MESA, Arizona — There’s a good reason you’re getting a photo of a sign at Sloan Park as the lead photo to this recap of the Cubs’ 5-0 loss to the Rangers on the warmest day of the spring so far (it hit 85 degrees).
That’s because there really were no good Cubs things at all in this game, at least not offensively. They had three hits and drew five walks, but just three Cubs got past first base, none past second.
A lot of this happened because Yu Darvish, who was supposed to start this game, was scratched due to a cough, which sent him to a local hospital:
In tweets from the hospital Thursday morning, Darvish said in Japanese that he had been coughing since Wednesday and didn’t want to be in the clubhouse because he couldn’t be certain he didn’t have the coronavirus.
He then tweeted that he had been cleared – translated from Japanese to “No fever, no flu” – and later DM’d a beat writer, saying, in English, “I’m good.”
The team said he might be back on a mound by Friday, whether in a Cactus League game or simulated game. Darvish DM’d: “Depends on how I feel tonight and tomorrow.”
So that’s good news, after the scratch. But with Darvish unavailable, this became even more of a bullpen game than spring training games this early usually are. James Norwood became the “starter,” throwing a scoreless first. Jeremy Jeffress allowed a one-out single in the second but otherwise threw an efficient inning. So that’s good.
Not so good was Dillon Maples. Many of you know I have an irrational like for Maples, I wish he could command his fastball better, because when he can, he can mix that in with a slider that’s almost unhittable. Today? Not so much. He issued a walk, then made a throwing error on a pickoff attempt. Two passed balls charged to Willson Contreras scored the runner, so the run was unearned.
Worse was Jason Adam in the fourth inning, which alone seemed to take about 45 minutes. He issued three walks and allowed two hits, and his own throwing error made three of the four runs off him unearned, for whatever that’s worth.
Adam couldn’t even finish his inning; he was relieved by minor leaguer Bryan Brickhouse, who is no relation to the former Cubs announcer, but nearly 40 years after Jack Brickhouse retired as WGN-TV’s lead play-by-play man, I was able to write the name “Brickhouse” on a scorecard. So there’s that.
With Darvish out, Cubs minor leaguers Wyatt Short and Oscar De La Cruz both threw two innings, and both were quite good. Short got into a bit of trouble in the fifth, but got out of his own jam, and then threw a 1-2-3 sixth. De La Cruz allowed a leadoff single in the seventh, got out of that with a double play, and retired the side in order in the eighth.
Granted, almost all of that was against Rangers minor leaguers, so take that with many grains of salt. It did speed up the second half of the game. The first four innings took almost two hours. But the last five innings went so fast that the game finished in a not-bad 2:59.
Now, about Short and De La Cruz. Here is a photo of them together in the bullpen (taken Sunday). Both are standing on the same flat ground.
De La Cruz is listed at 6-4. Short — what an appropriate name! — is listed at 5-8.
You make the call. If De La Cruz really is 6-4 — and I think he is — that looks like more than eight inches difference between the two.
I’m just having a bit of fun here. Wyatt Short throws hard and is a real prospect. De La Cruz once was, but after a PED suspension and injuries is going to have to prove himself.
Attendance watch: 10,430 paid at Sloan Park on a perfect afternoon. That makes the season total for seven dates 81,689, or 11,670 per date.
I would expect a near-sellout Friday as the Cubs host the White Sox. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs and Lucas Giolito will go for the Sox. It will be Giolito’s first outing of this spring. Game time is again 2:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage is on the Marquee Network. There will also be Cubs radio on 670 The Score and Sox radio on 720 WGN. (Yes, it’s still weird to say Sox radio on WGN.)