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A Tale Of Two Cities: Cubs Lose In Phoenix And Vegas

The Cubs went 3-3 in their six split-squad games over the weekend. Seems fitting.


PHOENIX, Arizona -- I didn't get one of my post-2012 wishes. You know the one: to never again see Justin Germano nor Jason Berken pitch in a Cubs uniform again. Well, I got half of that wish: Germano is gone -- signed by the Toronto Blue Jays, he's stinking out the Grapefruit League with a 7.20 ERA in five appearances.

When I heard over the Phoenix Muni P.A. system: "Now pitching for the Cubs, number 94, Jason Berken," I thought it must have been a joke. Or someone reading an old roster card. But here's how I figured it went, because no one has mentioned Berken's name in connection with the Cubs at all this spring: he was in the stands watching the game, and someone spotted him. When the trainer trotted out to the mound in the bottom of the sixth inning to examine Rafael Dolis, and the Cubs had to remove Dolis (looked like a blister, possibly), Berken was hurriedly called from his seat, given whatever uniform fit, and put on the mound... just to spite me.

It worked. Dolis had been pulled with a 3-0 count on Shane Peterson. Berken worked the count full, then walked Peterson. 2012 flashback, here we come. But, somehow, Berken got out of the inning with a fly ball to left and a nice called strikeout on Scott Sizemore. The game went to the seventh tied 6-6.

That's when Berken restored my faith in him... that is, his ability to turn victory into defeat. After another called K, he gave up a booming double to Andy Parrino and a ball hit even farther by Adam Rosales. That one, Jae-Hoon Ha didn't even bother to turn around and chase; it went for a long, long, long two-run homer and the Athletics had all the runs they needed. They added four more off Jensen Lewis and a pitcher I confess I'd never heard of until today, Steve Perakslis (whose name sounds like something you'd have happen to your abdomen). Perakslis gave up a second homer to Rosales that appeared to go even farther than the first, and the A's had a 12-6 win over the Cubs in front of 7,184, virtually all of whom were dressed in green for St. Patrick's Day, so much so that you couldn't tell the A's fans from the Cubs fans.

There were some good things for the Cubs Sunday, but let me finish the bad first -- Scott Baker. Oh, brother, as Jack Brickhouse might have said. Baker wasn't likely to have thrown more than two innings today, and he didn't make it out of the first after this sequence: single, walk, home run, long fly to left, single, walk. Don't have a pitch count but I'm guessing it was pushing 35, maybe even 40. I'm not sure if Baker was "working on something" or just had nothing, but his first outing of the spring in a real game was bad.

Casey Coleman replaced him and threw decently for 1⅔ innings. That's good. So was Dave Sappelt's day; Sappelt homered and singled. Brent Lillibridge, playing center field, dropped a lovely pop-double down the right-field line and also homered.

Javier Baez, playing what is one of his final games with the big-league squad before being reassigned to minor-league camp (though he and Jorge Soler are slated to play Monday in Peoria), singled and doubled. That's good. What isn't good is that he attempted to take second base on a deep fly to center after the first-inning single. He beat the throw, but the A's appealed that he had left first base too early and retired him there. It's a good lesson for Baez.

Christian Villanueva, also about to be reassigned, went 1-for-4 and made several nice plays in the field. If he can hit, someday he will be a quality major-league third baseman, because I think he's already playing major-league quality defense at third base.

In Las Vegas, the Cubs lost to the Rangers 8-5. Having seen nor heard none of that game, I can go only by what I see in that box score -- Nate Schierholtz and prospect Tim Saunders homered. That's good. Carlos Villanueva gave up three runs in four innings, including a home run by Mitch Moreland. Somebody named Joey Gallo (who sounds like he should be on The Sopranos) homered off Esmailin Caridad, another guy who seems to be just hanging on.

Now, hopefully, I'll never have to see Jason Berken pitch in a Cubs uniform again. (Please?)

Monday, the team reunites in Peoria to face the Padres. Edwin Jackson will go for the Cubs. San Diego will counter with Clayton Richard.