MESA, Arizona -- Just before Tuesday's Cubs/Athletics game began at HoHoKam Stadium in Mesa, it was announced that Blake Parker would be starting the game. First thought: "Edwin Jackson has been traded!"
Then, word came that he had been "caught in traffic." Uh... okay, I guess, even though Sloan Park and HoHoKam Stadium are the closest two parks in the Cactus League, just 3.6 miles apart:
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Ten minutes is about right. I've driven it a number of times. Even with ballgame traffic, it shouldn't take more than 15. Then we found out the real reason:
#Cubs Jackson said he put the A's complex into Google maps and was directed to Oakland's old complex at Phoenix Muni— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 24, 2015
Jackson said it's 1st time in 12 years that's happened. #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 24, 2015
Jackson did arrive at HoHoKam by 12:40 but said #Cubs staff didn't want him to rush to get ready for start so Parker started instead— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 24, 2015
Okay, I just did exactly what it says up there. I put "A's complex" into Google Maps. Here's what I got:
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The very first result using that search is "HoHoKam Stadium," charmingly labeled by Google as "Enduring baseball spring training home."
And here's the thing that really puzzles me. Edwin Jackson played for the 2013 Cubs. You know, the last year they were at HoHoKam and everyone was making a really big deal about the Cubs moving out and the A's moving in this year. Edwin Jackson works in baseball. You'd think he would have known about this. You'd think he could have asked one of his teammates, or coaches, or his manager, or taken the bus with everyone else over from Sloan Park.
I don't know how this misdirection affected Jackson, but he had one of the worst innings I've ever seen from any established starter in spring training. After emergency starter Parker gave up a pair of first-inning runs, Jackson allowed a pair in the second on two doubles and a wild pitch. Then he managed to get the first two men out in the third on routine plays. It was after that when he imploded, allowing seven consecutive hits, one of them a two-run homer by Stephen Vogt.
Jackson's spring ERA was 1.00 (plus six unearned runs) before Tuesday. Now it's 7.59.
I don't want to come down too hard on Jackson for the transportation mishap. But really, he should have known better.
The rest of the game was forgettable from a Cubs standpoint. Kris Bryant provided the only highlight with his ninth homer of the spring, a third-inning blast that bounced off a sidewalk behind the berm and into the parking lot, probably 400 feet on the fly. Bryant also made a couple of nice plays at third base, but was also charged with an error when he fumbled a Sam Fuld grounder in the A's two-run fifth.
Otherwise it was "check out the lefty relievers" afternoon. Joseph Ortiz and Drake Britton, who both still have a shot at the 25-man roster, did all right. Ortiz threw a scoreless frame and the A's scored one off Britton. Francisley Bueno was "no bueno" again, charged with a pair of runs. I'd guess he'll be at best sent to Iowa, at worst released. Britton is out of options, while Ortiz has one remaining.
Being back at HoHoKam was odd, but familiar. Apart from the conversion of former seating areas to party decks, the big new video board and the green-and-gold paint job, it looked and felt pretty much the same as it did two years ago when the Cubs played their last game there as the home team. A strong contingent of Cubs fans (including a large group of friends of mine who reclaimed our old spot in front of the scoreboard on the left-field berm) made the paid attendance total 9,032, but workers there told me the A's have been drawing well for many games, perhaps the new-ballpark curiosity factor for A's fans. It will make a nice home for Oakland spring training for many years to come. For us as Cubs fans, we'll have a once-a-year trip down memory lane.
I was expecting some roster moves from the Cubs today, but nothing, at least not as of this writing. Perhaps tomorrow, in advance of the night game. The Cubs will travel to Peoria to face the Mariners. Travis Wood takes the mound against Seattle's Taijuan Walker. And, we trust, everyone will have the proper directions to the Peoria Sports Complex.