MESA, Arizona -- If only today's 9-2 Cubs loss to the Indians had started in the ninth inning, instead of ended there.
The Cubs' farm system's latest Carlos Marmol/Randy Wells project, Jake Muyco -- who was drafted as a catcher in 2005 and who converted to pitching in 2008 after barely, just barely, hitting over the Mendoza line -- threw a 1-2-3 ninth inning (granted, against a couple of Indians wearing numbers in the 80's and 90's).
Then the Cubs pounded out three hits off of an actual major league reliever, Rafael Perez, and Micah Hoffpauir's two-out single drove in a pair of consolation runs, unearned due to a Cleveland error.
The rest of the game, not so much. Jeff Samardzija today, I think, definitively proved that he's got to go to Iowa, either to start or to get used to relieving (if it were up to me, the latter), because although he didn't pitch too badly, he didn't pitch that well, either. He did throw a couple of nice breaking balls for strikeouts, but also allowed four hits and two runs. I'll grant that the first run wasn't really his fault -- Derrek Lee made an ill-advised throw to third to try to get Austin Kearns, who had doubled, rather than take the easy groundout. The run possibly would have scored anyway on a subsequent ground ball -- which could have been a DP ball, except Bobby Scales airmailed a throw to D-Lee. (Airmail. Man, that dates me, right? Is airmail even a choice any more?)
After that it was open season on Cubs relievers. The two runs John Grabow gave up weren't his fault (and were unearned) as a result of a Jeff Baker bobble on what was a tough, but playable, ground ball -- if Baker makes that play, Grabow has a 1-2-3 inning; instead he gave up three more hits including a bunt that no play could be made on, and had to be pulled in favor of Jeff Stevens.
Which raises a question: with two weeks until Opening Day, why was much of this game pitched by relievers who have either already been assigned to minor league camp, or who have no chance of making the team, such as Stevens and Blake Parker? I can understand using Muyco in the 9th inning of a 9-0 blowout, but aren't there other guys who need the work who actually are part of the competition?
That said, can we now declare the Mike Parisi experiment over? Parisi faced four batters and gave up, in order: a ringing double down the LF line, a walk, another walk, a wild pitch, and then hit a batter before he was mercifully pulled in favor of Justin Berg. This team does not need another David Patton, who sits and rots in the bullpen for ten days and then gets pounded. I'll say it again: there's no reason that the Cubs need any more than 11 pitchers. I'd like to see that extra bench player, just to give Lou the versatility on the bench that he says he never has.
Speaking of which, Andres Blanco returned to game action for the first time in 16 days, and showed his defensive prowess, ranging far past 2B on a ground ball, and also catching a foul popup that normally would be the third baseman's ball. The Cubs need that kind of defense late in the game. I hope Blanco still has a shot at making the team.
The lineup, which was essentially the regular lineup without Aramis Ramirez, got shut down by Fausto Carmona, who looked really good in allowing only a pair of hits to Alfonso Soriano, a single and a double. Carmona has had a fine spring; he's the first pitcher I've seen go six innings this year, and he has a 0.69 spring ERA.
Speaking of Soriano, he still looks slow on the bases and did not hop while catching a fly ball in the first inning. Whether this is by design or because knee problems continue, I don't know.
Things heard today: the Cubs are still scouting relief pitchers. This does not mean a deal is imminent or even possible; teams scout players all the time. Also, all five remaining Cubs home spring games are sold out. Today's attendance of 12,327 (third largest of the spring) brought the spring total to 98,790 and the average to 10,977 -- larger than last year, and it'll likely be close to 11,500 when all is said and done.
Finally, just about the time the Cubs were rallying in the ninth, BCB reader socalicubsfan stopped by on the lawn to introduce himself. When Jessica then introduced herself as "Doggie Stalker", he bowed at her feet. It's a scene you had to see to believe. Ryan Dempster will face Luke Hochevar tomorrow at Surprise.