MESA, Arizona -- We'll never know what the outcome of the Cubs' 7-4 loss to the Indians would have been if Tsuyoshi Wada had completed the (likely) three innings he was scheduled to throw.
Instead, Wada faced four hitters. The first two were retired on routine ground balls to third base; the third, Yan Gomes, hit a long home run to left-center field and after Wada ran a 3-1 count on Jesus Aguilar, trainers and coaches were summoned to the mound. Wada departed with what was later reported to be a sore groin and he'll be "re-evaluated."
This forced a couple of guys from the minor-league camp into the game far earlier than anyone would have liked. Zach Cates, who pitched last year at High-A and Double-A, did all right getting out of that inning, but after Justin Grimm went into his second inning of work (probably longer than expected), Jeff Lorick relieved him.
Lorick, who is 27 and also threw last year at High-A and Double-A, is pretty far from ever being in a big-league uniform, and it showed. He gave up a single to the first batter he faced, Jerry Sands. That plated one run. Then he allowed a three-run homer to Clint Frazier, who was chosen by Cleveland three picks after Kris Bryant went to the Cubs in 2013. Frazier, who is 20, is already a Top-100 prospect, and it showed in that blast.
That was the difference in the game, as Cub scrubs rallied against Indians relievers in the eighth and ninth innings. Another young guy who might make that Top-100 list soon, Gleyber Torres, smashed an RBI double into the gap in the ninth inning, scoring a run. He later scored on a single by Rafael Lopez.
Too little, too late for a win, as Indians starter T.J. House shut the Cubs down until he was pulled with two out in the fifth. He gave up only two hits. One of them was a home run by Matt Szczur, who's having a really good spring and at this moment, I'd say he's got a real good shot at making the team in the fifth-outfielder role he was playing late last year. No one else in the Cubs' starting lineup did anything, except for a single by Chris Coghlan in the fifth and another pop single by Mike Olt off reliever Michael Roth in the sixth.
So the Cubs were kind of knocked off kilter by the injury to Wada, and that injury, unfortunate as it is for the Japanese lefty, probably solidifies Travis Wood's case for the fifth-starter role. The most impressive Cubs reliever today was non-roster guy Hunter Cervenka, who threw two innings and gave up only one hit, a ground-ball double to left that just eluded the reach of a diving Olt, who has played excellent defense this spring. Neil Ramirez had a shaky inning that included a walk and a hitter reaching on an error that eventually led to a run, but he got out of it with a 1-2-3 double play. Phil Coke also threw an efficient inning, retiring all three hitters he faced.
Another sellout in Mesa Friday, with the announced total 15,150. That makes the season total for six dates 86,836, an average of 14,473. If that average holds up -- and I don't see any reason it won't -- the Cubs will shatter the Cactus League record they set last year.
Nice note: Congratulations to Joe Maddon and his family on the birth of his fifth grandchild:
Welcome new #Cubs fan Carson Rose, @CubsJoeMadd 5th grand daughter born today. She checked in at 7 lbs 6 oz. Congrats to @SarahMaddon— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 13, 2015
Tomorrow, Edwin Jackson faces the Brewers at Maryvale (3:05 CT) and Kyle Hendricks will pitch against the Athletics in Las Vegas. I'll have a recap of Friday evening's Vegas game tomorrow morning.