SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- Scottsdale was where I spent Saturday afternoon, but in Las Vegas, the Cubs almost had a very rare spring occurrence. It began with Kyle Hendricks facing 15 batters and retiring all of them, throwing 54 pitches (39 strikes).
And then Joseph Ortiz threw a 1-2-3 sixth. And Jorge De Leon a 1-2-3 seventh.
Could the Cubs throw a spring-training perfect game? As far as anyone knows (and no one has kept official records on such things), it's only been done once in the long history of spring training, by the Boston Red Sox March 14, 2000, exactly 15 years ago. Pedro Martinez was the first of six Boston pitchers who threw a perfecto in a spring game against the Toronto Blue Jays. (And go click on that link. Check out who the last Red Sox pitcher in that perfect game was.)
It wasn't to be as Armando Rivero gave up a leadoff double in the eighth to Matt Olson and a run-scoring single to Tyler Ladendorf. That was all the A's scoring (they got one more single off Drake Britton in the ninth) and the Cubs defeated the Athletics 3-1, sweeping the pair of games in Vegas.
Yes, I buried the lede. Kris Bryant -- who didn't start the game at third base due to "shoulder fatigue" -- hit two home runs after he came in as DH. That gives him six for the spring. No one else in all of baseball has more than three this spring, and Bryant is now hitting .563/.611/1.500 (no, that's not a typo -- his SLG is 1.500 and OPS 2.111). That's 9-for-16 with a double, six home runs, eight runs scored and nine RBI.
Small sample size and all, but Bryant is crushing Cactus League pitching so far, and that's without even starting a single game at third base in front of the home crowd in Mesa (he came in defensively once). That could change tomorrow:
And, Bryant sure had a good time in front of friends and family:
Finally, the hit that broke up the perfect game also appears to have broken Gameday. Have a look -- it doesn't appear to have updated after the hit, although the boxscore link above has everything included. (At least that's how it looked at the time I wrote this recap.)
As you all know, I've been a big Kyle Hendricks fan and it sure looks like he's on the cusp of fulfilling his promise. He threw strikes, induced ground balls and nothing was hit hard off him by the 15 A's he retired. He's locked down the No. 4 starting spot and if he keeps this up, the Cubs will have a very, very strong one-through-four in the rotation.
At Maryvale, the Cubs brought their hitting shoes and crushed the Brewers 10-5. There were plenty of hitting heroes: Welington Castillo (are you watching, scouts?) went 2-for-4 with three RBI; Ryan Sweeney doubled and scored twice; Arismendy Alcantara had two singles; and Matt Szczur homered, his third of the spring.
Now go back and read the paragraph above about Bryant. Szczur's homer means the Cubs have the top two homer men in all of baseball this spring. As noted above, only one other player even has as many as three (as of the start of play Saturday) -- Alex Rios. The Cubs have homered 18 times in 13 games, leading all major-league teams.
Edwin Jackson was a little bit shaky, issuing a pair of walks in his three innings, but otherwise gave up just one single and no runs, striking out two. That's an improvement over his first outing when he gave up four unearned runs after a couple of errors ruined his chance to get out of the game without allowing anything at all. He's actually not been bad this spring and if scouts are watching, they might, I repeat might, wind up interested. Again, if the Cubs can interest anyone in Jackson, they'll likely have to eat most of his contract and get little in return (a low-level lottery-ticket-type prospect, most likely). But that would be better than eating the entire deal and releasing him. We'll see how he does the next time out.
Cubs relief pitching didn't do so well in Maryvale. Pedro Strop was touched up for a run. Hector Rondon allowed an unearned tally and Gonzalez Germen gave up three in the sixth, forcing Joe Maddon to remove him mid-inning.
The Cubs will reunite as one squad Sunday in Mesa where they will face the Reds. Travis Wood, who's been good so far this spring, will face Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto.