In today’s game preview, I noted that the weather forecast had some breezes blowing in from left field and figured it might hold scoring down. Wrong!
The wind did not stop Albert Almora Jr., who homered (his second of the spring) and singled twice, driving in three runs for the Cubs against the White Sox Friday afternoon. Here is AA’s homer [VIDEO], which came on the second pitch of the game by Lucas Giolito.
Almora is now hitting .344/.344/.594 (11-for-32) with two doubles, two homers and seven RBI this spring. The usual small sample size caveat applies, but I like the way he’s hitting so far and perhaps it’s time for him to get more full-time play.
The game got a bit out of hand after all the big leaguers departed. Minor leaguers and non-roster guys for both teams put 11 total runs across the plate from the sixth inning on and the Cubs defeated the White Sox 11-9.
Cole Hamels threw into the fourth inning, though I suspect Joe Maddon would have liked him to go longer. This was the first game where I saw an actual pitch count, and obviously Hamels was limited to 75 pitches. That would have been five innings had he thrown a typical 15 pitches per inning, but he wasn’t sharp, walking three and serving up a three-run homer to Yoan Moncada. He struck out four, but also allowed hard contact on some outs. I would assume the next time through, he’ll go to a 90-pitch limit. One of the runs charged to Hamels scored on a single allowed by Mike Zagurski.
Hamels also became the first Cubs pitcher to bat in a game this year, and he laid down a nice safety squeeze to drive in a run. He also hit a loud fly-ball out in his other plate appearance.
Mark Zagunis, Jim Adduci and Wynton Bernard also homered for the Cubs, the latter giving the Cubs a 9-8 lead in the eighth after Randy Rosario had been hit pretty hard in the seventh, allowing three Sox runs. Rosario has talent, but he’ll certainly start the year at Iowa. Dillon Maples, who does have a shot at the Opening Day roster, threw a scoreless inning, but showed some of his usual command issues, walking one and hitting a batter.
Zagunis, for his part, is making a case to possibly be on the Opening Day roster if Daniel Descalso can’t make it, though the Cubs probably already have enough outfielders. The homer was the third of the spring for Zagunis, who is hitting .379/.438/.793 (11-for-29) with three doubles, three homers, nine runs scored and 11 RBI. Again, a small sample size alert. Here is Zagunis’ homer in the sixth, which was absolutely crushed [VIDEO].
Nico Hoerner, again playing in a big-league spring game, singled in a run in the eighth. Jared Young, another minor leaguer making his name known in these major-league spring games, also had a hit. Both of these guys are prospects to watch this year.
Saturday, the Cubs head to Salt River Fields to take on the Diamondbacks for the third time this spring. The next time the teams will meet will be April 19-20-21 at Wrigley Field, where it almost certainly will not be as warm as it will be in Scottsdale Saturday. Kyle Hendricks will go for the Cubs Saturday, and Matt Koch gets the start for Arizona. No TV Saturday; the game will be on 670 The Score in the Chicago area and also via MLB Audio.