MESA, Arizona -- Look, I realize it's early, and Carlos Silva could still be bad.
But today he was good. VERY good, as in enough-to-be-the-fifth-starter good. Will it continue? We don't know yet, but as I've been saying, it's still far too early to write him off.
On a sun-kissed day when the game time temperature was 75 (and reached 82 by game's end), Silva and four other Cubs pitchers shut down the Rangers for a 4-1 win this afternoon in Mesa. Silva gave up only two singles and hit one batter, and otherwise he was on his game. Of the 12 outs he recorded, three were by strikeout and five by ground ball -- no walks, meaning he was throwing strikes and keeping the ball down in the zone, exactly what he needs to do to succeed. He was also helped out by a nice diving grab by Mike Fontenot of an Elvis Andrus line drive in the first inning.
The Rangers had only one other hit, a solo homer to right field by top Texas prospect Justin Smoak off Marcos Mateo in the seventh inning. The Cub pitching staff combined for 12 strikeouts and only one walk (by Esmailin Caridad) today. James Russell threw a scoreless ninth with two K's -- granted, against Rangers subs.
The hitters, meanwhile, did just enough, putting together four straight hits in a nice two-out, nobody-on rally in the third off Neftali Feliz, who was supposed to go four innings, but got pulled after three. C.J. Wilson, pitching the final four frames for Texas, gave up the Cubs' other run, a solo homer to deep CF by Jeff Baker. Xavier Nady doubled twice today. Poor Micah Hoffpauir -- a year ago some here were saying he should replace Derrek Lee -- went 0-for-4, struck out twice, and is now hitting .120. I'm afraid Micah's future may be in Japan. (D-Lee and Aramis Ramirez, both out with minor injuries, should return on Thursday.)
Today's game was played in front of a sellout of 13,157 (somewhat of a surprise on a Tuesday, bringing the spring average after seven dates to 10,689) in a very quick 2:08. More of my personal impressions after the jump.
HoHoKam Park looks pretty much the same as it has over the last several seasons. There was a large booth just outside the main concourse where Fergie Jenkins and several baseball players from his era and later were signing autographs. Today's group included Pete LaCock, George Foster, Gaylord Perry, Rollie Fingers, Ron Robinson and Bill Buckner.
Concession choices appeared to be the same as last year, only more expensive. I heard about a "bison burger" being sold down the RF line -- never got over there, will have to check that out later. As for the souvenirs, particularly clothing... really, HoHoKams? $35 for a low-rise cap? $81 for a pullover? Despite the prices, there was a long line at the cash register, although I didn't really see what anyone was buying. Nothing was bought by me today. Parking is still $5 and the ticket prices are still in "reasonable" range, especially the lawn ticket at $8 -- but those souvenir prices are major-league or maybe even a little higher.
For a while before the game it appeared that the teams were going to attempt to confuse us. Both the Cubs and Rangers have a player named "Chad Tracy". The Cubs started their version at 3B today, and the Rangers were going to start their Chad Tracy, a 24-year-old 1B/OF who had 107 RBI in Double-A last year, at DH. At the last minute Texas' Tracy was scratched, though, for Smoak, who "smoaked" that HR for the Rangers' only run into the RF bullpen.
Nice to see some of the spring regulars as well as BCB readers BigJohnAz and mrcubsfan (who is here from Iowa). And always nice to see baseball in the sunshine and a Cubs win. Maybe Carlos Silva will be productive after all. We don't need him to do much -- just throw five or six innings much like today's as a fifth starter. I've said all along that Silva's upside is Jason Marquis. We'd take that.
Enjoy the off day tomorrow. Ryan Dempster throws against the Dodgers in Glendale on Thursday.