Before a very small gathering of 7,707 (which dropped the spring average to 10,961), the Cubs got shut out on two hits by the Angels, 11-0; in front of an even smaller crowd (4,242) at Maryvale, most of the Brewers' regulars came from behind to beat a squad of mostly sub Cubs 12-7.
Let's start in Mesa, where the lawn was barely half full and whole sections of seats remained empty, likely because many spring-breakers had departed Arizona and many local kids were back in school this week.
It didn't take long -- four batters -- for the Angels to take the lead off Carlos Zambrano. After a leadoff single and a slick double play, Brandon Wood singled and Mike Napoli hit a home run that cleared the scoreboard and came within a couple of feet of leaving the premises on the fly and landing in the parking lot -- that's a blast of at least 480 feet, maybe close to 500. The wind was blowing out to left field today, but that ball needed no help.
Meanwhile, Jered Weaver, who like Z will be his team's Opening Day starter, mowed down Cubs, allowing only a single to Xavier Nady and striking out nine. Angels reserve outfielder Terry Evans, who before this season had a total of 18 major league at-bats, went 5-for-5 with a double and a two-run homer off Esmailin Caridad (both runs off Caridad were unearned due to an error by Darwin Barney).
A few comments on the Maryvale game and on Xavier Nady after the jump.
Games like the one in Maryvale today were made necessary by the odd number of teams in both Florida and Arizona. Most teams in both states have several more split-squad days than they have had in past years. Usually, with one day remaining in camp, there would be no need to have such games; today, the Cubs sent only one starting player (Kosuke Fukudome) and three 25-man roster bench players (Koyie Hill, Chad Tracy, and Tyler Colvin) to play the Brewers, and the entire pitching staff sent consisted of minor leaguers. It got so wacky in Mesa that the Cubs finished the game with a backup catcher -- Robinson Chirinos -- in left field in place of Alfonso Soriano. He made one putout and did not hop.
The Angels, meanwhile, did not have a split-squad today, but only sent over a handful of regulars, giving most of their starters the day off. It's somewhat of a disservice to fans, playing what amounts to half a minor league game in front of paying customers, and it doesn't give any clue as to how the team will perform. The minor league Cubs took a 6-4 lead into the 8th inning before Alex Maestri and Brian Schlitter -- both of whom will play Double-A or below this year -- got tagged for eight runs, many of them scored by Brewers minor leaguers.
And that's not to mention the grand slam that Prince Fielder hit off Jay Jackson. Is that meaningful? Not a chance.
Now, about Nady. Jessica will be pleased to learn that he played his second game in right field today, and played all but the ninth inning. During his eight innings in the field, he made three catches -- all uneventful -- and had to make a relay throw only once, when pinch hitter Bobby Wilson doubled down the RF line in the eighth inning. When that happened, Darwin Barney, by then playing second base, came out much farther into right field to take a throw from Nady; Barney then relayed the ball to third base without incident.
And that's it. We are talking about a player who, by design, is scheduled to start once or twice a week. Which, in fact, is exactly what he has done this week: he started in right field on Sunday, and again today. I'd guess he'll start one of the games in Chase Field this weekend. Most outfield plays are routine; as I have written before, the only impact of Nady's inability to throw long distances will be having the second baseman go farther into the outfield for relays. And in the meantime, you have Nady's bat against lefthanded pitching.
Yes, Jessica, you have a point about having a fifth outfielder with the abilities Sam Fuld has. But the angst shown -- a little over the top, if you ask me. Speaking of Fuld, he came into the game for Marlon Byrd in CF in the 8th inning wearing the high socks, something I've never seen him do before. They made him look like he was about 5-foot-1.
Weather permitting, Carlos Silva will face Rockies lefthander Jeff Francis at Mesa tomorrow afternoon.