MESA, Arizona -- While the Cubs were handling the White Sox 6-0 in Glendale behind two home runs from Luis Valbuena, I decided to take advantage of another lovely sunny day in the Valley and head to the Cubs' minor-league camp to watch Travis Wood have an outing against a Triple-A squad of Diamondbacks.
The team that took the field behind Wood was many of the players who were recently cut from the big-league spring squad and who will form the nucleus of the club that will play at Triple-A Iowa this year; among them Arismendy Alcantara, Logan Watkins, Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters (if the latter two are still in the organization -- who knows)?
Wood took the mound with pitching coach Chris Bosio and catching coach Mike Borzello watching intently from folding chairs in front of the Cubs dugout on one of the back fields. Wood was pretty sharp throughout, reported to have thrown 102 pitches (68 strikes) in six innings. He allowed a long home run in the first inning to ex-Marlins first baseman Mike Jacobs, in D'backs camp on a non-roster invite, and in the fourth, a two-run double to somebody named "Weber" (can't find him in any of the D'backs roster lists). The ball was slicing into right-center, and Rubi Silva, playing center field, couldn't catch up to it. I suspect Ryan Sweeney or Junior Lake or Justin Ruggiano would have caught the ball.
Otherwise, Wood was excellent. Of the 18 outs he recorded, just one of them left the infield; he had nine strikeouts, seven ground balls, one line drive to shortstop and a fly to center field. Having thrown over 100 pitches in six innings, Wood departed -- he, Bosio and Borzello rode off on a cart.
For the offense at the minor-league game, Donnie Murphy was getting extra at-bats, playing DH. They had him bat in every inning; sometimes leading off, other times batting in between guys in other positions in the lineup. I left after Wood's outing was over; Murphy was 2-for-6, a single and a double. He scored after the double on a double by Alcantara; Rubi Silva hit a home run for the Triple-A Cubs off Michael Bolsinger, a 26-year-old righthander who pitched last year for Triple-A Reno.
It's always interesting to attend one of these games. There were about 40-50 people watching (and a similar number on an adjacent field watching the Double-A guys), a few fans, but mostly family members of the players. You can hear everything up close, fielders yelling, "IgotitIgotitIgotit!", umpires making emphatic strike calls, Bosio calling out to Wood, "Keep it level, Woody," and players encouraging each other to get hits. Josh Vitters' teammates, for example, call him "Vit."
The major-league squad had fun in Glendale, shutting out the White Sox on five solid innings by Chris Rusin and the pair of home runs from Valbuena. Mike Olt had a pair of hits, a single and a double, and Junior Lake also had two hits, which is encouraging given the bad spring he's had. At this point, it appears Rusin has the inside track to the fifth starter's role when the season begins.
The biggest news, which I did not see because I was in Mesa, was what we hope is a minor injury to Javier Baez. Here are the details:
Cubs top prospect Javier Baez had to leave Friday’s game with a right heel contusion after stepping awkwardly on first base in the sixth inning on an infield single. With one out in the sixth and the Cubs leading 4-0 against the White Sox, Baez hit a grounder to shortstop Alexei Ramirez. Baez beat the throw but appeared to slip as he stepped on the bag with his right foot. Cubs assistant athletic trainer Ed Halbur went out to talk to Baez, who was lifted from the game. He was to be re-evaluated on Saturday.
It doesn't sound like anything too serious, and in general a player who has a minor injury like this in a spring game is going to leave the game, while in a regular-season game he might stay in. Let's hope it's nothing more than a day or two off.
Saturday, Mike Olt will be back at third base and Starlin Castro is expected to play his first game at shortstop since the first day of spring training, after having missed four weeks of action. Edwin Jackson will face the Reds' Tony Cingrani in a game that will be televised on WGN with Len and JD. I'll be back in Mesa Saturday and will be at all the remaining games in Arizona this spring (except the night split-squad game at Peoria Tuesday).