MESA, Arizona -- Jake Arrieta picked up where he left off last fall.
Well, not exactly where he left off, because after his amazing performance in the 2015 wild-card game, Jake wasn't all that great against the Cardinals or Mets. Jake himself admitted he was "gassed" after the wild-card game, so Joe Maddon is letting him break in slowly this year, and will likely limit his innings through the regular season.
Arrieta struck out four of the six hitters he faced and only one batter (Carlos Santana) hit the ball out of the infield. He looked just like the Jake we saw the second half of 2015. I found this interesting:
#Cubs Arrieta joked that considered intentionally walking leadoff batter in 3rd so he could pitch with a man on base— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 9, 2016
Now, first of all, Jake didn't pitch the third inning -- maybe he meant the second. But I wonder if that was a joke or not. Maybe working with a runner on base is something worth doing. In reality, you probably don't want to "intentionally" put anyone on base, but in a spring training game where you might want to practice something that would help you during the season?
Anyway, it was all downhill after Jake left the game. Pierce Johnson threw one inning, allowed a homer to Giovanny Urshela, gave up another run on a couple of singles and a walk, and managed to get out of the inning on a fly ball with the bases loaded. That's not exactly good, especially since I'm pretty sure Maddon would have liked Johnson to throw two innings, not one. Edgar Olmos allowed a run in his one inning of work, and the Indians chipped away, scoring two more runs off relievers who won't make the team, C.J. Riefenhauser and Rex Brothers. Brothers, again, had no command nor control and I don't see where he could even be backup help at Iowa. He's on the 40-man roster... for now. If the Cubs need that spot he could be let go, I think.
The only Cubs pitcher who threw reasonably well was minor leaguer Michael Jensen, and he was helped out by two nice defensive plays. First, third baseman Khristopher Negron caught Tyler Naquin off third base after Naquin had apparently tripled into the gap. In the eighth, Negron started a slick 5-4-3 double play.
The Cubs' offense was pretty moribund. Of the six regulars who started, only Miguel Montero had a hit, a second-inning single. Jeimer Candelario homered in the fifth, his first of the spring, and that might have been it except for a two-out, ninth-inning error that allowed Taylor Davis to reach base. John Andreoli then homered, a home run that will likely be remembered only by his friends and family.
Winning, obviously, doesn't mean anything until April 4. But at a certain point, I'd think Maddon would like to get a regular rotation of front-line players going. There are 64 players in camp, and almost all of them seem to be getting playing time. After the split-squad games Saturday with the White Sox and Dodgers, I'd expect some roster cuts to come at that point and the guys going north will get more playing time.
Ian Happ, last year's No. 1 draft pick, had his first experience in a big-league spring game. He entered in the sixth inning at second base, helped turn that above-mentioned double play, and grounded out and walked in two plate appearances.
Attendance watch: The Cubs were about 1,000 short of a sellout Wednesday with an announced crowd of 14,254. But then there was this:
#Cubs attendance: 15,224 at Sloan Park today— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 9, 2016
Need to update #Cubs attendance today at Sloan Park -- it's 14,254.— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 9, 2016
Not sure why or how that happened, but there it is. I'd expect sellouts or close Friday and Saturday and we'll see what they'll announce. That makes the season total attendance for five games 72,393, an average of 14,479 per date.
Thursday, the Cubs travel to Peoria to face the Mariners. Jon Lester makes the start, his first of the spring, and will face Seattle's Wade Miley.
And yes, my internet is back. As Joni Mitchell once sang, "You don't know what you got till it's gone."