MESA, Arizona — At last, I can report to you on a spring-training game that actually looked like it served its purpose, in other words: to show that players are getting ready, or actually are ready, for the season to come. That’s unlike the first week or so of games, which appeared to be nothing more than glorified Double-A games.
Kyle Hendricks picked up right where he left off in Game 7 of the World Series — mowing down hitters with his pitches having excellent movement. He allowed one single, to Dodger shortstop Kiké Hernandez, who was immediately erased on a nicely-turned double play. Then Hendricks pulled out his signature pitch, the changeup that the hitter absolutely knows is coming on strike two, and yet he still can’t hit it. Rob Segedin swung and missed, and that was the end of Kyle’s two innings. He threw only 16 pitches in the game, and probably could have gone longer except that Joe Maddon & staff already had Brett Anderson penciled in for two innings to follow. So what did Kyle do? This:
He probably threw 30 pitches in the pen after his two innings of work, and later said this:
#Cubs Hendricks barely broke sweat in game. "It felt good to get back in that environment"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 4, 2017
I just love watching Kyle practice his craft. He’s become one of the best pitchers in the game without 90-plus velocity, through hard work and learning to locate.
The Dodgers scored a pair of runs off Anderson, who threw one good inning and then got in trouble in the next one. That tied the game at two, because the Cubs had taken a 2-0 lead in the second on a single by Jon Jay and triple by Jeimer Candelario (who also singled and doubled on the afternoon). The Dodgers plated a run off Pedro Strop, making his spring debut. Strop looked good in striking out the first two hitters he face, but then he allowed a booming triple to Tyler Holt, walked Andre Ethier, and allowed an RBI single to Chase Utley.
But in the bottom of the fourth, Kris Bryant, who hadn’t done much so far this spring, came up with the bases loaded:
That made it 7-3, as Jason Heyward had walked with the bases loaded just prior to KB’s at-bat. I have to say now that I’ve watched several games of Heyward at the plate, that he still looks lost up there. The new stance is kind of a hybrid, as it looks partly like Anthony Rizzo’s the way J-Hey is holding his hands, but then he’s still got a hitch in it. The walk was good, but he also struck out and popped to third and obviously, there’s still work to be done.
After Strop’s inning, two more big-league relievers had their turn. Hector Rondon allowed a single to the first man he faced, then got out of it with a double play. Then Segedin doubled, but Hector got Charlie Culberson on a nice called strike three. Whatever minor injury was bothering Hector at the end of 2016 (and caused Joe Maddon to not use him in critical situations in the World Series) appears to have all healed up.
Carl Edwards Jr. was the most impressive of the three, striking out the side, all swinging. I think the Cubs are going to groom CJ to take over at closer when Wade Davis’ one year here is done (I doubt Davis will be re-signed).
The Cubs added a final run in the seventh on a single by Chesny Young and RBI double by Victor Caratini. Seth Frankoff threw the last two innings, and you can see why he’s not had big-league success. After he got the first two outs in the ninth easily, he issued a pair of walks (he also walked one in the eighth) before getting the last out on a comebacker. Final score: Cubs 9, Dodgers 3, the team’s biggest offensive output in 10 spring games to date.
Attendance watch: The biggest crowd of the spring, 15,438, attended on a gloriously sunny, warm afternoon. That brings the season total to 88,101 for six dates, or 14,684 per date.
Before the game Cubs players and coaches were joined by fans in Joe Maddon’s third annual “Respect Bald” fundraiser, and even long-haired Cubs Taylor Davis and Pierce Johnson joined in the fun. Over $68,000 was raised for pediatric cancer research, and $10,000 of that was donated by Jason Heyward. Here’s Anthony Rizzo doing his part (and he donated $5,000):
Sunday, the Cubs travel to Surprise to take on the Texas Rangers for the only time this spring. Jon Lester will go for the Cubs and Nick Martinez for Texas.