MESA, Arizona — Compare and contrast!
The Cubs outslugged the A’s 15-11 Wednesday afternoon, with the teams combining for seven home runs.
Whose fans do you think had more fun?
On a gorgeous, sun-kissed afternoon providing the Cactus League finale for the Cubs before they head on to Houston, four Cubs went deep off an assortment of A’s pitchers. Kyle Schwarber hit two homers, Willson Contreras hit one and Albert Almora Jr. smacked a grand slam in the Cubs’ five-run first inning. It’s nice to see Almora hitting the ball with authority; he had four homers and seven doubles in 62 spring at-bats.
I managed to get my phone set up in time to see Schwarber finish rounding the bases on his second homer:
The Cubs’ first three homers had given them a 7-2 lead after three, but John Lackey just couldn’t quite put away the A’s in the fourth. I’m pretty sure Joe Maddon would have liked to see him finish that inning, but he allowed a pair of singles, hit a batter, then issued a walk before the second out. A single plated two runs and minor-leaguer James Pugliese entered. He gave up a single and then a three-run homer hit by Andrew Lambo (whose name sounds like he should be playing for the Green Bay Packers). Lackey’s line, 3⅔ innings, seven earned runs, sounds a lot worse than he pitched. He appears ready for the season.
After the fourth inning there was a mass exodus of starting players from both teams and the minor leaguers finished things off. The only things of significance to note for the Cubs were decent innings from Koji Uehara and Carl Edwards Jr. Justin Grimm allowed a run in his inning, and Rob Zastryzny finished up by retiring all six batters he faced. That’s good, considering his earlier spring struggles, but again it was against A’s minor leaguers, so not really possible to read too much into it either way.
Attendance watch: The crowd of 15,448 pushed the season total to 226,933, which is a new all-time spring-training record, breaking the 2016 total of 226,163. That’s for all teams, not just the Cubs. The 15-game average of 15,129 is also a record, breaking last year’s mark of 15,078.
The Cubs also set up their Opening Day 25-man roster with this move:
With lingering concerns over Brian Duensing's back spasms, the Cubs placed the reliever on the 10-day disabled list to start the season and will break camp with both outfielder Matt Szczur and infielder Tommy La Stella on their 25-man roster, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein announced Wednesday ahead of the team's final spring game in Arizona.
That leaves the club with seven relievers among its 12-man pitching staff, and 13 positional players.
With three off days in the season’s first 11 days, the Cubs can likely get along with seven relievers. That, of course, assumes the starters can go deep into games. No Cubs starter has yet thrown more than six innings at any time this spring. The Cubs will likely need Mike Montgomery to throw long relief on a number of occasions over the first few weeks of the season.
I like the bench flexibility with having both Szczur and TLS on the roster. That gives Joe Maddon a pinch hitter from either side of the plate and more ability to move other players around on the field.
The Cubs head to Houston for a pair of exhibition games Thursday and Friday against the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Thursday’s game, at 7:10 CT, will feature Brett Anderson against Houston’s Lance McCullers. And there’s also this good news:
Addison Russell (back) will return to action Thursday against the Astros in Houston. #Cubs— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) March 29, 2017
Onward. Just four more days until the games count.