MESA, Arizona — Jake Buchanan was one strike away from nailing down a one-run victory for the Cubs when Team Italy’s Chris Colabello hit a little bleeder down the third-base line that Jeimer Candelario couldn’t handle.
Still. Two out, one runner on. Should be a win, right?
Wrong. The next hitter, Rob Segedin of the Dodgers, smacked a two-run homer onto the right-field berm and Daury Torrez, a Cubs prospect, retired his Cubs teammates 1-2-3 in the ninth for Team Italy and they completed an 8-7 win over the Cubs in their first exhibition game before heading to Mexico for World Baseball Classic pool play.
Before that nasty ninth-inning occurrence, Chris Dominguez’ three-run homer highlighted a six-run sixth inning that (at the time) gave the Cubs a 7-6 lead.
Team Italy was the surprise team of the 2013 WBC and this team has some pretty decent hitters who might give their pool-mates of Mexico, Venezuela and Puerto Rico some trouble. In addition to Colabello and Segedin, the following Italy players have significant big-league experience: Francisco Cervelli, Brandon Nimmo and Daniel Descalso. The team will hit. Pitching... perhaps another story, though the first couple of Team Italy pitchers had no trouble dispatching Cubs hitters early on.
Most of the Cubs regulars more or less sleepwalked through the first four innings, scoring a single run in the third without benefit of a hit. With one out Jon Jay was hit by a pitch and Kyle Schwarber walked. Both runners moved up on an infield out and Anthony Rizzo, who played for Italy in the 2013 WBC, struck out, but a wild pitch allowed Rizzo to reach and Jay to score.
By then Italy had scored three runs off Pedro Strop, who did not look good and who finally had to be relieved by Dylan Floro after recording just one out. Strop struck out the first batter he faced, then allowed a walk, three straight hits and another walk. Floro got Segedin to fly to right, and the runners had taken off with the hit, so it was an easy 9-6 double play to end the inning.
Two more runs scored off Hector Rondon in the fourth. With two out and a runner on first, Cubs prospect John Andreoli singled, putting runners on first and third. Nimmo singled in one run and Descalso reached on an error by Ben Zobrist which scored the second run.
Another one came in off Carl Edwards Jr. in the fifth. Again, the first batter struck out, then Hector hit Segedin and walked Alex Liddi. Gavin Cecchini, the Mets’ first-round pick in 2012 (12th overall), doubled in that run to make it 6-1 Italy.
The only Cubs regular who had a good day was John Lackey, making his first start of the spring. He retired six of the seven Team Italy players he faced, allowing only a single by Liddi. He was helped out by a nice catch by Jay in center field. After the game, Lackey had a typical Lackey-like comment:
Asked if he checked radar gun today, #Cubs Lackey shrugged. "I don't look at the gun in June."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 7, 2017
The Sloan Park folks tried to give a bit of international feel to the game by playing the Italian national anthem. If you’ve never heard it (and I hadn’t), here’s what it sounds like.
On a beautiful Tuesday when a lot of kids in the Phoenix area are out of schools on spring break, I was surprised the crowd wasn’t bigger. Just 10,762 attended, more than 4,000 below Sloan Park’s capacity. Even though it wasn’t a big-league team playing the Cubs, Team Italy was certainly big-league in competition quality, at least on this afternoon. Neither the attendance total nor the loss count in Cactus League numbers.
ICYMI earlier Tuesday, the Cubs reassigned six pitchers to minor-league camp: righthanders Andury Acevedo, Daniel Corcino, Fernando Rodriguez and Ryan Williams; and lefthanders Gerardo Concepcion and Manny Parra . None of these should be any surprise to you. 60 players remain in camp, broken down as follows: 34 pitchers (10 non-roster invitees), six catchers (two non-roster invitees), 12 infielders (five non-roster invitees) and eight outfielders (three non-roster invitees).
The Cubs have the first of two spring off days tomorrow. Thursday, they will meet the Mariners at Sloan Park with Mike Montgomery going. The Mariners have not yet named a Thursday starter. There will also be a “B” game at Field 1 at the Cubs complex against the Angels at 10 a.m. AZ time on Thursday. Casey Kelly will go for the Cubs in that game. If you’re in the area you can watch that “B” game for free, although since it’s a Sloan Park game day, parking is not free.