MESA, Arizona -- The good news first!
Jon Lester looked sharp in his two innings of work. He struck out three -- each one on a different type of pitch, one a changeup, one appeared to be a slider, another a fastball. He probably asked Joe Maddon if he could throw another inning, too, because after he was lifted he went to the Cubs' bullpen and threw maybe 20-25 more pitches. When he left the bullpen after this, he got a loud ovation from fans on the lawn.
Good for him, and I'm sure he'll be ready to go April 5 against the Cardinals.
The rest of the staff did fine until the seventh inning, when Brian Schlitter got pounded, hard, by a bunch of Reds scrubs. He gave up four hits and a walk and five runs, punctuated by a three-run homer from Brennan Boesch. That was all the Reds scoring in their 5-2 win over the Cubs that kept the Cubs winless in three spring outings.
Hey, maybe Schlitter was working on something. If he keeps that up, though, he won't be on this staff. Other relievers who will be -- Jason Motte, Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop -- all threw scoreless innings on a gorgeous afternoon when the temperature touched 80 for the first time this month.
The Cubs, meanwhile, scratched across a run in the fifth inning when Matt Szczur tripled and Jonathan Herrera executed a nice squeeze bunt which wound up going for a hit when Reds infielders couldn't handle the ball. The other run came in the eighth inning, when Adron (which, we've learned, is pronounced "Adrian") Chambers doubled down the left-field line and was singled in by Billy McKinney on a single to almost the identical spot.
A couple of other things worth mentioning: Kyle Schwarber was inserted in the game as a pinch-runner for David Ross, who had singled in the fourth. He caught the rest of the game and was responsible for a passed ball on strike threee, allowing Zack Cozart to reach base. Schwarber's going to try real hard to remain at catcher, but I have my doubts after watching him today. Small sample size, of course.
Junior Lake had to leave the game after a collision at second base with Brandon Phillips. Lake was down on the ground for a fair amount of time before getting up and walking off unassisted. It appeared that while Lake was sliding into second, Phillips' knee accidentally hit Lake in the head. That's exactly how Justin Morneau had a concussion that had him miss significant parts of two seasons and come back as a lesser player. I hope Lake is all right, but I also hope they have him thoroughly checked out for concussion symptoms.
Kris Bryant made his first appearance at Sloan Park this afternoon, welcomed by nice applause from what was left of a sellout crowd. However, Daniel Corcino, who made his major-league debut against the Cubs last August and started a September game against them in Cincinnati, struck him out on a 1-2 pitch to end the game.
Oh. Javier Baez. Well, I didn't see any change in his swing, it looked like that same sweeping swing that had him with a 40-plus percent K rate last year. And, he turned a routine ground ball into an error. One game, sure, but...
I heard today that many fans waiting for autographs along the barricades set up for that purpose near the home-plate gate were disappointed. Many Cubs passed by without signing, and those who did stop to sign were rushed through by security. This isn't very fan-friendly, in my view. One of the best things about spring training is having a more intimate atmosphere and being able to get closer to the players. The least they could do is set aside a few minutes to sign -- and then not be rushed doing it.
The sellout crowd of 15,331 set a new Cactus League record, breaking the record of 15,276 set March 25, 2014 against the Angels. The two dates thus far have drawn 26,463, or 13,232 per date. I heard earlier today that Sunday's game is a near-sellout.
Saturday, the Cubs travel to Talking Stick to face the Rockies at 2:10 CT. Jason Hammel will make his first spring start. Felix Doubront, also vying for a rotation spot, will throw after Hammel. They will face Colorado's Brett Marshall (who was briefly a Cub in the 2013-14 offseason).