MESA, Arizona — I am still certain, absolutely certain, pretty certain... well, kind of certain that the Cubs pitching staff will sort itself out in the next 11 days and things will be fine come Opening Day in Arlington, Texas.
Well, I hope that’s right, anyway. The Cubs lost to the Rockies 7-2 Sunday afternoon, and the issue really wasn’t the fact that there wasn’t much offense (just six hits and two runs). It’s that the plans for the Cubs rotation and pitching staff aren’t really being followed, not the way management appears to have drawn them up, anyway.
This is the fourth time through the regular rotation, the guys who will line up beginning Opening Day. As such, it would be expected that these guys would throw five innings in that fourth time, then six the next time, then be ready to go seven once the regular season begins.
Maybe that’ll happen, but not one Cubs starter has gone five innings yet. In fact, Q is the first of those five to even finish the fourth inning, all of them departing around the 75-pitch mark. Which would be fine, if those 75 pitches could have made up five innings, which is a reasonable benchmark.
Jose Quintana looked like he might go five, after the first three innings Sunday. He allowed just one hit (a nicely-placed bunt by Garrett Hampson) and a walk over those three. Then he lost it in the fourth. Former Cub Daniel Murphy homered leading off the inning, and Quintana allowed two more hits and a walk. Along with an infield out, that produced another run. I don’t have a precise pitch count for Quintana, but he must have been around 75 as well. I assume the next time through, the starters will be throwing around 90 pitches.
One of Q’s two K’s is in that video, followed by a perfectly-executed RBI squeeze bunt that gave the Cubs a brief 1-0 lead in the second inning.
The game went 2-1 Rockies into the seventh. Brandon Kintzler got himself into trouble with a couple of hits allowed, but got out of them with a double play. Steve Cishek relieved Kintzler with one out in the sixth and threw one pitch for a ground out.
Not so good was Brian Duensing, who entered that 2-1 game and got hit hard, allowing four hits. He was charged with four runs and it might have been more if Johnny Field hadn’t made a nice diving catch on a sinking liner. It scored one run, but there would have been at least one more if he doesn’t make that grab.
Johnny Field is an intriguing player. He’s not a big man — just 5-10, 180 — but has surprising power. He also plays all three outfield positions well. But. He strikes out way, way too much. In 233 plate appearances in 2018 split between the Twins and Rays, he struck out 72 times and drew only seven walks. He’s got a lifetime .440 SLG in 2,121 minor-league at-bats. The man can hit, but I suspect not well enough to even be a full-time MLB fifth outfielder. He’s likely going to Iowa to be ready in case of injuries.
Javier Baez’ patented swim move got him his first steal of the spring. Unfortunately, after advancing to third in that first inning, he was stranded.
I guess the key question that comes from this game is: What to do with Brian Duensing? He’s had a pretty bad spring coming off an injured, bad 2018 season. The Cubs owe him $3.5 million, though that would be reduced if someone else picked him up and gave him the minimum salary. That’s a fair amount of money, but in the context of the entire Cubs payroll, maybe it’d be better to let him go at this point and try someone else.
Attendance watch: The Cubs announced the second-biggest crowd in Sloan Park (and Cactus League and spring training overall) history, 16,028, on a stunningly gorgeous 77-degree spring afternoon in Mesa. That makes the total attendance for 12 dates 160,323, or 13,360 per date.
The Cubs have Monday off. In order to keep Jon Lester on his regular off-day schedule, he will throw a sim game at the complex (not sure when or where) Monday. Then he’ll start Saturday night against the Rockies and be on target for Opening Day against the Rangers.
The Cubs’ next game is against the Mariners Tuesday afternoon at Sloan Park. The Mariners big leaguers are currently in Japan getting ready to open the regular season Wednesday against the A’s in Tokyo, so the Mariners squad that faces the Cubs Tuesday will be non-roster guys, 40-man guys who didn’t go, and minor leaguers. Yu Darvish will start for the Cubs Tuesday. At this time the Mariners don’t have a starting pitcher listed for this game. Game time Tuesday is 3:05 p.m. CT. No TV Tuesday; there will be the usual audio webcast on cubs.com.