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Cubs 12, Athletics 2: A successful 2020 debut

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The Cubs won their first spring game of 2020, and broadcast their first game on their new TV channel.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The first thing you’ll notice about this recap is that there’s no dateline.

That’s because I made the decision mid-afternoon to not attend the game at Sloan Park. It was still pouring, most of the parking lots at the complex (which are grass fields) were under water and I didn’t relish the thought of sitting on wet grass on the left-field berm. Besides, I thought, this would give me a chance to watch the Marquee Network’s debut game broadcast and check out how the new Cubs channel was going to handle things. I’ll attend my first 2020 game Tuesday afternoon at Sloan.

So here are just a few notes on the Cubs’ 12-2 win over the Athletics, a very typical first spring game for the North Siders. By that I mean that the regulars who started this game all got two at-bats and then departed for minor leaguers and non-roster guys.

While the big leaguers were in the game, though, they wasted no time giving the Cubs a lead. In the second inning, Willson Contreras smashed the Cubs’ first spring homer [VIDEO].

We don’t have all the bells and whistles for spring training, so there’s no distance estimation for that one, but I’d say that went 430 feet.

Later in the inning, after a single by David Bote and double by Albert Almora Jr., Kris Bryant made it 3-0 [VIDEO].

In the top of the third, a Duane Underwood pitch briefly got away from Contreras. A’s runner Jonah Heim tried to advance to second, but Willson took care of that [VIDEO].

Cliché time! “Willson looks like he’s in midseason form.” How many times will you hear that early in spring training? (Hopefully, not again from me.)

Bote and Almora reached base again in the fourth. Several regulars had departed by then, but Trent Giambrone singled to load the bases, then a bases-loaded walk to Corban Joseph and a force out by Zack Short made it 5-0.

Nine Cubs pitchers threw one inning each. The only one who was scored on was lefthander Tyler Olson, who allowed the A’s only runs. Alec Mills threw well enough in his “starting” role, and I put that in quotes because, like all the other Cubs pitchers Saturday night, he was scheduled to go just one inning. Most of the pitchers in this game will wind up in the Iowa rotation or bullpen. Some of them (Jharel Cotton, CD Pelham) have options and could ride the Iowa shuttle.

One more highlight, if you will: Giambrone smashed a three-run homer [VIDEO] to the mostly-empty berm in left field in the eighth inning to complete the scoring. Giambrone hit 23 homers at Iowa last year, but there’s likely no room for him in the infield in Chicago in 2020.

Attendance watch: The rain likely kept this game from selling out. 12,109 paid at Sloan Park. Many departed by the middle innings. Last year’s spring opener, on a comparable Saturday (February 23), drew a sellout of 15,716 despite that day having temperatures only in the low 50s.

I am going to leave a more detailed review of Marquee’s debut game broadcast to Sara Sanchez, coming up at 9 a.m. CT, but here are just a couple of notes primarily from the viewpoint of my years as a television director. The graphic package was solid and readable, although I personally prefer the scorebox on the top of the screen rather than the bottom. That’s where your eye naturally goes when watching a sports event. Len and JD mentioned that they’d be experimenting with some things during spring training; perhaps this can be changed. The direction of Mike Fox was very good. I didn’t think I was watching anyone’s debut, the camerawork was mostly what you’d expect from a big-league broadcast. Much more from Sara later this morning.

The Cubs will take on the Dodgers Sunday afternoon at Camelback Ranch. In an all-Wood matchup, Tyler Chatwood will start for the Cubs and Alex Wood will go for the Dodgers. Mookie Betts is scheduled to make his Dodger debut. Game time is 2:05 p.m. CT with TV coverage on Marquee. If you do not have access to Marquee, you can listen to the Dodgers radio broadcast (AM 570 LA Sports) online.