The Cubs headed to Glendale, Arizona Friday afternoon to face their crosstown rivals, the White Sox.
They apparently decided to put on their home run shoes; three Cubs (Edgar Gonzalez, Steve Clevenger and Marlon Byrd) homered in front of a pretty good house of 10,327 and the Cubs defeated the White Sox 5-1, evening up their spring record at 3-3. It was also the fastest game of the spring so far, running just two hours and 18 minutes.
Clevenger could be getting a slight edge in the battle to back up Geovany Soto. Clevenger is a year older and hits lefthanded, and it could be that the Cubs would be better off with Castillo starting every day at Iowa and be ready to step in if someone gets hurt.
Gonzalez is an intriguing player. The brother of Adrian Gonzalez, he has his sibling's looks but not his bat; he was a major league backup for two years with the Padres in 2008 and 2009, hitting .255/.312/.381 while playing multiple positions, mostly second base. He hit .315/.378/.457 for Triple-A Fresno in the Giants organization last year with 14 home runs. If he could play a decent backup shortstop, he might be able to sneak in as a backup infielder.
Marlon Byrd also homered. You can see how much better shape Byrd is in this year; even his face looks thinner. Maybe Byrd can put up good enough numbers that he could be traded midseason; he's almost certainly in his last year as a Cub.
Pitching-wise, Travis Wood had a rough first inning but then settled down, and both Randy Wells and Rodrigo Lopez had good relief appearances. (See? I can say something good about RoLo. I wonder if Wells could be on the trading block. I know some think he might be ticketed for the bullpen in "long relief" (if that nebulous concept even existed in real life), but I'd think he could be quite valuable to another team as a starter if Cubs management doesn't have room for him. Dae-Eun Rhee was also impressive, with nice movement on his pitches. He's a couple of years away (he's 22) and will probably start this year at Double-A, but that provides hope for the future.
Tomorrow, I'm hitting the road for Arizona and will arrive late Sunday, in time to go to Monday's game at Mesa. I'll have the usual threads posted for the weekend games. Tomorrow, Ryan Dempster will go for the Cubs, facing the Brewers' Chris Narveson at Maryvale.