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Cubs 6, Athletics 1: Nick Madrigal makes his case

The Cubs might have another third base candidate.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

MESA, Arizona — Most of you know I’ve been kind of down on Nick Madrigal after his injury-filled 2022 season. Then, we heard that the team was going to try him at third base and I got even more skeptical. I didn’t think he had the arm nor the range for the position.

If and when Madrigal becomes a starter at third for the 2023 Cubs and produces, I’ll happily admit I’m wrong. So far in Spring Training, Madrigal has made all the plays that have come his way at third — though I still want to see him make a backhand throw or two — and he’s hitting. Madrigal doubled in a pair of runs Thursday, went 2-for-2, scored a run and stole a base, helping lead the Cubs to a 6-1 win over the Athletics.

Marcus Stroman, in his final start before he leaves to play for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, threw 2⅓ scoreless innings, striking out four. Now he’ll get to play some real competitive innings before returning to the Cubs later this month.

The Cubs put up a pair in the top of the first thanks to Madrigan. With one out, Ian Happ and Cody Bellinger singled. Eric Hosmer struck out, and Madrigal batted next [VIDEO].

Madrigal’s double made it 2-0 and he took third on the throw in.

The Cubs made the score 3-0 in the third. Nico Hoerner led off with a double and Happ drove him in [VIDEO].

Two more Cubs runs scored in the fourth. Madrigal led off with a single and stole second. After a groundout advanced Madrigal to third, Mike Tauchman singled him in [VIDEO].

Tauchman stole second and scored on a single by Zach McKinstry to make it 5-0. The final Cubs run scored on a pair of walks, a ground out and a wild pitch in the fifth.

Meanwhile, Cubs relievers were doing a fine job of keeping A’s off the basepaths. After Stroman departed, Michael Fulmer, Rowan Wick, Anthony Kar, Tyler Duffey and Julian Merryweather combined for five shutout innings, allowing just two hits and three walks, with six strikeouts. Ryan Borucki allowed the A’s a consolation run in the ninth.

Wick was called for the only pitch clock violation of the game [VIDEO].

So far, the clock is doing an excellent job. In games I’ve attended or watched, there have been very few violations, but the pace has quickened and as a result, overall game times are shorter. This game ran 2:35; I estimate a similar game last year, with 15 hits, nine walks and seven total runs, would have run between 2:55 and 3:00. It’s noticeable without taking away from the game action.

Jed Hoyer made some comments on Seiya Suzuki’s injury during the day Thursday [VIDEO].

Attendance watch: 9,374 paid at Sloan Park this afternoon. That makes the season total for four dates 42,210, or 10,553 per date.

It was COLD in Mesa Thursday. The 51 degree game time temperature is the coldest I can remember for a game in the nine-plus years the Cubs have played at Sloan Park. It was less windy, though, after strong storms blew through the area Wednesday evening. The sun came out late in the day and that made the afternoon feel tolerable. Temperatures are supposed to warm up over the weekend, but the Cubs will play in likely frigid conditions in the 40s Friday night at Peoria against the Padres. Justin Steele will make his spring debut against Julio Teheran for San Diego. Remember — a night game Friday, game time 7:40 p.m. CT, TV coverage via Marquee Sports Network.