SURPRISE, Arizona -- The Cubs came from behind in the ninth inning Tuesday afternoon and scored eight runs, turning a 9-7 deficit into a 15-10 win over the Texas Rangers.
Normally, this would be exciting news. But only one Cub who's likely to be on the 25-man roster Sunday night participated in this outburst -- Tommy La Stella, who walked and scored. Maybe you could include Jonathan Herrera, who has a shot at making the team. He singled and scored in the inning.
The rest of the Cubs in that 40-minute-long inning were guys who are probably never going to make the big leagues (Jonathan Mota), guys who have an outside shot at a big-league career (Wes Darvill) and some who might be part of the Cubs' bright future (Billy McKinney, Mark Zagunis). Zagunis doubled in a run. Willson Contreras tripled, in all the Cubs had six hits and a pair of walks, had one man reach base on an error and even pitcher Francisley Bueno drove in a run with an infield out. This was primarily off miscellaneous Rangers pitchers who probably aren't going to make the big leagues, either, except for former Cub Kyuji Fujikawa, who got hit hard by the Cubs scrubs. I suspect Fujikawa, who the Rangers signed to a $1.1 million deal -- he's on their 40-man roster -- might be done.
The Rangers dragged out the inning with a homer by Carlos Corporan off Bueno; it was like watching a mediocre High-A game, actually, for that inning.
Before all that, Eric Jokisch got hit early and often by Rangers hitters; he was finally lifted with one out in the fourth after allowing 10 hits and seven runs. He'll be in the Iowa rotation, but I have my doubts that Jokisch has any major-league future other than possibly as a lefty specialist. He just doesn't have good enough stuff, I don't think. Too bad, as the local connection (he went to Northwestern) would be a good story if he made it.
Cubs relievers did a pretty good job, except for Drake Britton, who's also trying for one of the final bullpen spots. Britton got two easy outs and then gave up three straight hits, one a two-run double by Corporan that gave the Rangers a 9-5 lead at the time (last of the sixth). Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon, who were given partial innings as a tuneup for the season, both disposed of the hitters they faced without incident (save a walk by Strop).
Matt Szczur homered again, his fifth of the spring. Only five players have more. Do I expect Szczur to do this during the season? Of course I don't, but I do think he has raised his game and could become a useful fifth outfielder. He did, however, let a ball get by him in the second inning for a triple -- that can't happen, as defense is his strong suit. Mike Olt and Ryan Sweeney, the latter also fighting for a spot on the 25-man roster, both doubled in the Cubs' 14-hit attack.
I decided to try something different today than my usual berm spot. At Surprise Stadium, they have a "party tent" where you can upgrade any ticket for $15. For that, you get a full lunch (today catered by Boston Market) and one drink, as well as a seat. Thought that was a pretty good deal, so I sat in right field today (you might have seen that tent if you watched the game via MLB.tv).
A few notes here about the Cubs' announcements by conference call this morning regarding preparations for Wrigley Field. Team spokesman Julian Green emphatically denied all the rumors that have been floating around regarding the ballpark and said they had always planned to play baseball at Wrigley this year, despite "challenging" problems that included issues with water mains and very cold weather. Green also said rumors the upper deck is "unsafe" are completely false.
Cubs VP of Stadium Operations Carl Rice then laid out some facts -- they still plan to open the left- and center-field bleachers May 11, with right field "sometime in June." The left-field video board will be operational on Sunday; the right-field board sometime around the All-Star break. A Budweiser sign that will eventually go atop the right-field board will be placed somewhere else in right field starting Sunday -- likely, Budweiser paid for a full year, so they're getting it.
Rice also said the ballpark will be down at least one concession stand and some restrooms on the left-field side of the concourse -- I'd expect longer lines.
He also said they are working with all the major cell carriers to provide full cell service in Wrigley Field by Sunday, but Wrigley WiFi is not likely to be back until 2016.
The Ernie Banks and Ron Santo statues will return to their original positions by Opening Day, but Harry Caray's statue won't return to its spot outside the main bleacher entrance until 2016. Also, those of you who had brick pavers that were removed -- those pavers will eventually be returned to a different location, likely around the main bleacher entrance. Rice said that anyone who had a paver that was removed will be contacted by letter soon with further information.
A reminder that due to the Fall Out Boy three-song concert prior to Sunday's game, gates at Wrigley will open at 4:35 p.m., half an hour earlier than usual for a night game. And the team will be doing tributes to Ernie Banks Sunday -- probably one on the video board, which will be a terrific first use for it. I look forward to seeing what they're going to do for Ernie, and the rest of the things for the board.
Tomorrow, though, the Cubs still are in Arizona, finishing up the Sloan Park season against the Milwaukee Brewers. Jason Hammel will face Kyle Lohse in a game that will be televised via CSN Chicago.