PEORIA, Arizona -- The headline on this post is not wrong.
The Cubs really did score seven runs in the first inning off the Mariners' Jason Vargas, who is going to start the second game of the regular season for Seattle, and that's about all you need to know about their starting pitching staff.
The Cubs had an excellent sequence in sending 12 men to the plate in that inning -- walk, single, double, sac fly, single, strikeout, double, single, single, single, double (at which point Eric Wedge had seen enough of Vargas and replaced him with Shawn Camp -- I swear, there must have been six players around Peoria today whose name is pronounced "Shawn", all spelled differently), strikeout.
And then Travis Wood took the mound in the bottom of the first. He walked the second hitter he faced and then gave up a home run to Ichiro Suzuki, a laser-beam of a shot to right field, his first homer of the spring. Wood wasn't done; he gave up two more extra-base hits and a pair of runs in the second, one of which he wild-pitched in. All of this came after two were out with no one on base.
But wait, there's more!
In the third, Justin Smoak singled and Jesus Montero hit a home run that might still be going. When the next hitter, Kyle Seager, also homered, Dale Sveum had seen enough and yanked Wood, perhaps even handing him his plane ticket to Des Moines right there on the mound. (I made that up, of course. But wouldn't it be funny if a manager actually did that?)
And that's what you need to know about the Cubs' rotation -- that they had a pitcher just as bad as Jason Vargas, although over three innings instead of one, but the Cubs' guy doesn't need to be in the major league rotation. Last year he might have. This year, he'll work out his problems in Triple-A. For the depth that has given the Cubs at least a shot at a decent starting rotation in 2012, thank you, Theo & Jed.
So now it's 7-7 and we're only in the fourth inning on a chilly (56 degrees at game time) afternoon where the sun tried to peek out. When it succeeded, it felt warm. When the clouds took over, it felt like it probably will on Opening Day at Wrigley -- cold and breezy.
Jay Jackson, who will join Wood in the Iowa rotation, surely raised his stock in the organization today. He threw four innings, giving up just four singles and no runs. He did hit a batter, but all in all, it was an excellent performance, showing us why Jackson at one time was one of the better pitching prospects the Cubs had. He is still just 24 -- I'd say he's back on the radar.
The Mariners, who will leave for their Japan trip after Wednesday, played what is essentially their Opening Day lineup today, and most of them (except Seager and shortstop Brendan Ryan) played the entire game. The Cubs, meanwhile, substituted almost everyone (except, oddly enough, Alfonso Soriano, who played all nine innings) after the sixth, and it was the sub Cubs who broke through in the eighth against Mariners reliever Steve Delabar.
Delabar has a funky delivery in which he appears to push the ball toward the plate. Blake Lalli -- and though he's far from the majors, he can hit -- doubled after a walk. One wild pitch and a single later, two runs had scored, and then Alfredo Amezaga singled in a third run. Steve Clevenger completed the scoring with a RBI double in the ninth, after which he proceeded to get thrown out in a long-sequence rundown that went 7-6-3-5-4.
A few notes: Ian Stewart, who's been out since Wednesday, should play in tomorrow's game at Mesa and in the morning "B" game at Goodyear against the Indians, Randy Wells gave up a pair of runs in three innings in windy conditions that Dale Sveum says they'll take into account:
"You try not to put too much on it, because the conditions aren't that well," manager Dale Sveum said. "On the other hand, you have to pitch in those same conditions in Chicago, if not worse.
"Wells actually was fairly sharp down in the zone. He got the outs when he needed to. [Cristian] Guzman, trying to get the guy over, hooked the ball out of the park on him. Other than that, he didn't give up any runs. He got out of some big jams with bases-loaded ground-ball double plays. It wasn't bad by no means."
Ryan Dempster will face the Rangers Tuesday at Mesa; Texas will counter with Neftali Feliz, who is trying to convert from closing to the rotation.
At Phoenix, Rodrigo Lopez will face the Athletics, who will start Brandon McCarthy.
And the sun will shine and the temperatures will warm back into at least the 60s.