PHOENIX, Arizona — By the time the Cubs’ 2-1 loss to the Brewers in the Cactus League opener ended, just before 4 p.m. local time, it was downright cold and sprinkles began to fall at Maryvale Baseball Park.
Honestly, it would have been a fine weather day for a Cubs home opener, but for spring training? Temperatures not getting out of the 50s, when the average high this time of year is 73? Yuck.
A ragtag squad of mostly Cubs minor leaguers lost to a Brewers team featuring several of their regulars, playing likely because it was a Milwaukee home game and the game was being televised back to the folks in Wisconsin.
Kyle Schwarber debuted his new svelte form by walking and striking out in two plate appearances before heading out; he had no fielding chances.
The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Mike Freeman singled, advanced to second on an infield out and scored on a single by Tommy La Stella [VIDEO].
TLS looked good at the plate and made a nice fielding play, too. There’s no doubt he could start at second or third base for some teams; he’s a nice bench player to have for this edition of the Cubs.
Michael Roth, who’s likely going to be in the Iowa rotation this year, threw two decent innings. Rob Zastryzny relieved him and should have been out of his inning 1-2-3, except for an error by Freeman.
I’ve been down on Freeman for some time, and this is why. The Cubs usually stash someone at Iowa just in case of injury, as happened to Addison Russell last year. Freeman came to the major leagues last August and didn’t play well defensively, and games like today are for evaluation. Truth be told, I’d rather see Ryan Court, who finished the game at shortstop, get some reps in the field to see if he can be that guy instead of Freeman.
Rob Z got out of his inning on this spectacular diving grab [VIDEO] by Ian Happ.
If Happ doesn’t catch that ball, three runs score, as the Brewers had the bases loaded. For his part at the plate, Happ, who might get some consideration in the leadoff spot he occupied Friday, he was 0-for-2.
Dario Alvarez, who’s vying for a spot as one of the “Iowa shuttle” relievers, did not have a good debut. The first three Brewers reached against him, the third being a two-run triple by Eric Sogard. Before that, Alvarez and Victor Caratini had also allowed a stolen base by Hernan Perez.
Those two runs were all the Brewers needed, as Joe Maddon emptied his bench after the middle innings. The Cubs managed just two hits and a couple other baserunners on errors, walks and hit by pitches after the third inning, and did have the tying and lead runs in scoring position with two out in the eighth, but “best beard in camp” Ali Solis flied to center to end that threat.
The headline of this post is just to let you know that nothing that happened Friday really matters that much. Almost all of the guys who are going to be starting for the Cubs stayed back in Mesa for batting practice, and many of them should be in Saturday’s home spring opener against the Rangers.
Other than that... it was still great to get back out to the ballpark for baseball, a few days short of four months since I was last at a ballgame. Seems like a longer offseason than just four months, doesn’t it? The smallish crowd of 4,489 seemed about half Cubs fans, and now that extensive renovations are planned for Maryvale Baseball Park (check out the renderings, it looks pretty cool) after the Brewers finish this spring season, I’ll probably make another trip out there in 2019.
Saturday, Eddie Butler takes the mound for the Cubs. Righthander Clayton Blackburn goes for the Rangers. The forecast is for sunshine with temperatures in the low 60s.
Today’s song selection (from the headline):