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Getting Your Spring Training Money's Worth: Cubs 8, Royals 8

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SURPRISE, Arizona -- There's not much entertainment you can purchase these days for $7. Movies are $10 or more; most baseball tickets are $20 for spring games (if you want seats) and $40 and up for the regular season.

Seven dollars got me a nice spot on the lawn this afternoon at Surprise, right behind the Royals' bullpen, to see just about everything you might want to see on a baseball field -- except a Cubs victory. Instead, the Cubs and Royals fought to an 8-8 tie, which would have ended 45 minutes earlier had it not been for Kosuke Fukudome.

Yes, Fukudome, who had been virtually completely silent all day, again not hitting the ball out of the infield in his first four at-bats (though hitting the ball hard off Royals 1B Mike Jacobs' glove in the third), dropped an easy fly ball in the 8th after calling Reed Johnson off (Johnson had the ball easily and had apparently called Dome off first), allowing two runs to score, and then helped put the Cubs back in the game by smacking a laser beam line drive onto the right-field berm in the 9th. That made the score 8-7 Royals, and then a couple of subs, Joey Gathright and minor leaguer Kyle Reynolds, tied the game at 8, all off the Royals' closer, Joakim Soria.

That's where it ended after ten innings. Other highlights of yet another sunny afternoon in Arizona (we were all amused on the lawn when the PA announcer, discussing a local chain of restaurants, said we should go to its "Surprise location". Well, was he going to tell us where it was or not?), attended by 8,859, well under a sellout: Rich Harden got hit pretty hard, allowing a pair of homers to Alex Gordon and another to Mark Teahen. On the other hand, Harden struck out five, walked a pair and allowed only one single to the 17 Kansas City hitters he faced. It doesn't look that great in the box score, but I imagine Harden had to be satisfied with his first turn on a major league mound in several weeks.

Carlos Marmol threw like the Marmol we've come to know and love over the last couple of years, getting Jose Guillen to pop up and striking out Jacobs and Billy Butler. Angel Guzman threw well -- the runs he allowed came in after he left the game, as a result of a single allowed to Butler by Jeff Samardzija, and then on the error by Fukudome. Perhaps a trade may still be in the works for Guzman.

Lou -- and KC manager Trey Hillman -- managed this game more like a regular season game than a spring game. For KC, all the starters save Guillen played the entire game, and Lou stayed with his starting nine until Alfonso Soriano was lifted after the top of the seventh. Micah Hoffpauir got six at-bats today -- you don't see that very often in a spring game. He had only one hit, but played a competent 1B and has now made the team as a pinch-hitter/backup 1B/backup outfielder, and let's hope he doesn't have to play outfield very often. Hoffpauir can hit, no doubt about it. Let's hope he can hit when he's getting six at-bats every ten days instead of six in one game. Also in the "regular season managing" category, Lou needed a LOOGY in the 8th and called on Jason Waddell, who was long ago sent back to the minor league camp. He got his man -- Jacobs -- on one pitch. While Waddell didn't make the team, Lou likes him and I'd watch for him for possible recall later. (Maybe that's why some of those 40-man roster spots were left open; Waddell was a non-roster invitee, but could be added to the 40-man before camp is over.)

Milton Bradley raked again today, with three singles and a double; he also walked and scored. That raised his spring average to .524 (yes, that's right, FIVE-twenty-four) before he was lifted for pinch-runner Gathright. Gathright then replaced Dome in CF, which led me to wonder if Lou realized he'd lost the DH rule at the time. He figured it out, pinch-hitting Ryan Theriot for Samardzija when his turn came up in the 10th. Theriot, with a chance to give the Cubs the lead, sent a fly ball to center.

We got to see not one, but two ex-Cubs throw for KC today; Juan Cruz, who's made himself into one of baseball's better setup men, came in got Aramis Ramirez on a nasty breaking ball to end the 7th, and good ol' Dr. Tightpants (Kyle Farnsworth) showed flashes of his old Cubs form by getting Mike Fontenot and Koyie Hill on strikes. Hill has two hits and a walk today and I believe he will do a fine job backing up Geovany Soto.

Tomorrow, Sean Marshall will make his final spring start (after which his first turn in the rotation will likely be skipped, making him available in the pen) against the Angels' Nick Adenhart. Other Angels pitchers who will throw will include Brian Fuentes (who, attempting to take over at closer for them, has a 9.53 spring ERA), Scot Shields and Kevin Jepsen. For the Cubs, expect to see David Patton again -- I think Lou is trying every which way to get him on the Opening Day roster -- and maybe even the missing-in-action new closer, Kevin Gregg, who by the time he takes the mound tomorrow (if he does) will not have thrown in a major league game in a week. The game will be televised on the MLB Network (with the Angels TV feed).

Finally, I have dissed the Royals at times in past years when seeing them in spring games. Not this year -- that lineup, which is pretty close to their regular lineup, could actually score some runs. Alex Gordon is a stud who looks like he could have a breakthrough year. If Hillman can keep Guillen focused and get some good outings out of his pitching rotation, the Royals could surprise a lot of people in 2009.