SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- Things began to turn in the Cubs' 8-3 loss to the Diamondbacks just around the time the starters were being replaced for the afternoon.
Through four innings, the Cubs were trailing 4-3. A pair of doubles by Tommy La Stella and Juan Perez scored a pair of runs in the second (and the La Stella double went straight up off the very top of the wall in left-center, missing a homer by maybe six inches), and Dexter Fowler hit his first spring home run (off almost-Cub Randall Delgado) in the third. Fowler's homer went halfway up the berm in right-center:
But Rex Brothers was awful in the fourth inning. Before Joe Maddon had mercy on everyone involved and came to pull him, he'd allowed two hits, thrown four wild pitches, and allowed a hitter to reach on a dropped third strike on one of the wild pitches. Arizona took a 4-3 lead in that inning that they never gave up, and that started the parade of pitchers from the system. Nick Greenwood, signed to a minor-league deal (without a NRI to camp) this winter, finished off that inning, but not before hitting A.J. Pollock, the first batter he faced.
Frank Batista, who has thrown reasonably well through seven seasons in the Cubs system but at almost 27 really isn't a prospect, faced three hitters in the fifth inning before leaving with what looked like a serious leg injury:
#Cubs pitching prospect Frank Batsita is being helped off the field. Hurt his left leg. Looks like he fell awkwardly off the mound— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 6, 2016
He had to be helped off the field. Fortunately, it doesn't seem too serious:
#Cubs pitching prospect Frank Batista tweaked his left quad falling awkwardly off mound in 5th— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 6, 2016
Then it was a parade of pitchers who'll all be in the minor leagues this year, facing mostly Diamondbacks minor leaguers. A few more runs came across the plate for Arizona in a game that seemed kind of draggy, what you might see watching a Double-A game, since that's where many of the players who were in this game from the fifth inning on will likely play this year.
Adam Warren, making his first start as a Cub, got hit pretty hard in the first inning after retiring Pollock to lead off that frame. Jean Segura singled, Jake Lamb doubled and Pete O'Brien singled and the D'backs had a 2-0 lead. Warren did have a 1-2-3 second inning, but didn't strike out anyone and three of the six outs were fly balls. Maybe he was working on something or not mixing up his pitches well enough, but this was not an auspicious debut. We'll certainly see more starts by Warren, especially with split-squad games coming up.
Jason Heyward went 0-for-2 and is hitless so far this spring, but he made a nice play in one of the messy middle innings. O'Brien appeared to single with Lamb on first base in the fourth, but Lamb hesitated long enough for Heyward to force him at second base, the throw taken by Addison Russell. The play was close, but considering where the throw was coming from...
And there is the real value of Jason Heyward, maybe the best defensive right fielder in the game.
Clouds went in and out all afternoon and about five raindrops fell on a couple of occasions, and the wind picked up blowing out to right during the game. When the game started, it felt very hot and humid, but it cooled off later. Most of the sellout of 13,151 had left by then, though. As is the case at Sloan Park, tickets were in high demand at Talking Stick. I spoke to one woman who paid $49 on StubHub Sunday morning, for a lawn seat with a face price of $11.
Monday, for the first time, we'll see a starter who is one of the expected top four starters for the Cubs: Jason Hammel, who will start the game at Sloan Park against the Royals. KC will counter with Kris Medlen. The Cubs' first split-squad day of the spring sends the other half of the team back to Talking Stick, this time to face the Rockies. Aaron Brooks starts for the Cubs, Jon Gray for Colorado. Monday, the only broadcast coverage is of the Mesa game vs. the Royals, on cubs.com with Len Kasper and Mick Gillispie. There's no audio or TV coverage of the Talking Stick game.