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'Cubs' Defeat 'Brewers' 5-3

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Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro hits against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning at HoHoKam Stadium. Credit: Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE
Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro hits against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning at HoHoKam Stadium. Credit: Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE

I actually sat and listened to the "Cubs"' 5-3 win over the "Brewers" Tuesday afternoon.

Those names are in quotations in both the headline and that paragraph because the teams that took the field in front of 5,801 at HoHoKam Park did not resemble major league assemblages after the first couple of innings. Of the 40 players who participated in Tuesday's game, about half of them were guys who will be playing either Double-A or High-A ball this year. Reading some of the names in the box score (Zapata, Batista, Bolivar, Candelario), I thought I was reading a history of revolutionary generals in Latin America. Or getting a spelling lesson (Gennett, Kjeldgaard, Haydel).

Starlin Castro hit a monstrous two-run homer in the first inning that gave the Cubs the lead, which they never relinquished; if I'd have been in Mesa today, I might have had a chance to grab that ball bouncing off the top of the scoreboard right in front of where I usually sit. There was so little interest in this game that all the usual photographers covering spring training games weren't there; the photo is of Castro taken last Friday.

Also, Shawn Camp, still competing for a spot in the bullpen, threw a scoreless inning, perhaps increasing his chances of sticking around.

There are still 31 players in camp; thus, six of them will have to be cut, released, waived or otherwise let go before Thursday's opener. Dale Sveum said the decisions might not be made until after Wednesday's workout at Wrigley Field. Most of the discussion revolves around the last couple of bullpen slots, although Alfredo Amezaga, who homered today, might still be in the mix for a bench position. (If not, he'll likely head to Iowa.)

So the Cubs finish this year's spring season with a winning record -- 17-16, with two ties -- for whatever that's worth, which is essentially nothing. The small crowd brought the spring season attendance total to 153,281, an average of 9,580 for the 16 dates. That's slightly above the 2011 average of 9,443.

Two days from now, it starts for real at Wrigley Field. I know most of us (myself included) have few, or no, hopes for contention from this year's Cubs. I do believe that this team will be better than last year's; it will, based on what I've seen this spring, play better fundamental ball than last year's and have a better starting rotation. So there's that, at least.

I'll have a few more pre-season comments here tomorrow, including my prognostications, and then we start for real on Thursday. Regardless of how you think this season will go, it's exciting to have baseball back. On that, I think we can all agree.