MESA, Arizona — I’ve written a lot on this site about the pace of play in Major League Baseball and the Commissioner’s office has made it an important part of their message.
The pace of the first two innings of the Cubs’ 5-4 loss to the Diamondbacks was awful. There were, combined: five hits, six walks, two errors and nine runs scored, and those two innings took 90 minutes. But then, the rest of the game flew by, seven innings in a hour and 57 minutes. At one point, 14 straight Cubs were retired, before the sub Cubs got a pair of runners on base in the ninth before Jacob Hannemann and Ryan Court struck out to end it (and a couple of the called strikes, frankly, weren’t, but I think plate umpire Rob Drake had had enough).
Now, let’s get back to the beginning of this game. Jason Heyward, in the original starting lineup, was scratched:
Jason Heyward a late lineup scratch for personal reasons. Mark Zagunis leads off and plays right field for the #Cubs— Bruce Miles (@BruceMiles2112) February 26, 2019
There’s no further information available about J-Hey.
The rest of the important stuff about the first two innings involved Yu Darvish. Darvish was throwing hard, hitting 95 consistently and 96 occasionally with his fastball. His command was a little off, and he issued four walks. After the fourth walk, with one out in the second inning, he was removed in favor of minor leaguer Scott Effross. Effross allowed a single and a run-scoring sacrifice fly, and then he should have been out of the inning, but Kris Bryant made a throwing error that allowed a run to score, and then Wilmer Flores doubled in the runs that would prove to be the eventual winning tallies.
This was after the Cubs pushed across four runs in the first inning off Zack Godley, who didn’t even finish the inning. Albert Almora Jr. led off with a double, and after a walk Anthony Rizzo singled him in. Two batters later a D-backs error resulted in two more Cubs runs, and Addison Russell drove in the fourth run. Russell, incidentally, was cheered when he was introduced, with just a couple of scattered boos.
But the story of the game was Darvish. Here’s video I shot of his bullpen warmup.
Yu Darvish warmupPosted by Bleed Cubbie Blue on Tuesday, February 26, 2019
And here’s the last out of the first inning, a pitch by Darvish that was hit a long way, but run down by Almora:
One thing Darvish will definitely have to work on is the pitch clock. Had it been set for violations, he’d have committed several. He was working very slowly. But his velocity was good, and:
Darvish was amped for his spring debut, he said:— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) February 26, 2019
“This is like my first outing in my life. I haven’t been throwing the last seven months so I was excited.”
And, he’s been using more English, around his teammates and the media:
Darvish displayed a sense of humor when asked about not using an interpreter: "Interpreter is expensive for the organization." later he adds, "Good for me, too. I have a great experience with you guys and I can speak more English."— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) February 26, 2019
Showing a sense of humor, too. I cannot tell you how much I am rooting for Yu Darvish to have a big comeback season in 2019. I thought that even with all the walks, he threw pretty well, and, most importantly:
Darvish: “no pain. That was the huge part.”— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) February 26, 2019
The rest of this game was pretty dull. After the second inning, miscellaneous Cubs relievers allowed just two hits and three walks. Here’s a nice catch made by Johnny Field on a sinking liner by Yasmany Tomas in the seventh inning:
And even though this game ran 3:27 and the Cubs (or at least a bunch of their non-roster guys) lost, it was a pleasant afternoon at Sloan Park, with temperatures reaching the low 70s. Attendance was 10,666, bringing the season total for three dates to 35,371, an average of 11,790 per date.
We have yet to see several relievers who will definitely be in the Opening Day bullpen, including Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek and Brad Brach. Perhaps Wednesday, when the Cubs will travel to Surprise to face the Rangers. Cole Hamels will face his former team in his first start of the spring, and Texas will go with Edinson Volquez. Game time Wednesday is 2:05 p.m. CT. No TV Wednesday, audio-only on cubs.com.