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— Cubs Baseball for Thinking Fans
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Belated Spring Training Thoughts
I don’t know if anyone is interested, or will even read this one. I took my annual trek to the greater Phoenix area early last week, this year accompanied by my newly baseball obsessed 5 year old son. We saw three games, and I jotted down a few thoughts for each game.
There is so much general baseball knowledge that I just take for granted, and can’t remember ever learning. Especially about Spring Training. The 2 big ones that I found myself having the hardest time explaining to my son are how games can end in ties and all of the minor league players. He likes to ask about the Cubs’ opponent by asking, “They want to win, too, right?” so having to explain trying to win wasn’t important was quite tricky. The minor league part was harder, and at one point I must have referred to one of the players as a “kid” because he spent the rest of the trip asking me if different players were kids or not.
As for the game itself. This was the first time Lester pitched to Contreras in a game, so it was fun trying to guess how that was going. Willson made 2 completely unnecessary mound visits, so that part of his game hasn’t been ironed out yet. Davis made his first appearance of the spring, and he was absolutely rocked. If the radar gun was accurate, he was sitting at 93-94 the whole time. Mills pitched, and I was surprised how small he looked on the mound. There were quite a few hit batters this game - Candelario, Contreras - and Willson took another foul ball to the groin, but managed to not dance all over the IF this time. Willson also hit a huge HR. LaStella went opposite field, and Almora had a well-hit grand slam.
Assorted half thoughts: Chesney Young played 3rd and looked terrible, no range, poor reactions…Eloy Jiminez is a large man, enormous shoulders; he took Soler’s number 68 and from a distance looked just like Jorge….Caleb Smith, the rule V pick was also bombed and his stuff looked pretty pedestrian…Delino DeShields Jr….wait, is that the Travis Snider? This was a nice enough park, but I didn’t see a single vendor walking the stands and the concession lines were ridiculously slow.
This was the Jason Heyward HR game. We were right down the first base line, and it was a no doubter off the bat and by sound. There’s a 30ft high or so net behind the RF wall; it’s 360 down the line and the ball cleared the net. Almora started, but was replaced in the 2nd with no explanation and I never saw anything about this; I see he’s been playing since, but I was worried about an injury at the time.
Schwarber badly misplayed a single to him in LF and Hanneman wasn’t backing up, so the ball got all the way to the wall. Didn’t look like a bad route as much as perhaps a misread bounce. I thought that blooper would become a talking point. Zobrist made a nice diving stop in the hole, but I bet Javy could have back-handed it easily. Heyward made a great diving catch coming in on a ball, and then later had a ringing opposite field double with the bases loaded. Considering how his spring has been going, it looks like we saw his only good day.
Arrieta wasn’t sharp at all, but the Cubs bat are in mid-season form. There was lots of scoring, but so many long ABs up and down the lineup, and it continued even after the backups started playing. Schwarber hit a standup triple that hit off the top of the CF wall, which is 420 at this park. I have a note about how short CJ Cron is in person; thankfully Trout played because otherwise there’s nothing to see on that Angels roster; I mean, Danny Espinosa hit cleanup. Yikes. I like the location of this park, right next to a hill, and the concessions were notably better.
This was our only stop at Sloan this year, and that’s about the only positive from this game. Most of the regulars that played seemed pretty disinterested in the game, even for a ST, at least from my vantage point. I have a note here that you can see John Lackey’s gums all the way from row 14…Lackey got outs, but he was giving up line drives left and right. As Zobrist steps up, I find myself grateful they don’t use walk-up music in ST.
Neither Strop or Rondon were sharp; Strop was pulled early. Russell made a play that made me really appreciate his arm, even though it’s not quite Javy-level; he bobbled a sharply hit grounder twice but still the arm strength to recover and nail the guy. If I wasn’t here in person to see it I wouldn’t believe it, but Montero threw out someone trying to steal second by at least 5 feet. Before that inning, he did airmail a warmup throw into CF, so I guess his arm is feeling better than last year?
The only Cubs pitcher who looked sharp at all my time here was Zazstryzny. I have no idea if he has any sort of future role, but he was a welcome relief this trip. OMFG, who flew Ronnie Woo-Woo out here?
Sloan Park is amazing. There’s a kids fun zone behind CF, and my son played wiffle ball for at least 30 minutes. The food options are great - there’s even a Portillo’s booth so the whole park kinda smells like Italian Beef. I highly recommend everyone visits there at some point in their lives.
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