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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.

Cubs 9, Rangers 9

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.

Cubs 13, Angels 10

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.

Italy 8, Cubs 7

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.

Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: March 15, 2017 at 02:06 PM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: March 15, 2017 at 02:36 PM (#5417810)
Anyone else head or headed to ST this year?
   2. Brian C Posted: March 15, 2017 at 03:20 PM (#5417836)
My brother is out there this week, hobbling around on a freshly torn Achilles. I kind of envy him, but also not.
   3. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: March 15, 2017 at 07:30 PM (#5418055)
Christopher Kamka‏ @ckamka 18m18 minutes ago
Last time #Cubs were defending World Series champions, they held spring training in Shreveport, LA (1909)


I, for one, am glad they've moved to Mesa.
   4. Andere Richtingen Posted: March 17, 2017 at 06:02 PM (#5419113)
Not a big ST fan, although I am a fan of being some place warm in March. We went to Captiva last week, so I did see a lot of Twins and Red Sox fans around (both are in Fort Myers). I was just glad to go for an entire week not wearing socks.
   5. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 17, 2017 at 06:21 PM (#5419121)
I love the Captiva area. My parents snowbird on Sanibel for a month or two each winter, and I love visiting them. Such a laid-back pace of life.
   6. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: March 20, 2017 at 01:44 PM (#5420010)
Mark Gonzales‏ @MDGonzales 46m46 minutes ago
Eloy Jimenez bone bruise right shoulder, will rest for three weeks


Probably worth mentioning how great Happ has been this spring. He looked really good in what I saw. Guess we shouldn't be surprised if he makes an appearance with the big league team this year.
   7. Moeball Posted: March 28, 2017 at 01:33 AM (#5424544)
Just got back from a weekend in Phoenix.

Saw Padres beat Angels 6-2 on Thursday in Peoria, then Friars lost to Rangers 4-3 on Friday in Surprise.

Saturday saw KC beat MIL 1-0 at Surprise in extras on Mondesi HR that apparently won him the starting job coming out of ST.

Went to Sloan Park last year and really liked it. Hate Diablo where the Angels play, there is no shade at all anywhere in that damned park.

Like Surprise Stadium where I saw two games this year.

As to looking at the teams, hardly any starters for any teams played in the games I was at so can't really tell anything.

Was kind of funny in the game Friday - Padres had two lefties at the top of the lineup against a lefty starter for Texas, ensuring that there would be almost zero opportunities for the 3-4-5 hitters to come up with runners on base.

Gotta say it works really well taking uber to games around Phoenix area - cheaper than cabs and all the drivers I had showed up in about 3 minutes flat.

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