SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- Well, it was sunny Sunday morning when I woke up, but most of the afternoon was cloudy and a few sprinkles dotted the Valley of the Sun as the Cubs played a pair of spring-training games against the Brewers and Angels.
Yeah, I know. I know you don't have much sympathy in Chicago when you're facing down a winter storm watch in a couple of days.
The Cubs defeated the Angels 4-2 in one half of their split-squad "doubleheader". The game was on pace to go only about two hours before slowing down a bit in the ninth inning. One reason: there was only one walk issued in the entire game, to the Cubs' Christian Villanueva by Steve Geltz of the Angels. When I see that name, I think of former Phillies infielder Steve Jeltz, who has an interesting distinctions: he is one of nine major-league players to be born in France (and by far had the most plate appearances of any of them).
Well now, that's a digression, isn't it? That's because there isn't a whole lot of exciting things to report about that win, played in front of a decent, but short-of-capacity 7,119 at the Angels' spring home. Brian Bogusevic, who is probably going to head to Iowa this year, hit a home run and went 3-for-3; Brad Nelson also homered. Nelson has bounced around the minors and majors for the better part of a decade; he's hit 183 minor-league homers in over 5500 plate appearances there, but is just 2-for-28 in a couple of major-league stints with the Brewers in 2008 and 2009 (like he was going to get any 1B playing time with Prince Fielder there).
The good thing about having Nelson -- who is likely going to be the starting first baseman at Iowa -- is that if something happens to Anthony Rizzo, there's someone in the system who actually has experience at first base. Most of the Cubs' other 1B options on the MLB roster (Nate Schierholtz, Brent Lillibridge, Scott Hairston) don't. Not that you'd really want Nelson to play first base for an extended period; let's hope the Cubs never need him to.
Nick Struck threw three scoreless innings, and Chris Rusin threw three more decent frames, allowing just one run.
At Mesa, the Brewers defeated the Cubs 4-3 behind a collection of pitchers you probably haven't heard of, except for starter Marco Estrada, who gave the Cubs only one hit in four innings. Meanwhile, Edwin Jackson issued three walks and hit a batter in a poor outing. He gave up the Brewers' first two runs. The good news is that apart from Jackson, no Cubs pitcher walked a hitter in either Sunday game.
Javier Baez smashed a two-run homer in the fifth inning to close the score to 4-2, and then got the other Cubs RBI of the day when he drew a bases-loaded walk in the sixth. The Cubs could do nothing else with the likes of Johnny Hellweg and Alfredo Figaro. Figaro is 28 and has pitched in the major leagues before, with the Tigers in 2009 and 2010, and not very well (6.75 ERA in 13 appearances). Too bad. That's a great baseball name.
Dan Vogelbach appeared in the Mesa game and struck out and walked and played first base uneventfully. When he walked with two out in the ninth, Dale Sveum pulled him for pinch-runner Zeke DeVoss; this is something that will likely happen quite a bit for Vogelbach as he makes his way through the system. DeVoss was stranded when Tim Saunders was called out on strikes to end it.
Attendance at Mesa: 7,431. The season total is now 34,712, for a per-game average of 5,785.
Monday, I'll be at Mesa to see the Cubs face the Cleveland Indians. If you're going to be at the game, stop by on the left-field lawn to say hello. Alberto Cabrera, who the Cubs are trying as a starter, will get the start; Cleveland counters with Carlos Carrasco.