In the recap to Friday night’s Cubs loss to the Guardians, I speculated that Adrian Sampson wouldn’t make the Opening Day roster. That has now happened, as the Cubs announced before Saturday’s game that Sampson had been optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Perhaps Sampson might be able to get things back together there, but at some point he’s either going to have to do that or the team will need that 40-man spot for someone else. As always, we await developments. (One other pregame roster move: Vinny Nittoli was reassigned to minor-league camp. That leaves 39 players in camp with five days to go.)
As for Saturday’s game, the Cubs lost to the Angels 8-7 despite a decent display of power by the North Siders, largely because some minor league pitchers couldn’t throw strikes. It’s been said by some that this team might have power deficits, but perhaps there could be some home runs from unexpected sources.
The game was scoreless through two innings, and Roenis Elias, who also might be in the rotation at Iowa, threw two good scoreless frames.
The Cubs then put up a five-spot against the Angels in the third. Matt Moore — who some thought the Cubs should sign — had all kinds of problems, including a couple of pitch timer violations. The big blows in that inning: First, a two-run homer by Yan Gomes [VIDEO].
Then, an RBI double by Christopher Morel [VIDEO].
Morel has hit much better recently than he did early in camp, and he’s been given some time in right field, which suggests the team might wind up keeping him on the Opening Day roster and use him — a bit — to fill in for Seiya Suzuki.
Although, now it appears Suzuki might be back sooner than was thought:
Seiya Suzuki (left oblique) taking normal BP on field this morning. Last swing in this round was a homer to left-center. pic.twitter.com/ID4xfQWE7V— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 25, 2023
Maybe it’s too early to tell, but Suzuki has now been out exactly four weeks — he was scratched from the lineup February 26. This suggests that maybe he could be ready to return only a couple of weeks into the season instead of at the end of April. This live BP session was a real good sign, in my view.
The rest of Saturday’s game was played mostly by minor leaguers, particularly the Angels, who started an entire team of minor leaguers because their MLB guys had already left for Los Angeles to begin their annual preseason “Freeway Series” against the Dodgers tomorrow. Incidentally, expect something similar to happen with the Cubs — I have heard that most if not all of the Cubs’ Opening Day roster will be leaving for Chicago after Monday’s game against the White Sox, so Tuesday’s game will be played with Cubs minor leaguers. (Fans who paid high prices for that game at Sloan Park might not be too thrilled.)
Another highlight: Patrick Wisdom homered, his second of the spring, a ball that nearly cleared the left-field berm in Tempe [VIDEO].
One other thing to make note of from this game: Cubs reliever Brendon Little made this outstanding defensive play on a little roller up the first-base line [VIDEO].
I have expressed doubts about Little’s chances of having a career in MLB, but... who knows? Maybe he puts things together at Iowa this year.
This game was the longest for the Cubs this spring at 3:07, largely because of a lot of long counts and the teams combining for 25 hits and 11 walks, along with multiple pitch timer violations. At least there was a fair amount of action for that length of time.
The Cubs return to Sloan Park Sunday to face the Royals. Justin Steele will start for the Cubs and Ryan Yarbrough will go for Kansas City. Game time is 3:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.