MESA, Arizona -- Erik Johnson is supposed to be the White Sox' best pitching prospect, and expected to be a part of their rotation this year.
If that's the case... they could be in trouble, because Cubs hitters pounded Johnson all over Sloan Park in the first three innings. They had seven hits, including a home run from Dexter Fowler (his second of the spring) and scored five runs over Johnson's appearance on their way to a 9-2 trouncing of the Sox. The nine runs and 17 hits are spring highs for the Cubs this year, and they did it with many of the regulars not playing, as several of them will be playing tonight against the Dodgers in Glendale. Here's Fowler's homer:
The other important story of this one was Jason Hammel's outstanding four-inning outing, the first such appearance for a Cubs starter this year. Hammel was excellent, mixing up his pitches and inducing several ground-ball outs. He also struck out four and touched 95 on the Sloan Park pitch-speed meter (which, I have been told, might be a little high). Hammel appears to be completely healed from the leg injury that ruined the second half of 2015 for him. That's a very good sign for the Cubs' rotation.
Other Cubs making big contributions to the offense on a gorgeous, 70ish afternoon that was the kind of day you dream about at Wrigley and don't usually get until June: Jason Heyward singled and walked and scored twice; Anthony Rizzo singled in two runs; John Andreoli had four hits, including a perfectly placed squeeze bunt and a triple into the gap in right-center, after which he scored on a balk. Here's the bunt:
Andreoli has been in the organization for a while and will be 26 in June. I've described him before as "a taller Sam Fuld" and that's pretty much his skillset. In a different Cubs era he might be a useful 25th man, but most likely he's at Iowa again this year and might get the chance to play in the majors if there are injuries, or possibly as a September callup to be used for baserunning and defense.
It was not a good day for Sox pitchers at all, as beyond the poor pitching, Jake Petricka had to leave after one hitter, when Andreoli singled off him. By that I mean directly off his pitching arm, or so it appeared:
The bottom of the Cubs order, which consisted of David Ross, Kristopher Negron and Munenori Kawasaki, made its contributions as well. Each had a hit, and all three contributed in a three-run inning off Daniel Webb, who replaced Petricka. I like Kawasaki. He plays good defense, can run some, and is a great clubhouse guy. There probably isn't room on this team for him unless there are injuries, but he's a great guy to have around.
After Hammel left, Aaron Brooks and Jean Machi each got touched up for a run, the latter on a home run by Avisail Garcia. By then most of the regulars for both teams had departed. I was pleased to see Shawon Dunston Jr. get an at-bat in this game (he struck out). Dunston was injured much of last year and played in only 24 games. He's 23 and will need to start producing if he still hopes to make the big leagues.
Attendance watch: 15,417 was another sellout at Sloan Park, and it was probably the most crowded I'd seen it all spring. Very few Sox fans were there, as Cubs fans seemed to snap up all the tickets. That makes the season total for the seven dates so far 103,066, or 14,724 per date.
I'll let you guys weigh in on your thoughts on the Sox new play-by-play announcer, as I obviously did not watch the game.
In a little less than an hour, a game preview for tonight's game against the Dodgers in Glendale will post with lineups, pitching information and broadcast info (televised on MLB.tv via SportsNetLA and the Dodgers broadcast team). A recap of the night game will post as usual at 8 a.m. CT (don't forget, that's Daylight Saving time!) tomorrow morning.