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Cubs Split-Squad Monday: Timely Hitting, And An Injury

The Cubs had their third straight split-squad day Monday, and for the third straight day, they won, and lost.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

MESA, Arizona -- Anthony Rizzo's single and Ryan Roberts' double in the third inning keyed a three-run rally, and the Cubs held on through multiple meaningless pitching changes for a 4-2 win over the Angels at Cubs Park.

Generic enough for you? It ought to be, given the genericness of the Angels team that visited Mesa Monday. Pretty much all the Angels regulars stayed for their other split-squad game in Tempe, so three ex-Cubs (Carlos Pena, Chad Tracy and Ian Stewart) were the middle of the order in an Angels lineup that included just one sort-of regular (Hank Conger).

Edwin Jackson got himself in trouble in the usual way in the first inning. After two quick outs, he gave up a line-drive single, then Stewart bunted (!) his way on, then Jackson walked Tracy. But he got out of it by striking out Pena, and the rest of the way he allowed just one single, completing four efficient innings.

Now, against an Angels team of misfits, does that mean much? Probably not, but at least Jackson was good Monday afternoon.

The Angels made up half the deficit in the eighth inning when Blake Parker couldn't quite make it all the way through his second inning of relief. Parker threw a very quick seventh, so he was allowed to start the eighth, and had wild-pitched in a run before the second out. Paolo Espino, a career minor leaguer signed out of the Indians organization, came in and proved why he's a career minor leaguer. He couldn't find the plate, walking one and wild-pitching in the second run, and when he did find the plate, Angels hitters got hits. He finally got out of the inning by retiring Angels minor leaguer Matt Long on a ground ball.

Neil Ramirez, who appears ticketed for the rotation at Iowa, had a nice 1-2-3 inning, all on ground balls, to post a save.

Against a team like that, we really can't draw any conclusions.

A conclusion might have been drawn on James McDonald's Cubs career before it even began. After two pitches in the first inning, McDonald left the game at Phoenix Muni:

This would appear to be a recurrence of the injury that ruined McDonald's 2013 season with the Pirates. Since he was signed to a major-league contract and is on the 40-man roster, he's a sure candidate for the 60-day disabled list -- possibly as soon as this week. I'd expect McDonald and Kyuji Fujikawa to start the year on the 60-day, thus making room for two non-roster players to make the 40-man, as well as the Opening Day roster. One of them is likely Emilio Bonifacio, who tripled in the Mesa game and appears to have sewn up a spot. Could another one be Roberts? The team appears to like his flexibility.

The offense was pretty quiet in the Phoenix game, posting only seven hits. The only two runs scored on a two-run homer by Jonathan Mota in the ninth inning. Javier Baez, playing second base for the first time this spring, went 1-for-3, a single. Ryan Kalish, who also has an outside shot at making the 25-man roster (and who will almost certainly be retained at Iowa as an injury replacement), had two hits and is now hitting .300 for the spring.

Attendance watch: another sellout of 14,787, many dressed in green and pretty inebriated on St. Patrick's Day, brought the season total for 10 dates to 137,759, an average of 13,776. That would put the Cubs on pace for over 206,000, which would be 3,000 over their own all-time major-league spring attendance record set in 2009. Among those in attendance today was Tom Ricketts, who stopped by on the left-field berm to say hello.

The next two spring games will both be night games. Tuesday at 9:05 CT (on MLB Network), the Cubs head to Surprise to take on the Rangers, with Carlos Villanueva (another candidate for the fifth rotation spot) facing Franklin Morales.