SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- Continuing my desire to never again go to Camelback Ranch, I skipped today's game, which resulted in a 10-7 Cubs win over the White Sox. Travis Wood got hit pretty hard in the first inning, giving up three runs, but allowed just one more over three-plus more frames, despite allowing a total of 11 hits in 4⅓ innings. It was by far Wood's worst performance of the spring.
The Cubs got all the runs back and more, thanks primarily to a pair of two-run homers, one from David Ross and one by Arismendy Alcantara. Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson mispronounced Alcantara's name, saying "Al-CAN'T-ra" instead of "Al-CONTRA," although it was closer than Dodger announcer Charlie Steiner's botching of the name (Steiner said "Al-can-TEAR-a" multiple times). Taylor Teagarden and Anthony Giansanti also homered in the ninth off former Cub Zach Putnam to put the game away. The Cubs lead all major-league teams in spring homers with 24 in 19 games.
Hopefully, Mendy will become a good enough player that everyone will know the right way to say his name.
The scrub Cubs -- most of the regulars got Friday off after a long night game Thursday -- did a creditable job against Hector Noesi and several Sox relievers. Tommy La Stella, who is having a very good spring and could very well be the Opening Night second baseman, had two hits, as did Albert Almora.
Mendy's home run was off Matt Albers, while Ross hit his off Noesi. I also came across this interesting note about Ross:
Robin Ventura made one career pitching appearance - 6/25/04 - and the man who caught him homered in this game. David Ross.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) March 20, 2015
Well, yes. Ross has been around a while. But he is having a good spring and I like his leadership qualities. This young team needs guys like him, Dexter Fowler and Miguel Montero for that purpose. Theo's put together a good mix.
Zac Rosscup had a rough ninth, giving up a pair of runs and loading the bases with two out, but he got out of it with an infield popup to end it.
Wood's not-good but not-horrible outing is an interesting story especially considering this news:
#Cubs Maddon also says talked to Theo about finding creative way to keep both EJackson and TWood on roster at start of season— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 20, 2015
"Creative." Well, that could mean just about anything, but most likely, it would be something like having them alternate starts in the No. 5 slot while the other man goes to the bullpen as "long man. Not that such a thing really exists anymore -- this FanGraphs article titled "Death of the Long Man," posted just this morning, tells the story about the long fade of relievers who go more than two innings in games.
In some ways, this makes sense. If there's no taker for Edwin Jackson, simply releasing him and eating the $22 million on his deal doesn't make sense if Theo & Co. think they can get some useful pitching out of him. He hasn't been awful this spring and at times has looked decent. Keeping him around and having him make some regular-season starts might increase his trade value down the line.
There's another story that's a little bit concerning, though everyone involved is saying it's no big deal: Jon Lester has been scratched from his scheduled start tomorrow because of "dead arm". Here's what Joe Maddon said about it:
"(It's) not pain," Maddon said Friday. "A lot of guys go through that moment where the arm just doesn't feel right. He came out of the chute really strong and probably went after it too hard, too early. Possibly trying to impress everybody, just being Jon Lester." Maddon indicated, as of right now, it has no effect on Lester starting Opening Day against the St. Louis Cardinals. "When a guy smiles easily, talks easily about it, is upbeat, normally it's a good indication," Maddon said. "He was all of that. I feel strongly he's going to be OK."
If Maddon is confident about Lester on Opening Night, I trust him. Steve Stone, who can still give good analysis at times, talked about this on the CSN telecast, saying that many pitchers reach this kind of "dead arm" point in their third or fourth spring start and wind up just fine for the season. Saturday would have been start No. 4 for Lester, so let's hope Stone's analysis is correct. Lester's next scheduled game to start will be next Thursday in Mesa against the Angels, a game that will be televised nationally on ESPN at 6 p.m. CT. So there's that, anyway -- you'll get to watch him throw, which you wouldn't have tomorrow.
There's no TV for Saturday's game in Mesa against the Mariners. Eric Jokisch will start in Lester's place, and Felix Hernandez will go for Seattle.