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Cubs 2, Rockies 2: Tying one on

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The Cubs hit a two-run homer, and so did the Rockies.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

MESA, Arizona — The blurb under the headline is really the entire recap of Thursday’s 2-2 Cubs tie with the Rockies.

No, seriously. Ian Happ’s third home run in four games with Mike Freeman on base in the third inning was all of the Cubs scoring.

Rockies minor leaguer Sam Hilliard hit a two-run blast off Cubs non-roster invitee Daniel Camarena in the eighth.

That was it for the scoring, and really, about all for the offense for both teams. The Rockies had six other hits besides their home run; the Cubs had just three other hits. Each team drew a pair of walks.

Here, let me try this: Alec Mills looks ready for Opening Day.

Not buying that, are you? Well, you shouldn’t. Mills isn’t going to be on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster, but he will look pretty good in the Iowa rotation this year. Mills, who is 26 and was acquired a year ago from the Royals for Donnie Dewees, definitely has talent. Last year was ruined by injury for him as he made only seven starts, and the Cubs sent him to the Arizona Fall League to get some more action. There he made six starts and posted a decent 3.91 ERA and 1.391 WHIP and allowed just one home run in 23 innings, pretty good for the offense-minded AFL.

Thursday, he looked really good in shutting down the Rockies for two innings. He issued a walk and struck out three, and was facing many of the Rockies regulars, including DJ LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado (who he got on a called third strike) and Trevor Story. (Story, incidentally, made a really nice stab of a sharp ground ball to rob Willson Contreras of a hit in the third inning.)

So, Mills bears watching this year.

The other Cubs relievers did well until Camarena gave up the homer in the eighth. Brian Duensing looked good in his 1-2-3 inning; the rest of the guys who threw today will be mainstays in the Iowa bullpen this year, if they stick around. Shae Simmons, a late signing to camp, struck out David Dahl, another Rockies regular, and had a 1-2-3 inning. He could very well wind up on the Iowa shuttle this year.

As for Happ, he’s one of the hottest hitters in the Cactus League:

He’s 5-for-10 this spring with a double and the three homers.

Happ also looks more natural in center field so far this spring; that’s always been a concern of mine, that he doesn’t look comfortable out there, that he doesn’t take good routes to balls. That’s how I viewed Happ as a center fielder last year, but he seems to have worked hard on making himself a better outfielder. You’re going to see a lot of him in center this year, I suspect, and he seems to be setting up for a good year at the plate. And he won’t turn 24 until August. Curious note: Happ was born August 12, 1994. That’s the exact date that year’s strike began, the last labor stoppage baseball had. Just one of those odd baseball coincidences.

Look! I’ve gotten more than 500 words into this recap before mentioning the game time, 2:17. Love these, absolutely love them. The pace was great, there was still enough action in the game to be entertaining, and it ended before 3:30. Beautiful. All baseball should be paced like that.

Attendance watch: When Sloan Park opened up Thursday, based on what sections were filling up it appeared this crowd might be smaller than Wednesday’s. However, the nice weather might have given the Cubs some good walkup sales, as the paid attendance was 10,167. That makes the season total for five home dates 54,091, or 10,818 per date. The next home date, Saturday vs. the Reds, is expected to be played in glorious weather, sunshine and temps near 72, so I’d expect closer to a sellout.

Friday, the Cubs head to Tempe Diablo Stadium to play the Angels. Jose Quintana will make his spring debut, and it’s Shohei Ohtani’s turn to pitch, but he won’t pitch in this one, instead throwing in an Angels “B” game. Garrett Richards will start for the Angels in a game beginning at 2:05 p.m. CT. It’ll be on cubs.com for audio, and TV coverage (via MLB.tv) will be on the Angels network, Fox Sports West.