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Chicago Cubs vs. Oakland Athletics Preview, Thursday 3/17, 3:05 CT: Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- The Cubs begin the "second half" of spring training today; 21 games have been played, and the split-squad season is over, and 13 games remain. That's not exactly an even split, but usually teams have a single day off during the spring season, and with the Cubs' only off day being yesterday and 18 roster cuts having been made on Tuesday, we should begin to see games this month more resemble major-league games, with pitchers going into the sixth (this week) and seventh (next week) inning, and fewer guys over from the minor league camp playing the last three innings of games.

About half the Cubs are probably wondering if today is deja vu; they played the A's in their 1960s era ballpark, Phoenix Muni, on Tuesday, and will do so again today. I've always wondered why, when Phoenix Muni was renovated in 2005, they didn't put a grass berm in the outfield as there are in all the other Arizona spring training parks. There's certainly enough land to do so. Phoenix Muni was originally built in 1964 and was the home of the Triple-A team that was the Giants' affiliate until 1992, when that team moved to the new Scottsdale Stadium. It's a nice enough park with decent sightlines, but even with the renovation, it feels dated.

Here's an interesting article about Cubs lefty Scott Maine, who still has a shot at making the bullpen this year. He's pitched only five spring innings so far, though.

Ryan Dempster makes his fourth spring start today. He went five innings in his last outing and looked really good -- will he become the first Cubs starter to go into the sixth today? John Grabow gets his first game action since Feb. 27 today -- he's been out with shoulder troubles. Also scheduled to throw today are Jeff Samardzija, Sean Marshall and Kerry Wood. The A's will counter with Gio Gonzalez. Other A's pitchers who should throw today: Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes, Guillermo Moscoso and Brad Ziegler. Complete lineups after the jump.

Cubs lineup:

Baker 2B Castro SS Byrd CF Ramirez 3B Soto C Pena 1B Soriano LF Fukudome RF Dempster P

I like this lineup -- could very well be the team's lineup vs. LHP. Once again, the Cubs will have a pitcher bat at an AL park, while the home team uses the DH.

A's lineup:
Crisp CF Barton 1B DeJesus RF Willingham LF Matsui DH Suzuki C Ellis 2B Kouzmanoff 3B Pennington SS

Here's all the media information for today.

MLB.com Gameday for today's game

Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today. The game is on MLB.com audio with Len Kasper and Mick Gillispie.

Please visit our SB Nation Athletics site Athletics Nation.

There will be an overflow thread posting at 4:30 p.m. CDT. As usual, the overflow thread will NOT post on the front page but will be in the "Recent Stories In Game Threads" box on the right sidebar. If you need an extra overflow thread beyond that one, post it in the FanShot section.

Discuss amongst yourselves.