The Cubs travel to Scottsdale today to take on the Rockies, and will make their debut on WBBM radio (780 AM) with Pat Hughes, and Ron Coomer on the call. Jason Hammel gets the ball as he makes his return to the Cubs organization this afternoon. First pitch is at 2:15 PM CST, and as of right now there are no streams or video. Here is how the Cubs will lineup behind Hammel…
1. Fowler CF
2. Rizzo 1B
3. Castro SS
4. Montero C
5. Soler RF
6. Bryant 3B
7. Coghlan LF
8. Ross DH
9. Herrera 2B
SP – Hammel
It’s not about the outcome, remember that. I know that’s hard to pay attention to because, well, sports, but some good things are happening. Jon Lester made his debut today, and he was outstanding as he worked two scoreless innings. The Cubs bats were quiet again as they were only able to scratch across two runs in the loss. Brian Schlitter took the loss in this one, he was bad, just very bad, lets leave it at that. Other than Schlitter the Cubs pitching was pretty darn good for the second day in a row with all the regulars throwing strikes, and getting outs.
What were you doing when you were 20 years old? Some of you might not be able to answer in a public forum, but Albert Almora is gearing up for his 4th year as a professional baseball player. That’s right, he’s only 20 years old, feels like he has been around forever. I also stopped short of saying “4th FULL year” as a pro because Almora has only really had one true full season. Injuries are the devil.
Injuries have held Almora back almost from the first day in the Cubs organization. Almora was drafted in 2012 by the Cubs, he was the sixth pick overall, hence the expectations. It was the 2012 Boise Hawks playoff run that I truly began to understand what kind of ballplayer Almora was, go hard 100% of the time even if a wall is in the way, oops. The wall took a toll on Almora, literally, and he has never really been able to recover as it’s been one injury after another. In three seasons with the Cubs organization Almora has played in 219 games across five levels, that’s not enough games for such a young player to actually work on his game. 2014 saw a rebound of sorts health wise for Almora as he was able to play in 125 games combined with Daytona and Tennessee.
We finally got a glimpse of Albert Almora the baseball player, and we realized one thing, he needs to be more patient at the plate. In 529 plate appearances Almora walked 14 times, wrap your head around that for a second, that’s almost impossible. Improved approach at the plate is important for Almora if he wants to remain with the Cubs as he will be expected to be that guy who can get on base in front of the mashers in the powerful Cubs lineup of the future. If the injury bug can ignore Almora this year I totally expect him to break out in Tennessee, which is where he will start the 2015 season. I feel like Almora really tried to do too much with the bat last year, sure in 2013 he only walked 17 times, but that was in half the number of plate appearances as 2014 (272). Defensively the kid has some serious skills in centerfield, he can go get the ball with the best of them, and probably has the best defensive tools in the Cubs system. For that reason he can be a difference maker on a contending team, if he can stay healthy, and find a way to improve his approach at the plate then he becomes more than just a “guy.” His natural ability to lead, and his History of winning could do this group a lot of good down the road.
Definitely watch for this during spring training, lets see if Almora can see more pitches, and make pitchers work to get him out. So far this spring he is 2-for-2, hasn’t seen a lot of pitches, but he’s picking on strikes, I expect big things in 2015.
Only one game for the Cubs today, but it’s a big one as Jon Lester makes his Cubs spring debut on the road against the Reds. Not too many regulars in this lineup today, and we get to see our first pairing of Ross with Lester, something that will probably happen more often than not. Javier Baez will hit a home run today, book it. First pitch is 2:05 PM CST, currently there is only audio for this game on Cubs.com, if a stream pops up I will pass it along.
The young Cubs provided the fireworks early against the Giants before the bullpen couldn’t find away to get outs, and blew a 5-0 lead en route to an 8-6 loss. It was a lineup that had Cubs fans buzzing, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Kyle Schwarber, oh my. It was Schwarber who did the heavy lifting as he jacked a grand slam in his first at bat, giving the Cubs an early 4-0 lead. The Cubs pitching made that hold up early on as Jacob Turner, and Pierce Johnson were on top of their game, Johnson was particularly impressive.
At the plate:
- Kyle Schwarber was the star at the plate going 1-for-3 with said grand slam.
- Jorge Soler hit a number of balls hard, he finished the day 1-for-3 with a run scored.
- Billy McKinney came on late and went deep, he finished the day 1-for-1 with an RBI.
- Kris Bryant went 0-for-2 with a walk, and a run scored.
- Addison Russell was 1-for-3 with a run scored.
- Albert Almora didn’t start but finished the day 2-for-2, good to see.
On the mound:
- Jacob Turner got the start, and battled command early, he worked two scoreless innings, giving up one hit while walking two, and striking out one.
- Pierce Johnson was outstanding, he worked two scoreless innings, giving up no hits while walking one, and striking out one.
- Corey Black struggled, he worked one inning, giving up one run on one hit while walking two, and hitting Hunter Pence, breaking his forearm, ouch.
- Hunter Cervenka was worse, he was only able to register one out, he gave up five runs, four earned, on four hits while walking two.
A tie. The Cubs and A’s tied today. Mike Olt got the offense off and running early as he blasted a two-out, two-run bomb. Unfortunately that was all the Cubs could muster as they went scoreless the rest of the way while scratching out only five hits. The pitching was outstanding as Travis Wood, Neil Ramirez, and Drake Britton, among others, shut down the Athletics offense.
At the plate:
- MIKE OLT! Olt finished theday 1-for-2 with a home run, and two RBI.
- Chris Coghlan was 1-for-1 with a run scored.
- Newcomer Miguel Montero was 1-for-2 in the tie.
On the mound:
- Travis Wood got the start, and was flawless. Wood worked two scoreless innings giving up no hits, walking none while striking out two.
- Neil Ramirez was stupid good per usual. Ramirez worked one scoreless inning while striking out two.
- Drake Britton was pretty good in his first audition for a bullpen spot. Britton worked a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.
- Gonzalez Germen had the plate jump around a bit, but he was fairly effective. Germen worked two scoreless innings, giving up one hit while walking two, and striking out two.
Oh, thank you Giants! Tune into the stream to see Jacob Turner pitch, and the Cubs prospects beat the baseball into submission.
It’s finally here, Cubs baseball. Sure it’s only spring training, but I’m going to get excited, here are the lineups for both games today. The Cubs/A’s game from Mesa is on the Cubs website, radio only, 2:05 PM CST first pitch.
ATHLETICS @ CUBS
1. Fowler (CF)
2. Rizzo (1B)
3. Castro (SS)
4. Montero (C)
5. Baez (2B)
6. Coghlan (LF)
7. Olt (3B)
8. Sweeney (DH)
9. Lake (RF)
Travis Wood starts.
CUBS @ GIANTS
1. La Stella (2B)
2. Denorfia (LF)
3. Alcantara (CF)
4. Soler (RF)
5. Castillo (C)
6. Bryant (3B)
7. Schwarber (DH)
8. Valaika (1B)
9. Russell (SS)
Jacob Turner starts.
We’ll be back with recaps once the action for the day has ended, a ton of young guys on display today.
On a rainy Arizona day, Joe Maddon made some comments about the rotation. Kyle Hendricks will be in the rotation to start the season, there had been some speculation that he wasn’t ticketed for a rotation spot earlier on but that was unfounded. The news gives Cubs fans an idea of what will be happening this spring, an all out battle for the number five spot between Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, Felix Doubront, Tsuyoshi Wada, and others, namely Jacob Turner.
The other news out of camp today… Jon Lester is your opening day starter. To me this was a done deal as soon as the Cubs committed loads of money to the lefty, but some fans thought that Jake Arrieta earned the chance to be that guy. Spring games start THIS THURSDAY, the rotation has been announced; Wood vs A’s, Turner vs SF on Thursday, Lester on Friday, Hammel/Doubront on Saturday; Arrieta/Wada on Sunday; Jackson/Hendricks on Monday.
This is the part of spring training that is slow. The excitement of baseball being back is now a steady stream of pictures of pitchers throwing, and players stretching, so here is a video of Kris Bryant hitting HR’s from last year. Cubs start playing games against other teams on March 5th, we will have recaps, and everything else that is available from those games, getting close.