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Royals 6, Cubs 2: It’s The Process

Remember, results of spring games mean almost nothing.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

MESA, Arizona — Joe Maddon has stated during spring camp that one option for the fifth starter spot in the rotation this year could be a “hybrid” option where Mike Montgomery and Brett Anderson share the slot in some way. How that might work is yet to be determined.

Both men threw in Sunday night’s 6-2 loss to the Royals, and both threw reasonably well, though the boxscore numbers don’t really show that.

Montgomery got the start this time, and almost immediately put his team behind. The second batter he faced, Mike Moustakas, homered. But then Montgomery settled down. At one point he struck out four straight hitters, three of them on called strikes. He had 5 K’s overall:

He would have gotten out of his three innings with no further damage, except hat with one out in the third he hit Billy Burns. A single moved Burns to third, where he scored on a sacrifice fly. Addison Russell then made a rare error, booting a ball that would have ended the inning, but no further runs scored.

Meanwhile, the Cubs were doing something that’s been fairly common this spring in the early innings, and that’s not doing much at all. Only one Cub reached base in the first four innings. Kris Bryant bounced a ball up the middle that was stopped, but not in time to get KB. Anthony Rizzo hit into a double play to end the inning. In the fifth, Ben Zobrist doubled and Russell’s infield hit moved him to third, but a strikeout and another double play ended the inning.

Carl Edwards Jr. threw a 1-2-3 fourth inning and then it was Anderson’s turn. He threw three very good innings, issuing just one walk. Then Joe let Anderson come out for the eighth, his fourth inning of work, and things fell apart. Three of the first four hitters singled off Anderson to load the bases, and then his evening was done. Jim Henderson, who won’t make the 25-man roster, replaced Anderson and issued a run-scoring walk. After he got Cheslor Cuthbert to pop up for the second out, two singles scored three more runs before a strikeout ended the inning.

(And when I think of the name “Cheslor Cuthbert,” I think of a man who owns a lovely country estate somewhere in the Lake District of central England.)

Before that inning, the game had been flying along with a chance to end in under two hours. The first seven innings were played in about one hour, 35 minutes, so quickly that Sloan Park was still pretty full when the eighth began. Usually, the place begins to empty out around the seventh inning.

Russell finally put a run on the board for the Cubs with a solo homer off Mike Minor in the eighth. This was the first time all the Cubs starting position players played eight full innings this spring, as Maddon had stated he wanted to begin to get them used to playing full games. I suspect we won’t see any of Sunday night’s Cubs starting position players Monday afternoon, though.

One final run scored in the ninth after the sub Cubs took over, driven in by a double down the left-field line by minor-leaguer David Bote. It is an indication of how much this team is loved that many of the crowd that remained were cheering loudly for this run, which means virtually nothing in the grand scheme of the 2017 Cubs.

Former Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler walked in from the left-field corner before the game with the rest of the Royals and stopped to give hugs to some of his former Cubs teammates. He also got a nice round of applause when he came to the plate for his first at-bat. In right field for the evening, he made no defensive plays, and at the plate he struck out all three times. Unless the Royals and Cubs meet in the World Series, that will be the last we’ll see of Jorge in 2017, as the teams don’t play during the regular season.

Soler has also changed from the No. 68 he wore as a Cub to No. 12 as a Royal.

Attendance watch: Another sellout of 15,497 brought the season total to 165,088 for 11 dates, or 15,008 per date. As of Monday morning, three of the four remaining home dates show as complete sellouts on (there are a handful of lawn tickets left for Sunday, March 26 against the Padres), so last year’s all-time spring training attendance record of 226,163 (15,078 average) is very likely to be broken.

Monday afternoon, the Cubs will face the Rockies at Talking Stick. Kyle Hendricks (who should be ready to throw five innings) will face Tyler Anderson. The game preview will post at 1 p.m. CT.