also gave up only one hit -- a single by career minor-leaguer Greg Dobbs -- although, I was again at a loss to understand why Dusty called for Ryan Dempster with two out in the ninth and another left-handed hitter due up for Will Ohman to face.
What was the point? To get Dempster five pitches worth of work?
... shaking head ruefully ... Especially when there's a split-squad game coming up on Sunday, when a lot of pitchers could get work.
Scott Williamson was also called upon mid-inning to get one out, but there was a point to that -- to see how Williamson would react throwing two days in a row, something he'll certainly have to do during the season. He retired the only batter he faced on a lazy fly to left.
I sat for a while with Brian and his friend Jim. Jim says he reads BCB every day but hasn't quite figured out how to post. I told him it's easy, to jump right on in! After they sat for a while, marveling at how fast Felix Pie is (he turned a routine single into a double in the Cubs' four-run fifth inning), they went over behind RF where a putting green had been set up where you can win prizes for getting a hole-in-one (or something like that).
Jim came back later to report that he had won a free trip to Las Vegas. Cool!
Dave was also there today, stopped by before he went to his seat behind the dugout to say that he enjoys Arizona -- he's spent most of his spring trainings in Florida up to now, decided to check out the Cactus League this year. He said that the weather was better than Florida, though you wouldn't have known that Sunday, Monday or Tuesday -- and it was, absolutely, today, with hazy, lazy cirrus clouds floating on by, and temperatures reaching the lower 80s, which is where it's supposed to stay the rest of the week. I was surrounded by quite a few Mariners fans, and it seemed like most of them were wearing Gonzaga t-shirts, too.
Sign seen, and I saw this one also on Tuesday: a nine- or ten-year-old kid with a sign saying "FIRE BAKER" on one side, and the other side reading "Matt Murton Is The Best Leftfielder in Major League Baseball".
No, I don't think he was one of Murton's relatives. No red hair, for one thing.
Hey, I'd love for that sign to come true. Murton had a walk and a two-run single today, though he got himself picked off first base after the walk, and also had a poor at-bat his first time up, swinging at a bad first pitch and popping up with a runner on second and nobody out. It's true, he's not the most graceful left fielder I've ever seen. He is also far from the worst. If he hits, you can live with league-average defense.
Finally, Neifi homered today, his second of the spring. Though it came in my direction, it was caught right at the wall by a young guy with a glove. In fact, he almost had to reach over the fence to catch it. Yes, Neifi batted second today. No, he's not going to hit second for 350 AB this year, as one of the game-thread commenters wrote.
He's a backup. Period. He's a decent backup.
Finally, some good transaction news:
Mateo's not nearly major-league ready, but he could become a sleeper in a couple of years. Obviously, the Cardinals saw the same thing in him, that they couldn't stash him on their 25-man roster for the entire season. So this potential loss becomes a minor leaguer to watch for the future; he'll either return to Daytona or be at West Tenn this year.