MESA, Arizona -- You'd barely have known that it's only five days until Opening Day, from the Cubs' 6-4 loss to the Rockies on a sunny, pleasant day in Mesa. The loss eliminates any chance the Cubs could have a winning spring; they're 14-17 with two games left.
Brett Jackson and Bryan LaHair, two guys who will be starting at Iowa, were in the starting lineup and the rest of the regulars departed in the eighth inning in favor of other people from the minor league camp, not players who will be on the Cubs bench this year (save Koyie Hill, who struck out again and is now 1-for-29 -- .034 -- this spring). Without a way to get into the head of Mike Quade, isn't it about time that the regulars started playing full games? Or that bench players who are going to serve certain roles during the regular season start getting into those roles? It would have been useful, for example, to see Tyler Colvin get some more time at first base today instead of having LaHair there.
Further, Ryan Dempster had kind of a messy start; he threw only four innings, giving up three runs and issuing a pair of walks. A couple of the runs might not have scored if Jackson had turned the right way on fly balls. He seemed a bit tentative in center field; hope this isn't a sign of things to come. On the other hand, the Cubs might have scored some more runs early in the game, but for some outstanding catches in center by Rockies CF Dexter Fowler.
James Russell replaced Dempster and had two good innings and then got touched for a pair of runs, one of which scored when Alfonso Soriano missed a diving catch in left field. He made up for it later in the inning by throwing out Jonathan Herrera trying to take third base from first on a single by Jason Botts, who had replaced Carlos Gonzalez in left field. Some fans on the LF berm, not knowing who he was, started chanting his uniform number: "For-ty-sev-en! For-ty-sev-en!" and Botts turned around and waved at them. That's the intimacy between players and fans that I like in spring training.
The Cubs were pretty well shut down by Rockies pitchers all day, until Billy Buckner (no relation to the former Cub) came in to face a mostly sub lineup in the eighth inning. He loaded the bases on a single and a pair of walks and Tyler Colvin laced a ball down the RF line, into the stands foul, to groans from the crowd. Those groans turned to cheers when Colvin hit Buckner's next pitch over the bullpen for a grand slam. Carlos Marmol kept it close with an efficient ninth -- he came in to applause nearly as loud as the cheers for Kerry Wood the other day -- but the Cubs couldn't score, despite getting the tying run to the plate.
I'm done talking about the Carlos Silva incidents and release. He's gone. It ends a bad era in Cubs history started by the signing of [name redacted]. It's time to move on, and the team is better without him. As noted earlier, the lesson Jim Hendry must learn is not to make these types of signings in the first place.
Attendance today was 11,318; the Cubs' season total is 149,218 and average for 16 dates is 9,326, down quite a bit from last year. There is one home Cactus League game remaining, Tuesday against the Diamondbacks -- the Wednesday intrasquad charity game attendance doesn't count in the Cactus League total, and from what I hear, that game may be played in front of a very small crowd. Few people I talked to today, many of whom are Cactus League regulars, plan to be at that game, which starts at 11 a.m. MST (1 p.m. CDT) in order for the Cubs to get their flight to Chicago at a reasonable hour.
I won't be at that game either; today was my final game in Arizona for this spring. I'm leaving tomorrow morning to drive back to Chicago, so the game previews likely won't have starting lineups in them. I'll try to tweet them from stops on the way. Carlos Zambrano gets the start tomorrow against the Indians in Goodyear; Carlos Carrasco will start for the Tribe. The game will be back on MLB.com with Len Kasper and Mick Gillispie.