MESA, Arizona — The best thing about being out at Sloan Park for the Cubs’ 8-4 win over the Brewers wasn’t the win, because most of the guys who produced this win won’t be part of the Cubs this season. I can’t really even give you much analysis of the guys who pitched, because it’s very likely that not one of the eight men who threw baseballs off the mound at Sloan Park Saturday will wear a Cubs uniform during the 2019 regular season.
Instead, the best thing was just being part of the sights and sounds of baseball again, especially after this offseasonus horribilis. Sunshine, balls slapping into gloves, the crack of the bat... this is why we all love this game so much, and why it attracts us every spring, to the hope of new beginnings and perhaps, again, a championship waiting for us about eight months from now.
Kris Bryant, whose 2018 season was ruined by injury, gave us a hint that he might just be back to form this year. Early, yes, a spring game, yes, but after Jason Heyward led off the first inning with a single, KB was the next hitter. And fortunately, my friend Jon Ferlise of Cubs Insider was ready with his camera:
Since there was no TV for this game, there’s a good look at KB’s homer. He also singled before departing after the third inning.
That was off Chase Anderson, too, one of the mainstays of the Brewers rotation. Now, you might say — and you’re probably right — that Anderson, like many pitchers early in the spring, was throwing mostly fastballs, or “working on something,” but still, Bryant put a pretty good charge into that baseball. It was good to see.
Jen-Ho Tseng, who was once a pretty good prospect who’s just hanging on, gave that right back in the second inning, on a homer by Corey Ray. Ray isn’t likely to play much in Milwaukee this year. The Brewers, in fact, brought none of their big names: No Moustakas, Shaw, Aguilar, Braun, Cain or Yelich. About the only recognizable names in their starting lineup were DH Eric Thames and catcher Manny Pina. They, along with all the starting Cubs, were gone by the sixth inning.
Oh, yes, the designated hitter. For those of you who have forgotten since last spring, the DH is generally used by all teams, in both leagues, no matter the home park, for the first couple of weeks of camp. Only in the last two weeks or so do N.L. starting pitchers take at-bats.
I also took note of the pitch clock. Here, in the at-bat where KB homered, you can see it in use:
You can see the clock at the right of the photo. There’s another one in center field, where hitters can see it, and a smaller one on the press box. This was the first Cubs game where it was used, and... the usage was spotty. Sometimes it was set for the first pitch of an at-bat, other times not. Sometimes I saw it in use with runners on (theoretically, it’s not supposed to be), sometimes not. When the pitcher began his motion (or stretch), it went off. I saw it count down below 3 a couple of times, but usually the pitch was being delivered before it got to 10.
Obviously, it’s a work in progress. (Also, BCB points for the song reference in the headline.)
Matt Carasiti, who the Cubs acquired from the Rockies in 2017 for Zac Rosscup and who pitched in 2018 in Korea, struck out the side in the fifth, allowing an infield single, while Brewers major leaguers were still in the game. That was the most impressive pitching performance of the day from a Cubs hurler. Carasiti likely heads to Iowa to be on the shuttle this year.
There was a nice play made at third base by Cristhian Adames in the fourth; Adames had taken over for Bryant. Adames, who had some big-league time from 2013-17 with the Rockies, likely plays infield at Iowa this year. He can play shortstop, so he’s an injury backup sort of along the lines of a Munenori Kawasaki.
The paid attendance was 15,176, the sixth-largest in Sloan Park (and Cactus League) history, and the berm was very, very crowded. The seating area emptied out in the middle innings, as the temperature was only in the mid 50s and in the shade it was quite cool. Temps are supposed to warm into the 60s tomorrow and into the 70s early in the week, a big change from the wet winter storm that produced snow in these mountains north of Scottsdale:
Speaking of Scottsdale, that’s where the Cubs head Sunday. I won’t be going to this game as the Giants set prices at Scottsdale Stadium ridiculously high ($45 for lawn!) when the Cubs are there. Tyler Chatwood will go for the Cubs and Madison Bumgarner for the Giants. No TV Sunday, radio on 670 The Score again.