SURPRISE, Arizona -- Sean Marshall should get the last spot in the Cubs' rotation.
There, I said it.
All of Marshall's outings this spring -- four of them -- have been good and today's was outstanding; he allowed three singles and a walk and struck out five (two of them called on nice bendy curveballs) and would have gotten out of it unscathed except for Chad Tracy's error in the first inning which allowed the Rangers' only run (unearned).
Tracy had put the Cubs in the lead in the top of the first with a three-run double and drove in a pair in the six-run sixth with another double, two of the Cubs' 17-hit, six-walk, 12-1 pounding of the Rangers in front of a crowd of 8,332 at Surprise Stadium that seemed about two-thirds Cubs fans.
Among the other candidates for this spot, Carlos Silva has been decent but not great; Tom Gorzelanny (who throws tomorrow against the Diamondbacks in Tucson) has walked too many, and Jeff Samardzija ought to be learning how to be a setup man. Marshall, four years after he made the team out of spring training before he was really ready for it, deserves the spot. Silva can fill in until Ted Lilly is ready and then go to the bullpen. Suddenly, the Cub rotation and pen looks better, especially after Jeff Gray made his first spring appearance in today's game. He gave up a harmless infield hit that no one could have fielded and got two groundouts in a scoreless inning.
Meanwhile, Tracy & Co. were slamming hits all over the field against four Ranger pitchers; the only one who came out unscored-upon was Willie Eyre, brother of former Cub Scott Eyre, who threw a scoreless ninth against three Cub scrubs and Micah Hoffpauir, who went 0-for-2 with a walk and, with a .243 spring average, is probably not going to make the team. I do feel bad for Hoffpauir, who paid a tremendous amount of minor-league dues (over 2800 minor league plate appearances, including parts of six different seasons at Triple-A), but whose baseball career might have to continue in Japan.
I still don't understand, when we are now ten days from Opening Day, why Lou is using pitchers in relief who either have been already cut (Jeff Stevens) or who have zero chance of making the team (Brian Schlitter). There are jobs to be won, or so it would seem. Mike Parisi redeemed himself after his horrid appearance on Monday with a scoreless inning (one walk), but I suspect he'll either find himself back in Cardinals camp or the Cubs will make some sort of minor-league deal with St. Louis so they can send him to Iowa.
Other Cubs who hit well today: Kosuke Fukudome, 3-for-3 with a walk, raising his spring average to .286; Mike Fontenot, 2-for-4, and Andres Blanco, 2-for-2 with a walk. While Fontenot has played OK at shortstop, Blanco is so much better defensively than any infielder the Cubs have in camp that I think they have to keep him.
The Cubs will make their last-ever spring training trip to Tucson tomorrow. Tom Gorzelanny will take one last shot at making the rotation, and though I hate to root against anyone, I'd much rather see Sean Marshall get that rotation slot. The D'backs will counter with Dan Haren; the Cubs will also face Arizona relievers Chad Qualls and Juan Gutierrez; D'backs manager A.J. Hinch says Gutierrez has been his "most impressive reliever this spring".
Random note: Alfonso Soriano wore #80 today; similar story, apparently, as to why Mike Fontenot wore #88 at Camelback Ranch one day last week, they both forgot their jerseys. Why it's up to the player and not the equipment manager to remember the jerseys, I have no idea.
Finally, in an inscrutable move that could only be done by a professional sports stadium, consider this entry policy at Surprise Stadium. There are two primary entrances, both off the main parking lot north of the park. One is in center field, where the ticket booths are. The other is in the left field corner. When I arrived at about 11:05 am, parked closest to the LF entrance, I found it was closed, even though all the ticket takers were standing there with scanners. They said, "If you want to go in, you can go in through CF." Since I was waiting for some friends and it wasn't crowded, I decided to wait. And why is one entrance open and the other not? Reason given: "So people can go in and watch batting practice."
Great, except neither team took BP today.