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Cubs 5, Athletics 4: This and that

A few things of note happened in this Cubs win.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

MESA, ArizonaThe Cubs defeated the A’s 5-4 on yet another perfect Arizona March afternoon, and wins are always good.

But the winning rally came long after all the regular Cubs departed the game, and I’ll get to that, but I thought first it would be important to talk about the players who actually will be Chicago Cubs come Opening Day.

Marcus Stroman made his first start in front of the home crowd. The outing wasn’t bad, but Stroman did allow the leadoff hitter to reach base in each of the three innings he began, and that’s never a good thing, as two of those runners scored. He did get his ground ball working and got a couple of outs in the second inning that way, and had three strikeouts overall. So I imagine he’d probably feel the outing was a good one, despite the results.

One thing I noticed about Stroman: He... works... very... slowly... even with no one on base. This is not going to be a good thing in 2023 when the pitch clock is likely to be in operation. I timed him on a couple of pitches and he’s right up against the 15-second limit that’s likely to be in force next year. I’m a big proponent of picking up the pace of play and hopefully pitchers like this can work on improving that.

The other positive thing I saw today was a triple from Jason Heyward, which drove in a run in the third (sorry, no video available). You know, one thing some of the Heyward nay-sayers forget is that he has spent a fair amount of time in his six Cubs years injured. He’s never played 150+ games as a Cub — not once. He’s had 500+ PA as a Cub just twice, and he played in only 104 games in 2021, including missing the last three weeks with a concussion. Heyward’s not the fielder he once was, and he might be only average in center field. But if he’s healthy... maybe he can play 150+ games and hit a little. He hit pretty well in 2019 and 2020 and was just starting to do so in ‘21 (15-for-45 with two doubles, a triple and two home runs in the 15 games before the concussion). Let’s hope for one last good year from him.

Nico Hoerner had an RBI single in the second inning scoring Ian Happ, and for that we do have video.

Other important notes:

  • Scott Effross relieved Stroman with two on and nobody out in the third. A run scored on a sacrifice fly, charged to Stroman, then Effross got a nice called K and the last out was recorded on a caught stealing. I like Effross and he threw pretty well after being called up last September. He’s got a good chance of being on the Opening Day roster.
  • Rowan Wick’s first spring outing was a good one as well, a 1-2-3 sixth.
  • Jesse Chavez threw two innings, allowing a run in the seventh (unearned, due to a throwing error), and then recording a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts.

The Cubs batted around and took the lead for good in the sevengh inning. The big blow was this two-run single by Andy Weber [VIDEO].

Cayne Ueckert, an intriguing arm who dominated at South Bend and Tennessee last year, threw a scoreless ninth for the save. He showed a 95 mile per hour fastball and also broke off some nice cutters and curveballs. I like Ueckert and I would imagine he’ll start the year at Tennessee and could be fast-tracked to Iowa this year. He’s a 27th-round draft pick, and I like seeing guys like that succeed.

The Cubs will take on the Angels at Tempe Thursday afternoon. Justin Steele will go for the Cubs and Jhonathan Diaz will start for the Angels. Game time is 3:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (using the Angels TV feed). Thursday is also the last day of MLB.TV’s free preview.