MESA, Arizona -- There are only so many things that can be written about yet another Cubs defeat, this time 8-3 at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds.
But there is one really, really large thing to write about, and that is Reds pitcher Jose "Jumbo" Diaz.
Jumbo -- announced just that way by PA man Tim Sheridan -- threw to only one batter, Cubs catcher Welington Castillo in the fifth inning. That was after starter Tony Cingrani was removed because he had (apparently) reached a pitch count. Jumbo struck Welington out to end the inning and was then lifted for a pinch-hitter.
But I had to find out more about someone named Jumbo Diaz. Here's more:
Diaz, who turned 30 [in February], went from 347 pounds at the end of last season as a closer for Triple-A Louisville to 278 pounds when he reported to camp. For those scoring at home, that is a 69-pound reduction. It might be time to warm up a new nickname in the bullpen with the 6-foot-4 Diaz, too. "When I got here and everybody saw me, they said 'where is Jumbo?'" Diaz said. "I said 'I left Jumbo in the Dominican.' I'm New Jumbo right now. I feel really good."
Holy moly, 347 pounds. That would make him one of the heaviest players in the NFL, never mind baseball. Jumbo's baseball-reference page lists him at 315 pounds, and even at 278, he's a very, very large man, as you can see in the photo above.
I joke, a little, but seriously, Diaz had a pretty good year in the Reds organization in 2013 at Louisville, posting a 1.66 ERA and 1.031 WHIP in 44 appearances, with 13 saves. In 54⅓ innings he struck out 60, and he's had a decent spring, striking out nine in seven innings and allowing just three hits (although with six walks). He's got an outside shot at making the Reds bullpen. I hope he does; with the Reds in the Cubs' division, we'd certainly get to see a lot of him.
I'm telling you, the jokes write themselves. Thank you! I'll be here all week; don't forget to tip your server.
I'm writing a recap in this way because this game was depressingly the same old, same old. I told my friends on the lawn that I could write down this line for Edwin Jackson: five innings, six hits, four earned runs, four walks, even before the game started. Didn't miss that by much: the reality was a couple more hits, a couple fewer walks, and five innings that took two hours and five minutes. Jackson isn't missing opponents' bats much, and with that kind of pace, he's definitely putting his own fielders to sleep.
Hey, it was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, nice to spend the time outdoors watching baseball. I just wish I had been watching better baseball.
For the Cubs, most hitters were quiet; Anthony Rizzo was the main exception to that, as he was 3-for-3 with a double and two of the three RBI. Darwin Barney walked twice. Justin Ruggiano hit a triple, and so did substitute Logan Watkins. Watkins promptly got himself thrown out at the plate on an infield ground ball on a play that wasn't close. Aggressive baserunning? Sure, but I'd think on a play like that -- with the game still close at the time at 5-3 -- you'd make the infielder commit to throwing to first before taking off for the plate.
What I found interesting was that all the Cub starting eight today were replaced in the lineup -- except for Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney, both of whom are reportedly being scouted by the Tigers (and perhaps other teams). Neither did anything much at the plate; Sweeney was 0-for-4 and Schierholtz 0-for-2 with a walk and a sac fly. Schierholtz also made a really poor play in the field, turning the wrong way a couple of times on a fly ball to the wall that ended up being a double. Shawon Dunston Jr. got to pinch-hit in the ninth inning, his first appearance this spring in a major-league spring game. After swinging and missing badly on the first two Logan Ondrusek offerings, he singled sharply to center.
Meanwhile, the Reds brought their Opening Day lineup, save Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and most of them played the entire game, Brandon Phillips homering in the ninth inning off Justin Grimm, while the Cubs were still yanking players after three at-bats and giving playing time to guys like Watkins and Chris Valaika, both of whom have already been cut. It's as if the regular season doesn't mean anything to this team and they're just going through the motions until March 31 hits and we'll have a 162-game "spring-training" season then.
Harsh, I know, but that's how it feels.
Which is why I wrote about Jumbo Diaz. There, at least, is a story.
Attendance watch: the announced total of 15,241 was two people short of the record set last Thursday. That makes the spring season total at Cubs Park 168,243 for 12 dates, and the average has cracked the 14,000 plateau at 14,020. The Cubs were promoting postgame fireworks for Monday's first-ever night game at Cubs Park; as of the time I wrote this recap the game was indicated as another sellout. The Cubs also announced -- and I hesitate to mention this -- that Clark the Cub, the new mascot, will be appearing at Cubs Park during the three remaining home games. (No, I'm not going to have my photo taken with him.)
Sunday, the Cubs will play for the final time ever at Phoenix Municipal Stadium as they face the Athletics with Jason Hammel pitching against Jesse Chavez. The game likely won't be as long, nor as large. It will, however, again be televised on WGN-TV.