MESA, Arizona — The Cubs defeated an entire country Wednesday at Sloan Park.
Well, not really. The Canadian WBC team is made up of guys who were born in Canada, or, like Freddie Freeman, have a Canadian parent. The visitors from north of the border gave the Cubs a tough time early in this game, but eventually some Cubs minor leaguers got the best of Canada’s bullpen and won this game 11-7 in front of 8,713.
Here’s the value of the good defensive team Jed Hoyer has built. Look at this fantastic play by Nico Hoerner in the first inning [VIDEO].
Without Nico there? That’s a bloop single and a run. Instead, it was an inning-ending double play. That was good, too because Canada had already scored a pair of runs after Justin Steele got a bit wild, walking a pair before Cubs minor leaguer Jared Young doubled in two runs for the Canadians. It was Young doubled off second and honestly, you can’t blame him for straying off the bag, that took a spectacular play to double him off.
The Cubs tied the game in the bottom of the second on a two-run homer by Tucker Barnhart [VIDEO].
Canada’s Jacob Robson homered off Keegan Thompson in the third to give Canada a 3-2 lead, but the Cubs tied it right back up on an RBI single by Cody Bellinger. After Canada took a one-run lead again in the fourth, Bellinger hit his first Cubs home run in the sixth to tie the game at 4 [VIDEO].
I also wanted to say something about Bellinger’s RBI single. He took it to the opposite field when Canada was shifted — remember, this game was not played with new MLB rules so the Canadian team did quite a bit of shifting, the kind we used to see and won’t anymore. Bellinger seems like such a smart player and I am expecting him to have a good season.
The game remained tied into the seventh, when the Cubs took advantage of some real bad bullpen work by Canada. Adam Loewen and Even Rutckyj threw a bunch of wild pitches in addition to allowing several hits in the seventh, and the Cubs scored three. Three more Cubs runs crossed the plate in the eighth, the highlight being this RBI triple by Dom Nuñez [VIDEO].
Ben Leeper served up a three-run homer with two out in the ninth to make this game seem closer than it was.
As noted, Canada could use some bullpen help. They have two quality major league players in Freeman and Tyler O’Neill, another two decent ones in Abraham Toro and Bo Naylor, and one good starting pitcher in Cal Quantrill, but after that their roster is a bit thin. I’ll be seeing them play the USA in a WBC game this coming Monday at Chase Field.
Watch this throw by Cubs prospect Owen Caissie to nail Edwin Rios at third [VIDEO].
Caissie has real promise and I think he’ll be a good MLB player. He’s still just 20 years old and might wind up starting the year at South Bend, where he played most of 2022.
As noted, this game was played without the new rules, so no pitch clock. At least early on, it appeared Justin Steele and the Cubs were trying to keep a fairly fast pace, but the game did start to drag a bit in the later innings. There were also four mid-inning pitching changes, which slows things down. The overall game time of 3:03 would, in my estimation, would have been about 2:40 with the clock.
One more bit of info I learned today. Rowan Wick, who was born in British Columbia, was originally on the Canada WBC roster. But he opted out because he wants to focus on making the Cubs Opening Day roster. His outings have been up and down so far, and I hope he makes it. The Cubs could use an effective Wick in the pen.
And one last note on this game: This was not considered an official Spring Training game. Instead, it’s an “exhibition” game, so neither the stats nor the win count in the ST standings.
The Cubs will return to Cactus League play Thursday at Sloan Park, with the Reds as the visitors. Jameson Taillon will start for the Cubs and perhaps be the first Cubs starter to go four innings this spring. Hunter Greene will go for the Reds. Game time is 2:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.