MESA, Arizona -- Sunday's 6-1 Cubs loss to the Padres was a perfect example of why spring-training wins and losses don't mean anything.
The Cubs lost the game because two pitchers who won't be coming north with the team in April -- Francisley Bueno and Gonzalez Germen -- gave up five runs over the last two innings, getting hit hard by Padres scrubs. Both are likely to be in the Iowa bullpen and let's hope they get their acts together because one or both might wind up as injury replacements somewhere down the line.
Before all that, Jason Hammel and James Shields put on a pitching clinic for the first five innings. Shields allowed no hits in his five innings of work; the Cubs had just two baserunners in that time, walks drawn by Javier Baez (that's a good thing!) and Mike Olt.
Meanwhile, Hammel allowed just two hits, didn't walk anyone and struck out nine. To give you an example of how impressive that is, even for a spring game, Hammel has struck out nine or more in a game during the regular season only four times in 187 career starts. He did it once last year for the Cubs before he was traded, June 16 against the Marlins.
Hammel nearly had a hit, too, smoking a line drive that nearly got to left field but was snared by Padres third baseman Yangervis Solarte to end the second inning.
I kind of figured the Cubs would start hitting once Shields was lifted, and sure enough, the first hitter against reliever Jose Valverde, Arismendy Alcantara, homered to left to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Valverde, once a premier closer (288 career saves), is trying to hang on at age 37. His outing today wasn't impressive.
Neither was Felix Doubront, also trying to make the Cubs bullpen (he's clearly not going to be part of the rotation). Doubront got hit pretty hard in his inning of work, allowing an RBI double to Wil Myers that made it 2-1 Padres. It could have been worse if not for a sparkling defensive play by Olt, who snagged an Abraham Almonte grounder headed to left and nearly turned it into a double play. Baez, incidentally, also played nice defense Sunday afternoon in a rare start at shortstop. Alcantara also made a nice defensive play, snagging a line drive by Yonder Alonso with the bases loaded in the sixth, helping preserve a scoreless inning for Jason Motte. Starlin Castro, who's missed the last couple of games with what is described as a "right groin" injury, is supposed to be back on Tuesday.
Despite the fact that many guys from both teams' minor-league camps played in this one, it was played more like a regular-season game than most so far. There were situational mid-inning pitching changes and Joe Maddon even sent up Travis Wood to pinch hit, something he might wind up doing at times during the season. Wood had some good cuts, but Shields wound up striking him out.
Another sellout in Mesa Sunday: 15,206 brought the season total to 147,862, an average of 14,786 over the 10 dates so far. Five dates remain and the Cubs are certain to top the all-time spring-training attendance mark they set last year.
Nathan Barnett, who is the media-relations director for the Cubs' new High-A affiliate in Myrtle Beach, stopped by the berm to say hi. He says they're pretty excited to be with the Cubs and to (likely) see players were at Kane County last year such as Duane Underwood and Jen-Ho Tseng.
The Cubs have their only off day of the spring Monday. Jake Arrieta is scheduled to get some work in a minor-league game Monday afternoon. Tuesday, there will be another "B" game at Sloan Park, this one at 10 a.m. Arizona time, featuring Kyle Hendricks against the Athletics, while the rest of the Cubs head to their former home at HoHoKam Park to face the A's at the usual time of 1 p.m. Arizona time. Edwin Jackson will start that game against Oakland's Drew Pomeranz.
Finally, BCB's Danny Rockett did participate in the "Respect Bald" event at Sloan Park in part via your generous donations. He had his head shaved next to Welington Castillo and he'll have a complete report with photos either later today or tomorrow.
We'll have plenty more here tomorrow so stop by even though it's an off day. I would expect that the Cubs, who still have 52 players in camp, will make some roster cuts on the off day.