PEORIA, Arizona -- Things started to turn badly for Jon Lester in the second inning of Monday's 7-0 Cubs loss to the Padres, and as has been the case in many Cubs defeats this spring, bad defense led to some San Diego scoring, even though none of the runs was unearned.
Chris Coghlan made a bad throw in from left field on a second-inning double by Will Middlebrooks. It's possible the error could have been charged to Arismendy Alcantara, who was playing third base and seemed a bit out of position. It didn't matter because another single made it 2-0 Padres and really, everyone could have gone home right then.
Another error in the fourth inning by Jorge Soler put a runner on second base, but that didn't matter either, as Tommy Medica's home run made it 5-0 and one batter later Lester was done for the afternoon. That batter hit a ball that Starlin Castro misplayed, and a friendly official scorer gave Alexi Amarista a hit. Truth be told, Castro could have been charged with a pair of errors in this one and he really seemed to lack focus.
Lester, I thought, didn't pitch all that badly, although he wound up allowing six hits in all and six earned runs. Carrie Muskat, though, reported that Lester wasn't happy with his outing:
"I’d throw a pitch, throw it where I wanted, stay behind the ball, throw it well and two pitches later, I’m back to 2-1 or behind in the count, whatever the scenario was," Lester said. "Nothing today was crisp, things were flat, up in the zone. I was just not able to repeat and make pitches and minimize damage. "That’s the biggest thing when you have starts like that is being able to minimize damage and make the pitches when you have to. Today was not that case."
A thinking man's pitcher is what Lester appears to be. Always analyzing his own performance for ways to improve. That's an excellent thing even when this game doesn't mean anything. I'm sure he'll be fine once Opening Night is upon us.
The Cubs really couldn't do anything offensively off Brandon Morrow and five Padres relievers. They had seven hits and got just one runner past second base, when they loaded the bases in the eighth inning. By then the Cub regulars had made the slow walk across the outfield to the waiting team bus (or their own cars) and were out of the game. It was still mostly guys from the minor-league camp substituting today, though Junior Lake entered in the sixth and singled.
Now. I don't follow the Cubs system as closely as some of you, but I do think that most of the time I do at least recognize all the minor leaguers' names. Not today. Someone named Ryan Dent came in to play third base. I don't even recall a minor-league transaction in which the Cubs acquired him, but you will not be surprised to find out he was originally drafted (62nd overall) by the Red Sox in 2007. Maybe this was just a "thanks for all your service" thing from Theo, who was the Red Sox GM who chose Dent, a 26-year-old infielder whose minor-league record is rather undistinguished. FWIW, he is no relation to former big-league shortstop and manager Bucky Dent.
The crowd of 6,761 was the smallest of any game I've attended this spring, and even though it was at the Padres' home park, people wearing San Diego gear were few and far between. Most of the crowd was Cubs fans on a very hot afternoon when the local temperature touched 91 degrees. There were a lot of kids around, as it's spring-break week in much of the Phoenix area. The P.A. announcer didn't have a good day, as he announced two wrong Cubs hitters in the third inning before saying Coghlan was batting -- twice.
It was that kind of day.
News if you have not heard it yet: the Cubs have made eight roster cuts, none of which should surprise you. Infielder Christian Villanueva and catcher Rafael Lopez have been optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Six non-roster invitees have been assigned to minor league camp: Right-handed pitchers Corey Black, Pierce Johnson, Armando Rivero and Donn Roach; left-handed pitcher Hunter Cervenka; and infielder Logan Watkins.
Watkins, of course, is out for the year with a torn Achilles tendon, which is a real bad break for him as he had a shot at making the 25-man roster as a reserve. None of the rest of those eight had any real chance to make the big-league team. This leaves 53 players in camp, divided this way: 28 pitchers (six non-roster invitees), five catchers (two non-roster invitees), 10 infielders (four non-roster invitees) and 10 outfielders (three non-roster invitees).
Tomorrow, the American League champion Royals (doesn't that still sound odd?) visit Sloan Park. Jason Hammel will face Kansas City's Danny Duffy.