SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- I told all of you John Danks could still pitch!
Now, before you all start blasting me for that statement, of course I realize this is spring training, it wasn't the Cubs' regular lineup, and just about anyone can have a good outing in the spring. Danks might or might not have recovered to his pre-injury level. The Sox are certainly hoping he has, as they need him to be a solid contributor to their rotation.
Nevertheless, he was very good in shutting down the Cubs offense in a 3-2 White Sox win over the Cubs. Just one Cub got a hit off Danks in five innings, a fourth-inning double by Jeimer Candelario. The Cubs also drew two walks off Danks, but those (and Anthony Rizzo getting hit by a pitch for the second time this week) were the only baserunners until the eighth inning, when two errors, a groundout to short by Travis Wood and a wild pitch produced the Cubs' runs.
Obviously, this is a spring-training game and the lack of offense means little, especially after the 15-run outburst Thursday evening.
So let's talk about a couple other things. First, another fine outing from Kyle Hendricks, who allowed only two hits: a double by Travis Ishikawa and single by Alex Avila, back-to-back in the third inning. Austin Jackson followed with a sacrifice fly, scoring the only run Hendricks allowed. He didn't walk anyone and struck out three, giving him 12 K's in 14 innings so far this spring. If there were any doubts about Hendricks and the fifth rotation spot, I think he's dispelled them. This is the Hendricks we saw in the second half of 2014, and it appears he's made the necessary adjustments to get back to that level.
In the seventh, a walk, an error, a couple of singles and a sacrifice fly scored two runs for the Sox off Wood, which was the eventual difference in the game. Only one of the runs off Wood was earned.
Matt Murton made his first appearance in a big-league spring game, playing an uneventful left field and going 0-for-2 with a strikeout. I suspect we'll be seeing a lot of Murton over the next week or so as he resumes (following an appendectomy) his longshot bid to return to MLB from Japan.
A few words about the White Sox new play-by-play man Jason Benetti: he's very, very good. His delivery is smooth and he has a pleasing voice which at times reminded me vaguely of Len Kasper's. His baseball knowledge is excellent and, key to making a good baseball TV broadcast, he and Steve Stone seem to have pretty good chemistry. That's rare for a broadcast team that's new together, and I give both men credit for that. Sox fans should be very pleased with this broadcast team and non-Sox fans who weren't fans of Hawk Harrelson should now find Sox telecasts easy to watch.
I do have one complaint about CSN Chicago's coverage so far this year. Take a look at this graphic:
The names are too small. I mean, I can read that if I make it full screen on my computer monitor which is located about a foot from my face, but if I'm sitting 10 feet away from a 32-inch TV screen (as I was for the game Friday afternoon), the names were almost impossible to read. I get it, CSN's trying to make a clever-looking graphic by putting this on a replica of a padded outfield wall, but it fails in the real world. I saw this happen fairly often when I worked in TV; graphic designers made things that looked great on their huge monitors close to their faces, but that were too small or unreadable in real-life situations. Obviously, the "defensive alignment" graphic isn't all that important to a TV broadcast, but if they're going to make one, they should at least make it readable.
Before the game Friday the Cubs announced a further series of roster cuts. Carl Edwards Jr., Pierce Johnson, C.J. Riefenhauser, Arismendy Alcantara and Willson Contreras have been optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Jeimer Candelario has been optioned to Double-A Tennessee.
Five non-roster invitees have been assigned to minor league camp: Stephen Fife, Felix Pena, Drew Rucinski, Edgar Olmos and Taylor Davis.
None of these names should surprise you as none really had a chance to make the roster. Alcantara, who has the most big-league experience of any of those men, will have to work his way back by having a good year at Iowa.
These moves leave 45 players in camp: 22 pitchers (five non-roster invitees and one on the disabled list), four catchers (one non-roster invitee), 10 infielders (three non-roster invitees) and nine outfielders (five non-roster invitees).
A reminder that just because a player has been "cut," that doesn't mean he can't appear in a future spring game, as a couple of those players were in Friday's game. Another will appear Saturday, when the Cubs will play their only night game of the Cactus League season (the 4:05 games Thursday and coming up next Thursday aren't really "night" games) Saturday when they travel to Goodyear to face the Indians. Pierce Johnson (among Friday's cuts) will start for the Cubs (Jake Arrieta, whose turn it is to start, will go in a minor-league game at Cubs camp) and Corey Kluber goes for the Tribe.