SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- This one, I skipped due to the parking lot situation at Camelback Ranch (and also, I had some other things I needed to get done today). Thus, I saw the Cubs' 4-3 win over the White Sox on TV with everyone else.
One thing I could not figure out: was the failure to identify Cub replacements in the field deliberate on the part of the Sox announcers? They should have a roster in front of them and a list of the Cubs' traveling team. Yet they failed to identify Matt Camp, who came in to play left field (and later, shortstop), and Augie Ojeda. Both of those players are listed on the Cubs' non-roster list.
Anyway, today was another day of fine pitching on the part of the Cubs -- until, that is, the ninth inning, when Jeff Samardzija was touched up for three hits, culminating with a two-run homer off the bat of Lastings Milledge, who hit all of four home runs last year with the Pirates. This was after Ryan Dempster (who became the first Cubs starter to go five innings this spring), Sean Marshall, Thomas Diamond and Scott Maine held the White Sox to three hits over the first eight innings.
Yes, I know. It's "just" spring. But the Shark now has an 8.44 ERA and two HR allowed in five innings. Yes, I know it will cost the Cubs money if they just release him. But can they really afford to keep him?
Carlos Pena had a pair of hits and his first home run of the spring, a long blast into right-center field. Geovany Soto had two hits and is now hitting .333, and even though Marlon Byrd went 0-for-3, it was really his first bad game of the spring; his average is "down" to .565.
Attendance today was good -- the biggest crowd to see the Cubs this spring, 11,599. Other games: Diamondbacks/Angels at Tempe, 8,038; Rangers/Reds at Surprise, 6,062; Dodgers/Athletics at Phoenix, 4,898; Athletics/Brewers at Maryvale, 3,801; Mariners/Indians at Goodyear, 3,621 and Royals/Rockies at Talking Stick, 9,790. Some of these numbers are up (the Angels and Rockies games in particular), but the others still seem low. We'll see if things continue to improve this weekend.
One thing I learned today, when I was over in Mesa this morning for another purpose, was that when the Cubs play an away game, they dress and hit at HoHoKam and then bus over to the other park. These practices are open to the public and free. There were maybe 30-40 people watching, then waiting for autographs near the team bus when it left about 10:45.
One player who did not take the bus was Marlon Byrd. How do I know this? Because when I pulled out of the parking lot, I was behind a maroon Maserati with Texas plates. Pulling alongside it at a light, there was Byrd, in full uniform, with one of his teammates, heading to Glendale. I didn't recognize the other player -- it could have been Augie Ojeda, but I'm not certain. Nice wheels, though, Marlon.
Tomorrow, half the squad heads to Las Vegas, where James Russell will start against the Reds' Mike Leake. In the other split-squad game, also against the Reds, Carlos Silva gets the start for the Cubs, while Cincinnati will counter with Homer Bailey. The Vegas game is on WGN-TV; the Mesa game is on WGN Radio with Pat and Zonk -- I'll be back reporting from Mesa tomorrow.