MESA, Arizona — The most important innings of early spring games are the early ones, when regular players are in the game and starting pitchers are beginning to get stretched out.
Thus it wasn’t great that Jon Lester served up a long home run to Travis Shaw in the first inning, after a bloop single by Christian Yelich. (Man, can that guy please stop hitting Cubs pitching?)
Lester settled down and allowed just one more walk and a single, throwing a decent three innings. It was Cubs non-roster invitee relievers who got hit hard by Brewers subs in the middle innings, and the result was a 7-4 Milwaukee win over the Cubs. The game result doesn’t really matter, so let me tell you about things that did.
Steve Cishek, making his first spring appearance, got himself in trouble with a pair of hits leading off the fourth. But he got himself out of the jam, despite eventually walking the bases loaded, with no runs scoring.
Meanwhile, Cubs regulars did very little today. Through the first four innings, they managed only a Ben Zobrist double and a walk drawn by Javier Baez. (The latter, that’s very good. Baez has made a point of saying he wants to work on drawing more walks this year.)
The Cubs tied the game in the fifth on an RBI double by Mark Zagunis [VIDEO], followed by an RBI single from Albert Almora Jr.
But Matt Carasiti, who the Cubs acquired a couple of years ago from the Rockies for Zac Rosscup and who pitched last year in Korea, was awful. He was touched for three hits, a walk and three runs while recording only one out, and if the pitch clock had been in effect he would have had multiple violations — a very slow worker.
The Cubs closed to within 5-4 with a two-run sixth highlighted by a long home run by Trent Giambrone [VIDEO].
Giambrone is a very impressive ballplayer. Not highly touted, he was the Cubs’ 25th-round pick in 2016 out of Delta State in Mississippi, not exactly a big baseball school. But he has steadily pushed through the system, had a good year at Double-A in 2018 and impressed in the Arizona Fall League. He’s very much a David Bote type of player. He’ll be at Iowa this year, most likely, and could get a big-league callup.
Ian Clarkin, a waiver-wire bounce guy who went back and forth all winter between the Cubs and White Sox, made his spring debut in the eighth, promptly walked the first two hitters he faced, and allowed a run before getting out of the inning. Clarkin, once a first-round pick (33rd overall) of the Yankees in 2013, has talent, he’ll just need to work on command if he wants to be good enough to be on the Iowa Shuttle.
We’ve discussed another Cubs minor leaguer, Jared Young, here a few times this spring. Young, mostly a first baseman, played left field credibly for four innings Saturday and in the ninth inning, roped a one-out single off former Cubs farmhand Jay Jackson. Young has a nice, fluid swing and is worth watching this year. I had kind of hoped the Cubs would sign Jackson, who’s had three really good years with the Hiroshima Carp of NPB in Japan, but he went to the Brewers. Hope that doesn’t come back to haunt Theo Epstein.
As for Young, the organization seems to think enough of him to keep putting him in big-league spring games. Worth watching.
It was sprinkling lightly at game time and the game was delayed — not because of rain, but apparently because:
Umps just arrived, so we'll be starting a little later.— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) March 2, 2019
The game began about five minutes late, and by the middle innings the clouds parted and it turned into a nice, sunny March Arizona afternoon. Attendance watch: the announced crowd of 15,782 is, as far as I can tell, the sixth-largest crowd in Sloan Park (and Cactus League and spring training) history. The five larger crowds were all last year. That makes the season total 61,726 for five dates, or 12,345 per date.
One thing I would like to remind anyone who’s coming to Sloan Park: If you bring spray sunscreen in a metal can, they will take it from you. Metal cans aren’t allowed in the park. So, I would recommend bringing a lotion-type sunscreen in a plastic tube, those are permitted.
Lastly, for those who didn’t see it, here’s my Facebook Live video of Lester’s warmup today.
Jon Lester warmupPosted by Bleed Cubbie Blue on Saturday, March 2, 2019
And, since I forgot it in Friday’s recap, here’s the video I shot of Jose Quintana’s warmup before that game.
Jose Quintana warmupPosted by Bleed Cubbie Blue on Friday, March 1, 2019
Sunday, the Cubs host the White Sox. Yu Darvish will start for the Cubs and Manny Banuelos for the Sox. Game time is again 2:05 p.m. CT and there will be an audio webcast on cubs.com — no TV Sunday.