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I Have Seen The Future...

PHOENIX, Arizona -- ... and it's a lot like the present, only longer.

OK, that's a dumb throwaway line, and I wish I could take credit for it, but it was originally uttered by one of baseball's better wits, the late Royals relief pitcher, Dan Quisenberry.

But I did see a lot of the Cubs' future today and I very much liked what I saw.

For those of you who followed the 16-4 blowout of the Mariners in Mesa, you'll have to fill in the blanks, as all I know about that game is what I see in the boxscore -- home runs galore, including two from Michael Barrett. It appears that Wade Miller was a bit shaky (so is the fifth starter slot now an open competition again?), and Neal Cotts threw two good innings, for the first time this spring.

Meanwhile, I was at the Brewers' very nice ballpark located in an out-of-the-way section of Phoenix, to see a few regulars (Jones, DeRosa, Murton) and some of the kids defeat the Brewers 11-7 in a sloppy mess of a game in which five errors (four by the Brewers) were committed and in which Cubs hitters drew seven walks, three of them by Mark DeRosa (and he scored all three times).

Read that again. Seven walks, and the bases got unclogged with runs scoring three times via walks. Yes, the game was long, but if games are going to be long this year because Cub hitters are being patient and working counts, I'm all for it.

Photos by Al

That's what Sean Gallagher looked like warming up before the game. He's listed at 6-1, but doesn't look that tall -- maybe because of those pants hugging the tops of his shoes. His line -- three innings, three runs, including a two-run HR by Bill Hall that skipped off the top of the wall onto the berm -- doesn't look that great, but I thought he threw well, threw strikes (walked only one), and challenged hitters. He was facing the Brewers' likely Opening Day lineup, and breezed through the first two innings before giving up a couple of hits in the third, including a RBI double by relief pitcher Zach Jackson, who had come into the game after the Cubs beat the living daylights out of 21-year-old Brewer prospect Yovani Gallardo in the first inning.

Felix Pie (who the PA announcer mispronounced as "pee-AH" the first time up) led off with a single. DeRosa singled, and then Jacque Jones slammed a three-run homer. After Daryle Ward reached on an error (a tough error -- it was a hard smash off Prince Fielder's glove that could have been called a hit), two more hits resulted in two more runs.

Pie (the PA guy must have been told that Felix's name is pronounced like his job, because he got it right the rest of the day) had two more hits, including a triple that rattled around for a while and allowed him to show off his speed. Jones singled in addition to his HR, and Ward had two doubles. On the second double, virtually any other hitter in baseball would have at least tried for third base, but Ward stopped at second standing up, looking almost winded to have had to run that far.

The man can hit. But he's going to be a statue in the field. He did make a couple of slick plays today, but they were of the "Hey! Look what I found in my glove!" variety.

What was more interesting defensively was Jones in CF. He played competently, and I can see scenarios like this: Soriano starts a game in CF, and Jones in RF. In the late innings, Soriano shifts to LF, Jones to CF, and either DeRosa, Ryan Theriot, or whoever makes the team between Angel Pagan and Buck Coats comes on to play RF.

Pagan played half today's game and also walked, and stole a base off J. D. Closser, who's trying to make the Brewers as a backup.

More future: Sean Marshall made his spring debut today, throwing effectively for one inning, allowing a hit, then striking out Rickie Weeks swinging and getting J. J. Hardy to hit into a double play. Ryan O'Malley, who may not be long for the organization, threw two innings -- one good one, but that was after he had allowed a monstrous three-run homer over the CF hitter's background to Brewers prospect Ryan Braun.

Roberto Novoa -- who someone here said was hurt -- also threw an inning, allowing a single. And then, I got to see Rocky Cherry throw for the first time this spring.

Cherry throws hard. Really hard. He's all arms, almost throwing across his body, but the pitches somehow wind up in the strike zone. He doesn't fool around -- each of the three hitters he faced hit the ball hard, but fortunately right at fielders, so he had a 1-2-3 inning. All of the hitters Cherry faced in the 9th -- Gabe Gross, Corey Hart, and Craig Counsell -- are major league hitters, so this was a good test for him. I'd like to see more, but it seems to me that if the Cubs are looking deeper into the organization for a bullpen arm if Kerry Wood and/or Michael Wuertz aren't ready, Cherry could step in to do the job.

The crowd of 5,476 was about half capacity, and about half Cub fans, and clearly cut down on the Mesa crowd (8,625 in Mesa today, and obviously, I wasn't the only one who drove to Maryvale to see the Cubs). That's about 2,000 more than the Brewers would draw if they were playing, say, the Royals.

I like the park at Maryvale -- it feels open and airy and the berm is huge and never very crowded. Odd pricing on food -- the grilled cheeseburger, which I had and which is the equal of any of the new food in Mesa, was $5 (compared to the $7 sandwiches in Mesa). But the 20-ounce bottle of Diet Coke was $4 (compared to $3 in Tempe).

Incidentally, the boxscore is incorrect -- it has Blanco batting in Ward's spot without an at-bat, but Blanco (who did play first base) actually went into the 8th spot after O'Malley came out of the game, and lined out to left field in the 9th.

Tomorrow, if I can find out what the minor-league schedule is at Fitch Park, I may head over there to watch a game, since the major league team is making its final 2007 trip to Tucson, this time to take on the Rockies.