MESA, Arizona -- I had long ago decided not to go to Thursday's game at Glendale; I posted the reasons earlier, but let me repeat them:
- It's a long drive
- I don't care for Camelback Ranch, the ballpark, nor its high ticket prices
- Getting out of there after the game is a nightmare (bad enough for Len Kasper to mentoon the issue on the webcast)
So, after hearing that Ian Stewart was going to play in a minor-league game at Fitch Park Thursday afternoon, I decided to hie myself over there for what I presumed was a 1 p.m. start. That was my first mistake; when I arrived just before 1, I found two games already in progress and this tweet:
@bleachernation @cubsden @bleedcubbieblue Struck k's Stewart looking.— Eric Pauly (@EricLPauly) March 14, 2013
Eric's the guy who's been sending all the video of Cubs minor leaguers, as well as the video from the intrasquad games last month. So I tweeted at him that I was there. Either it didn't go through or he had left already, because I still haven't met him. Neither did I see Stewart; he might have had the one at-bat and then left the game, because he wasn't in evidence at either field.
I did manage to catch Dan Vogelbach stepping up to the plate on the northwest field, and I thought, "Great! Maybe I'll see one of his tape-measure home runs!" Sad to say, that was not the case:
One of his minor-league teammates (I think it was Tayler Scott) struck him out swinging on a 3-2 pitch. I will say this: though Vogelbach is a big man, he certainly doesn't look fat or out of shape, at least not in that video. He appears to have slimmed down quite a bit from last year, and at his age, maybe he can become mobile enough to handle first base (I didn't see him play the field today). I know there's even been some talk about trying him at third base, which seems crazy, but who knows? If Vogelbach can get in real good playing shape, and keep hitting the way he did last year, the Cubs might really have something three years from now.
Theo and Jed were at Fitch involved in a long conversation with someone I didn't recognize. I also saw Jason McLeod there, hidden behind a big pair of shades. Oh, and Lendy Castillo walked by me, seemingly in a big hurry to get somewhere. And I bought some Powerball tickets on the way back from Mesa, so perhaps the day won't be a complete waste of effort.
I dunno. Maybe it was the heat; it was 93 degrees in the Valley today, a record high for the date.
Oh, yes. The actual spring-training game, you're wondering. 8,814 paid to see the Cubs defeat the Dodgers 8-1; they nearly had a shutout, which would have been the team's first of the spring, until L.A. broke through against Zach Putnam in the ninth inning. Cubs pitchers gave up just four hits, which sounds great until you realize that not one of the pitchers who went today will be on the 25-man roster. Nice outing for Chris Rusin, though, against mostly major-league hitters; one hit in five innings. He'll be at Iowa as rotation depth.
Welington Castillo drove in a pair of runs, as did Brian Bogusevic, who is having one of those springs that fools management into thinking you're a better player than you really are. Brent Lillibridge was 2-for-3; maybe he's fooling people, too, but he probably has a better chance of making the 25-man roster than Bogusevic, due to his ability to play multiple positions.
Friday, I'll be in Mesa watching the Cubs take on Team Japan. Anthony Rizzo was expected to play in that game but late Thursday word was he won't be back with the team until Saturday.
There won't be any audio coverage from Mesa so I'll try to tweet updates during the game, if I can get cell service. The other split squad will again head to Glendale, this time to take on the White Sox. You can watch that game on WGN-TV with the sound muted, as it will be called by the Sox announcers; it's also scheduled on cubs.com with Len & Mick. Scott Feldman will face Gavin Floyd in Glendale; Travis Wood, announced Thursday as the No. 3 starter during the regular season, will face Team Japan.