Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Spring Thing

It's too bad I can't ship some of this AZ weather up to Chicago for the next couple weeks, our Mesa 10 day forecast is very simple - Sunny with highs between 77 and 82. Since we are just waiting for tomorrow's opener, I thought I would pass along some of the photos I took this spring. Enjoy~


Tyler Colvin and Daryle Ward


Kosuke Fukudome


Fukudome



Felix Pie


Geovany Soto


Sam Fuld


Big Z


Pitchers Listen


Dome


Riot, DeRo, A-Ram, D-Lee


Tyler Colvin


Soriano


Jeff Samardzija


Jason Marquis


Mike Quade and Dome


Colvin


Dome at Fitch


New Doors at Hohokam this season


Sean Gallagher


Eyre and Wood


Ward shows Tim Buss where it went


Pie says...


Big Z


Theriot


Working at Fitch


Eric Patterson


Rich Hill tosses on the run at Fitch Park


Hill in pen at Phx Muni


Jeff Samardzija


Dome at Muni


Pie


RichHill


Dome

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Kid in Candy Store

That's what it felt like to me last night at the Fergie & Friends Charity All-Star game at Hohokam; getting a chance to talk with and later announce the introductions for an array of Baseball Hall of Fame members and former MLB stars.

The weather was perfect for the evenings festivities, besides meeting the ballplayers I ran into many friends including a group from the Central Illinois Cubs Booster Club, my favorite vendor - Mark the Beer Guy, and all my Hohokam pals (who all donated their time and effort to last nights event). I also met and talked with Author and Photojournalist Tammy Lechner who had a table selling her book "Our Team - Our Dream: A Cubs Fan's Journey Into Baseball's Greatest Romance", the book has over 300 one of a kind photos and narrates the Cubs fan's journey over a 15 year span. I have only scanned it briefly so far but the photos are fantastic, I'll give you a review once I finish the book.

The game itself was as you would expect very loose and fun, as expected Fergie & Friends beat the AZ All-Stars 10-6 in the 7 inning affair. Jon Warden who pitched briefly for the Detroit Tigers in 1968 before a shoulder injury cut his career short helped add some humor as he had a microphone down on the field. Warden might have had a short MLB career but he may want to try stand-up comedy, some of his jokes were a bit off-color, which of course I enjoyed.

Great to see the former Cubs especially those who played on the 1984 team; my first spring working at old Hohokam. Next year though I don't want to do the announcing, I want to play...even if it is against Fergie and his talented Friends. Guess I could play and do the PA announcing at the same time however I wouldn't want it to take away my concentration, even if the game doesn't "count". The Fergie Jenkins Foundation gave away a lot of checks to deserving causes last night and that was why we were there in the first place, a win win night at Hohokam. I also got to have my photo taken with Fergie and Billy Williams...like I said, kid in a candy store!

By the way the Cactus League set a new attendance record this spring with 1.31 million fans with the Cubs leading the way. Tomorrow I will post the favorite photos I took of the Cubs this spring, can't wait for opening day. Go Cubs!


Hall of Fame members Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams, and the P.A. Guy.
Photo taken by the magnificent Tessa Lee!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Not All the Cubs Have Left the Building

The Cubs are playing Vegas tonight, I have gone to those games in the past but tonight I will be at Hohokam Stadium for the Fergie & Friends game. Sure the quality of the play on the field won't be at MLB level but it sure will be fun. Seeing all the Cubs greats and doing a special All-Star Public Address introduction for them will be sweet. It's all for charity and only costs 10 bucks.

If you thought Alfonso Soriano was not giving it the full effort in the outfield this spring, you may be right. Here are his Alan Iverson-esque comments:

"it's Spring Training and a lot of people aren't concentrating 100 percent. They know these games don't count. When the season starts, people will see more from this team. I think we have a very good team. On March 31, I think you'll see more because those games count."

I guess that's why spring training tickets cost less, although the food and beer isn't discounted. Sure would be nice if we didn't have to pay "100 percent" of those costs. Really how hard is it to concentrate for the 6 or so innings these guys play in a spring game? I guess I'm old school in that you always do your best so those habits come thru when it counts. Perhaps I'm reading more into these comments than I should; the upside would be that Soriano will be playing better defense in leftfield come March 31st...I hope that's the case.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Not So Perfect 10

The Cubs and Brewers battled it out for 10 innings, finishing with 10 runs apiece in front of another packed house (12,782) at Hohokam. The Cubs finished with a spring home attendance mark of 181,280, the best in the Major Leagues and third highest figure at Hohokam. Today's final AZ Cactus League contest for the Cubs left them with a 14-14-2 spring training record. Two more games in Las Vegas this weekend against the Mariners will close out the Cubs' spring season.

As for today's game, it was a wild, homerun-filled affair. As I mentioned this morning, we were to see several minor league pitchers, which we did- including Cory Bailey, the Cubs starter today, who was shelled by most of the Brewers expected regular season lineup for 6 runs in the 2nd inning. Other Cubs pitchers who saw action today, and maybe you'll see some of them down the road apiece, were Matt Avery, Rocky Roquet, Ed Campusano, and Tim Lahey. The one guy who should have an impact this year that pitched today was Sean Marshall, and he didn't look sharp- 1 run allowed on a hit along with 3 bases on balls (1 intentional)in 2 innings pitched.

The Cubs scored 10 runs with a big game from Micah Hoffpauir, who played RF and 1B. He crushed 2 homeruns but couldn't get it done in the 10th with bases loaded. Also joining the HR derby, were Ronny Cedeno and Alfonso Soriano (2for2, 3RBI). Henry Blanco went 2 for 3, with a couple doubles. Mark DeRosa was 2 for 3, including a triple in the 4th. However, DeRosa was thrown out at home - he tagged up on a sac fly, then didn't slide into home plate, if he had, he would have easily scored the run. When I introduced DeRo in his next at bat I could here some boos and comments about him not sliding from the fans below me.

Ronny Cedeno made a nice diving grab on a Mike Cameron liner in the 1st. Felix Pie continued his outstanding defense, with a sweet running catch falling to the ground in short right center, after calling off the other outfielders. Cubs new acquisition Reed Johnson was wearing jersey #9 today, instead of 13.

While the Cubs have left for Las Vegas, there is another game at Hohokam tomorrow night, the Fergie and Friends celebrity Allstar game. Where you can see many of the Cubs stars of year's past, including Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and Fergie, as well as other former Cubs like Randy Hundley, Jody Davis, Bob Dernier, Keith Moreland, and Lee Smith. Also on hand tomorrow night will be non-Cubs stars like Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Juan Marichal, Meadowlark Lemon and many other former MLB greats. It should be a fun night at Hohokam to raise money for charity. Tickets are only $10, there's lots of fun stuff going on beforehand - card and memorabilia show, and a Cindy Standage concert.

Early Game at Hohokam Today

Once again the spring season draws to a close, today is the final game for the Cubs in AZ. Then it's off to Las Vegas for a couple final exhibition tune ups vs the Mariners before opening day. Today it's the Cubs vs Brewers at Hohokam (starting one hour early at 12:05pm AZ time) a match-up you will see again on March 31st for the regular season opener at Wrigley Field.

Today's game will be much different than the opener as many "minor league pitchers" are headed to the mound, probably some minor league guys at other positions as well. This game is one that I usually get a list of guys from the Cubs media dept. who aren't on any rosters we have. A chance for some single A, AA, and rookie league guys to get into a game at Hohokam. I will give you a full report on today's game this afternoon.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Questions Answered?

In today's audio blog I examine some of the Cubs issues that needed to be sorted out during spring training 2008. 14 minutes

Monday, March 24, 2008

Pie is the guy, and a quiz

The Cubs pulled off an exciting 7-6 victory over the Texas Rangers in front of 12,757 sun-drenched fans at Hohokam. The game was tied 6-6 when Felix Pie hit a 2 out triple in the bottom of the 9th, followed by an Eric Patterson single up the middle to knock in the winning run.

Cubs were fueled by Mark DeRosa's 3-run homer in the 1st, he looks to be recovered from the flu that kept him out yesterday. Felix Pie has really had a good spring, both in the field and at the plate, besides the triple, he also had a single and a run-scoring double along with a sacrifice bunt. Pie covers alot of ground in centerfield, and has been making outstanding running catches all spring. Daryle Ward came in to pinch-hit in the 8th, and promptly smacked a base hit. Ronny Cedeno had an RBI single, stole 2nd, got to 3rd on an error, and finally scored on a Soriano sacrifice fly. Soriano also drew a walk in the 1st inning. Derrek Lee was 1 for 3, with a run scored.

Ryan Dempster, who has won a spot in the rotation, started today went 4 and 2/3rds innings, gave up 4 runs on 8 hits. He struck out 5 Rangers, but also walked 3. John Lieber who will be a Cubs long relief man (probably because he's willing to do it) pitched 3 innings and gave up 2 runs. Carlos Marmol came in to a tough situation, with bases loaded and 2 outs, he got the K to end the 5th inning. Les Walrond held the Rangers scoreless in the 9th.


Clydesdale's at Hohokam Stadium today.

A warm day at the park, 82 degrees at first pitch. The Anheuser Busch Clydesdale's made a visit to the ballpark. They carried Hohokam ticket manager Nancy Hunter, who's celebrating her 10th season, around the warning track to home plate. I was behind Steve Stone in the press room lunch line and he got the last of the chicken fajitas. Today's game was the 10th sell-out of the spring training season for the Cubs at Hohokam. The Cubs have the highest spring home attendance in all of Major League Baseball. Combined with their road attendance, the Cubs are the most seen team this spring. Kosuke Fukudome had the day off, coming into today's game he had the 2nd most walks in the majors.

The Cubs head up to Scottsdale tomorrow to take on the Giants, Rich Hill looking to get back on track after his last disappointing outing.

As I mentioned Saturday, my family and friends surprised me with a party to celebrate 25 Cubbie springs PA announcing. One of the cool things they did was have a 25th Anniversary quiz for guests. I thought it might be fun to put the quiz on here and make a contest out of it. Here are the 9 quiz questions. Whoever correctly guesses the most answers will win: an autographed Ron Santo baseball card, a copy of Wrigley Season Ticket 2008, a dvd -"Vince Lloyd, The Voice of Summer", and 2007 and 2008 Cubs Spring Training Programs and anything else I find to throw in.

Email your answers to info@boysofspring.com by end of Cubs Opening Day, March 31st.

1. The first Cubs player name Tim ever announced was?
2. How many Cubs Managers have their been since Tim started doing the Cubs spring games?
3. True or False. When Tim started they did not play music at old Hohokam Park games.
4. True or False. At old Hohokam, Tim did the Public Address and played the music.
5. True or False. Harry Caray used to sing the 7th inning stretch using Tim's PA microphone?
6. True or False. Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins was on the Cubs Roster when Tim started?
7. True of False. Tim was paid $20 per game when he first started.
8. True or False. Tim's favorite name to announce has been Mark Grace.
9. In Tim's first season of 1984, he announced 3 future Hall of Famers playing in the same game, who were they?

In the event of a tie, the people with the most correct answers will be put into a drawing for the prize. Good Luck!

One Week

Hope everyone had a great Easter, the past day and a half have been kind of a blur for me (more on that later today). The Cubs are back in action at Hohokam today against the Texas Rangers, with only one week left before opening day. Today's game is on Comcast Sports Net and MLB TV.

Lou Piniella will finalize the pitching staff today, Wood as the closer seems a lock. The fight for rotational spots has been interesting this spring with Lieber a bit stronger overall than Marquis and Dempster. I'll examine Lou's choices and how the overall roster looks during this week. We have a lot going on here at CubsAZ for the final week of spring training, so check in often. I will be back after today's game and fill you in on what happened at Hohokam as well as some other fun stuff.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Wild One Ends Tied, Then Surprise!

The Cubs came back to tie the White Sox 3 times in today's game the first time was with 4 runs in the 6th inning, then 1 run in the 9th and finally 3 runs in the 10th inning to finish with an 8-8 tie. I was planning my usual blog after the game but it will have to wait as my family and friends surprised me on arrival with a party to celebrate my 25 spring trainings announcing the Cubs games at Hohokam. I will post more tomorrow as I am being called away...very cool of them to do this!

Have a great night.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Good the Bad and the Ugly

The good. Plentiful sunshine, 76 degrees at first pitch, and a Cubs 8-6 win over the Colorado Rockies in front of 12,885 (the 4th largest crowd ever at Hohokam). Matt Murton going 2 for 4, with 2 doubles and 2 runs scored. Henry Blanco 2 hits in 2 at bats, including a 2 run HR in the 2nd. (Maybe his lucky # is 2) Blanco was replaced by Geovany Soto in the 4th and later Casey McGehee, all-told Cubs' catchers were 4 for 5 today. Daryle Ward, pinch hitter extraordinaire, pinch hitting in the 6th knocks in the go-ahead run with a base hit. Ryan Theriot manufactured a run in the 3rd. He drew a walk, took 2nd on an errant pick-off throw by Rockies pitcher Franklin Morales, then stole 3rd, finally scoring on a wild pitch.

The good, defensively. Mike Fontenot had a sure ESPN web gem (if anyone was shooting it) ranging far to his right, hurling an off-balance throw that D-Lee did a full scissors extension, getting Ryan Spilborghs at 1st. This was followed the very next play, with another potential web-gemmer by Aramis Ramirez, who made a diving catch on a hard line-drive across his body to rob Marcus Giles of extra bases. Felix Pie made a nice running grab deep in Centerfield to record the 2nd out in the 9th inning.

The good, pitching. Michael Wuertz 1 1/3rd scoreless innings, no hits, and 2 K's. Just about the only other good pitching was the fact that Kerry Wood was actually able to pitch today, although he did allow a run on 2 solid hits by the Rockies in his 1 inning.

The Bad and the Ugly. Rich Hill, who had been sketchy this spring, really was bad today. He could not find the strike zone at all, walking 5 of the first 6 batters he faced to open the game. Amazingly, he got out of the 1st only allowing 1 run. His control issues didn't go away in the 2nd, as he walked the first batter. The next batter reached on an Aramis Ramirez throwing error, finally and mercifully Hill was pulled after Yorvit Torrealba hit a double. Unless Hill works on keeping runners on base, opponents will run at will, as the Rockies had 4 stolen bases on the lefty. His replacement Tim Lahey didn't pitch alot better, allowing 2 runs on 2 hits and a base on balls in 1.2 innings. Cubs pitchers gave the Rockies 12 free passes in today's game.

Henry Blanco, who had a good day with the bat, was picked off of 1st base in the 4th. Kosuke Fukudome, starting in Centerfield for the Cubs, struckout 3 times in 4 at bats. They say it takes time to adjust to the Major Leagues after coming over from Japan, the adjustment needs to happen pretty soon, because opening day isn't far off.

Last night I was talking Cubs with some of the Central Illinois Cubs Boosters. A couple of the concerns raised about the current team included: Rich Hill, Fukudome's bat against MLB pitchers, Alfonso Soriano's fielding, and whether Ryan Dempster can be consistent starting pitcher. Don't get me wrong, that wasn't all we talked about because overall they're very excited about this year's team and the talent the Cubs have, but it's spring training and these are some of the things they're talking about.

The Cubs are off to Tucson tomorrow to take on the Rockies once again. I won't be able to make it down, will be watching on ESPN2. The big Windy City grudge match follows on Saturday (if you can call a spring training game such a thing) as the White Sox come to Hohokam.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

First of Two

Things I saw today.

Ryan Dempster pitched outstanding. Today's Cub's starter, pitched 5.1 scoreless innings, striking out 7, only allowing 1 hit. The battle for the fifth starting pitcher is a close one, the good news is that Dempster and Marquis have both looked solid this spring, outside of Dempster's last go-around at Hohokam.

Fukudome's strong arm was exhibited on a perfect throw in the 6th inning to nail A's catcher Kurt Suzuki at the plate. Dome had another strong throw to the plate to Cubs catcher Henry Blanco, which would have probably gotten the runner at home but it bounced about 3-5 feet in front of Blanco and high hopped over his shoulder. Dome was charged with an error on the throw, allowing the runner to take 2nd.

Derrek Lee charged a ground ball to cutoff a run at home in the 8th inning, Henry Blanco and Aramis Ramirez made a perfect run-down play to record the out, and keep Danny Putnam from scoring.

Kevin Hart and Carlos Marmol both struggled today, allowing the A's to score 4 runs in the 8th and1 in the 9th. Each pitcher walked in a run to the chagrin of the home crowd. Hart was especially ineffective, allowing 4 runs, 2 hits, and 2 bb in 1/3rd inning. Sean Gallagher walked 3 batters in the the seventh to load the bases, he was bailed out by Les Walrond who ended the inning by striking out 2 A's hitters.

Derrek Lee started off slow, hitting into a first inning double play, striking out in the 4th, and then finally delivering a HR in the 7th while the game was scoreless. Aramis Ramirez went 2 for 3, with a walk that scored him on a Henry Blanco RBI double in the 7th.

The Cubs did load the bases in the 9th, but Felix Pie was unable to keep the game going, making the final out.

The craziness for a PA announcer during spring training that doesn't happen in the regular season, was in evidence today-as four Oakland Athletics entered the game as defensive replacements in the 6th inning. None of them, however, were on any roster I had. Included in the four, were two number 52's. Since the Athletics don't have names on their jerseys, it made it all the more difficult. The Cubs media relations department with help from the A's sorted it all out so I could announce the names.

The Cubs have the rare day/night split-squad double header playing at 7pm tonight against the Giants in Scottsdale. John Lieber will get the start tonight in Scottsdale. Cubs are back at Hohokam tomorrow at a regular 1:05 start, AZ time, with Rich Hill slated to start for the Cubs.

Today's Game Starts Early

Just a reminder today's game at Hohokam starts one hour earlier than normal at 12:05 pm AZ time, 2:05 pm Central time. I expect some fans will arrive around 1pm and be happy to see how light the traffic is coming into the park only to find we are in the 3d inning or so.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cubs Walk-off Win

The Cubs came from behind with 2 runs in the 9th inning to beat the Kansas City Royals 6-5, in front of 12,772 sun-drenched fans in Mesa. The comeback runs were supplied by consecutive hits from Felix Pie, Ronny Cedeno, and Casey McGehee.

Cedeno only played the final four innings, but his bat went to work immediately. He hit a single in the 6th, a double in the 7th, and the game-tying RBI triple in the 9th. Aramis Ramirez hit an opposite field HR in the Cubs 3-run 6th inning. Mark DeRosa had a RBI triple in the 2nd. Frightening moment for all watching, after drawing a walk Fukudome stole 2nd base but on the throw was hit with the ball thrown by Royals catcher Matt Tupman. It looked like Dome was hit in the face with the ball as he slid into 2nd. I'm glad my mic. wasn't on when that happened because the crowd might not have appreciated hearing "Oh, #@*%!" over the PA, although many of them were probably thinking or saying the same thing. Turns out Dome was hit in the neck/shoulder area and appeared to be okay, although Eric Patterson came in and pinch ran for him.

Every Cubs pitcher pitched well, except for Tim Lahey who gave up 4 of the Royals 5 runs in the 7th inning. Starter Jason Marquis allowed 1 run in the 1st and nothing after that in his 5 innings. Scott Eyre threw a scoreless sixth. Jose Ascanio and Kevin Hart recorded 1-2-3 innings in the 8th and 9th respectively. Hart has looked especially good this spring, and has most likely locked up a spot in the bullpen.


The Georges talking pine tar and politics...just a guess.

A couple of well-known Georges at Hohokam today-Hall of Fame member George Brett with the Royals, and Pulitzer Prize winning writer George Will. George Will, an Illinois native and known Cubs fan, was seated in the 1st row just off the Cubs dugout sporting what looked to be a new Cubs ballcap. A foul ball hit by Geovany Soto in the 6th partially shattered the top window of the booth in which Len Kasper and Bob Brenly sit, they were announcing today's game for Comcast Sportsnet. The Central Illinois Cubs Booster Club sang the 7th inning stretch today, doing a great job as they do every spring.

Goodbye to Dodgertown, Hello AZ

My head is still ringing a bit from last nights Flogging Molly show but it's a great day for a baseball game here in Mesa. Plenty of sunshine and an expected high of 74 degrees, this is spring break week for a lot of schools and the forecast for Mesa couldn't be better (click here for 10 day). The Cubs take on the Kansas City Royals at Hohokam with Jason Marquis slated to make his fourth start of the spring.


Tommy Lasorda yesterday in Vero Beach. Hans Deryk/Reuters

Saying goodbye to 61 years of history; as you may know the LA Dodgers most likely played their last spring game ever at Dodgertown in Vero Beach yesterday. The Dodgers will be here full-time next spring to share a new spring training complex with the White Sox in Glendale, AZ. The Dodgers will play some spring games here in AZ starting this Thursday March 20th.

Here's an article from the LA Times about the Dodgers leaving.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

The Cubs have their lone day off this spring today, no doubt to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. At least that's what I'd like to believe the schedule makers were thinking. At any rate I'm going to be celebrating my Irish heritage with family and friends later this evening while listening to the band Flogging Molly at Tempe Town Lake. Flogging Molly is led by legendary Dublin born singer/songwriter Dave King. While influenced and inspired by traditional Irish music this band definitely puts there own high powered twist on their tunes.


Ireland Forever

Today is a bit more meaningful St. Paddy's Day for me as I will be headed to the Emerald Isle for my first visit ever in just over 3 weeks. Almost all my relatives on my Dad's side come from Ireland as well as one branch from my Mother's side. It will be a test to see how well I can keep up with the Cubs early season progress while in Ireland. I will ask some of the locals what they know about the Chicago Cubs and American baseball. It should be one heck of a trip as we plan to see plenty of Ireland during the two weeks, even though we are working a bit scouting locations for a future cable TV show.

Have a great St. Patrick's Day, and be safe.

Below are a couple songs from Flogging Molly.



Sunday, March 16, 2008

Big Z Strong at Hohokam

Turned out to be partly sunny, but a cooler than normal 55 degrees at first pitch today. Even though it was cool, Carlos Zambrano was hot as he pitched 6 scoreless innings, allowing only 1 hit while facing the minimum number of batters through 5. The Cubs supplied enough hitting to take a 4-1 victory over the Angels in front of another sellout crowd at Hohokam.

With the Cubs outstanding pitching, including Michael Wuertz solid 8th inning, no hits and 2 K's. The two main contestants for the closer's job both pitched, Carlos Marmol pitching in the 7th finally allowed a run this spring on a HR by Erik Aybar. He gave up 2 hits and the 1 run of the Angel's day while finishing the inning on a strikeout throwout of Bobby Wilson and Kendry Morales. Kerry Wood came in for the 9th, and looked the part- closing out the game with an easy 1-2-3. The Cubs' pitching really kept this game moving along, which ended in less than 2 hours. (1:53) I can't recall any spring game at this or old Hohokam being any faster than today's speedy 9.

Cubs runs were supplied by a strong game from Alfonso Soriano, who went 3 for 4 with his 2nd HR of the spring. Mike Fontenot, starting at short, chipped in with a solo HR in the 2nd. A-Ram had an RBI single in the 3d inning. Derrek Lee hit a long drive to left center that came very close to being a HR, he ended up with a double.

Felix Pie was back in the lineup after his having the medical team straighten out the curve ball. The Angels had a split-squad today and their acting manager was Mesa, Arizona native Mickey Hatcher. Former Reds and Mets slugging star George Foster threw out a ceremonial first pitch before the game. Foster will be part of the Fergie and Friends game on March 28th at Hohokam. The Cubs have St. Patrick's Day off tomorrow, then will play Kansas City on Tuesday in Mesa.

Sunny Mesa?

The weather is a bit dicey today here in Mesa, currently a 40 percent chance of rain and an expected high temp of 58, with scattered thunderstorms later this afternoon. Right now it looks fine with some clouds and blue sky to the west so we'll see how things progress.

As you may have guessed I didn't make the trip down to Tucson yesterday, like many of the Cubs starters I stayed back in Mesa to get in some extra hitting. One of my goals this March to celebrate 25 spring trainings with the Cubs was to hit a round of batting practice with the team. The Cubs Media Relations Dept. informed me a few days ago this wasn't possible, but I'm not giving up. I'm going to keep hitting at the local batting cage just in case Lou Piniella or one of the players says - why not let the guy hit a few, no harm in that.

Today's game is on WGN Radio & TV as well as MLB.Com media center.

Friday, March 14, 2008

2nd Inning Sinks Cubs

Another packed house at Hohokam Stadium today, 12, 837, only 69 short of the Cactus League single-game record set by the Cubs at Hohokam last season. The Cubs lost to the LA Angels of Disneyland, 6-5. Six of the Cubs' last seven spring games were decided by 2 or fewer runs. We had the Northern Illinois University Alumni Association at the ballpark today and had a moment of silence before the start of today's game to honor the victims of the shooting that occurred at NIU.

Game notes: Ryan Dempster started today and had a rough go of it after a quick 1-2-3 first inning he gave up 6 runs on 5 hits, walking 2, before being pulled in the 2nd inning. Dempster also had a throwing error on a swinging bunt by Casey Kotchman in the 2nd. Today is not going to help Dempster's cause in his fight for a spot in the starting rotation, especially after the outstanding 4 innings of shutout ball pitched today by Jon Lieber. Lieber allowed only two hits and also struck the side in the 7th. Kerry Wood set down the Angels in order in the 4th inning. Michael Wuertz relieved Dempster in the 2nd, allowing only 1 hit while striking out 4 in his 1.1 innings.


Today at bp, later Lee and Blanco would have 3 of the Cubs extra base hits.

With the bats, Derrek Lee pounded the ball, finishing 2 for 4 with a double and a triple. Alfonso Soriano had an RBI double in the 1st, but also struck out twice. Henry Blanco hit his 1st spring HR. Eric Patterson, starting today in CF, was 2 for 4, and had a stolen base. However, Patterson was caught stealing in the 9th for out #2 (he was the tying run), Josh Kroeger ended the game striking out. The consensus in my booth, was that Patterson was safe at 2nd, but the umpire didn't agree.

Aramis Ramirez made an outstanding, diving snag of a Maicer Izturis hard grounder in the 4th. Very frightening moment, a screaming foul ball off the bat of Mark DeRosa hit Cubs Alex Cintron viciously in the face while he was standing in the batting circle. Cintron fell immediately to the ground, was taken to the hospital for x-rays, right now they're saying he's day to day and treating him for swelling. Fukudome faked a steal in the 1st inning, only to have Angels catcher Mike Napoli throw down to 2nd, problem was there wasn't anyone to take the throw. The ball sailed onto the Centerfielder, allowing Dome to take 2nd


Ryan Theriot and Denny Terrio related?

The Angels had two #65's in the game at the same time today- always fun for the public address announcer. The iron Hoff-power plays again- Micah Hoffpauir has played everyday of the Cubs Cactus League schedule this spring. The Cubs wives held their annual food drive to benefit Mesa's Paz de Cristo today.

The Cubs travel to Tucson tomorrow to take on the White Sox, the game is on WGN TV with those "other" announcers.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cubs win in bottom of the 9th

Sorry about the lateness of this blog, but I stopped off at Sluggo's Sports bar, formerly Harry & Steve's after the game. The place was jam-packed with Cubs fans, including former Cubs pitcher Lee Smith, and family.

As I mentioned yesterday, Soriano might be hitting in the 2 spot on Friday, that was moved up a day as he was #2 in the lineup today. This is the time for Lou to experiment in changing the lineup around, before we get to the regular season. Fukudome hit in the #5 spot today.

The game turned out to have an exciting finish, as Alex Cintron pinch hitting with bases loaded and 2-2 tie in the bottom of the ninth delivered a base hit to right field to give the Cubs a 3-2 victory over the Padres. Cintron may have just done enough to make the Cubs final roster, as he has shown versatility in the infield. 75 degrees and sunny at first pitch, as a packed house of 12,809 enjoyed the Cubs win.


Fukudome makes the catch.
(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

The game was full of outstanding defensive plays, most notable of those from the Cubs- Kosuke Fukudome's phenomenal leaping, twisting grab against the right center field fence in the 1st inning. Sam Fuld also had an incredible catch of Paul McAnulty drive to left center, banging hard against the wall while holding onto the ball.

Not much exciting with the Cubs bats today, outside of the Cintron game-winner. Mark DeRosa is starting to get into the swing of things going 2 for 3 today, with a double and a walk. Ryan Theriot was 2 for 4 with a stolen base.

Former Cub Greg Maddux was supposed to pitch longer, but was hit in the leg by Derrek Lee grounder, and left after 2 innings. Jason Marquis is making his case for a spot in the rotation, pitching 4 scoreless innings. He allowed 2 hits, walked 2, and 2 K's. Carlos Marmol did it again, pitching in the 9th, getting himself into trouble, allowing a hit, 2 bases on balls, but wiggling out of it unscathed. I'm not sure about this pattern Marmol has gotten into this spring, but he's got some nasty stuff and it didn't look like he was getting the calls from the umpire today.


Dome has extra base hit taken away by Padres Cedric Hunter.
(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

It's funny that these spring training games technically don't mean much in the big scheme, you wouldn't know that by the fans' raucous Cubs chants in the bottom of the 9th, before the winning run. Cubs will take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim tomorrow at Hohokam and Ryan Dempster will make his 4th spring start.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Len Kasper Talks Cubs

The Cubs lost again today and now have twice as many losses as wins with a 5-10 Cactus League record. As I've stated many times spring training records don't mean squat, especially in games like today with no D-Lee, Dome, A-Ram, DeRo, Theriot, or Pie playing. Like some of the Cubs players I didn't make the journey from Mesa to Surprise today, I had a project to finish and it's a round trip of over 120 miles from my house.

T.R. Sullivan from MLB.com wrote in today's Cubs/Rangers game recap: "Alfonso Soriano, expected to be switched to the No. 2 spot in the order, hit a two-run homer in the fifth." Does he know something we don't? Turns out we might see Soriano in the 2 spot as soon as Friday with Fukudome batting 5th. Soriano says he's OK with the move if it helps the team, just don't ask him to bunt.

As I mentioned yesterday I got hit with a ball during bp, that area has now gone from red to a nice black and blue. Tomorrow the Cubs will be back at Hohokam taking on the Padres with Greg Maddux expected to start against the Cubs, Jason Marquis starts for the home team.

Here is a part of the chat I had with Len Kasper recently, it's 3 minutes long.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cubs lose but my camera lives

Another brilliant day for a baseball game, 72 degrees at first pitch and plenty of sunshine. If the score matters to you, the Cubs lost 6-4 to the Oakland Athletics in front of 11,240 fans at Hohokam.


Lou and staff chat during bp

Pulling into Hohokam this morning, I was right behind license plate - Cubs 10...Ron Santo and I arrived at the same time. I was taking photographs of Bob Howry and Ryan Dempster during BP this morning, down the right field line on the edge of the stands, when I heard "Heads-Up" screams, I turned back towards home plate, only to catch a glimpse at the last split second before a line-drive baseball hit me in the gut. Luckily it didn't take out my camera, it ricocheted off me right into my empty camera bag. I now have the MLB logo tattooed on my stomach, but I held up my prize in spite of the pain.


Howry and Dempster before I got nailed

Steve Stone was here today, as he has been most games this spring. Stone still covers the Cubs for Chicago radio but will be announcing White Sox games this season. I'm not sure what he does, but I doubt that he hangs out at Hohokam in the morning and then drives down to Tucson or wherever the Sox are playing. We won't tell the Sox Stoney is spending all his time at Hohokam.

I didn't see it, but I heard it. That oh-so-familiar and haunting noise, and then I knew...."He's Back!" Ronnie Woo Woo.

Today's game started out with a bang, literally, as the Rough Riders from Rawhide wild west town shot their pistols into the air after the National Anthem. The actual game continued the excitement as Soriano mis-played a sinking liner on the first A's batter of the game. He retrieved the ball and threw out Travis Buck at 3rd. Then, Sam Fuld- starting today at CF- made an incredible, diving grab to end the 1st inning.

Mark DeRosa, in his first Cubs home spring game, received a big ovation from the crowd. DeRosa got a hit. Also making a nice defensive play, laying out to snare a hard grounder then threw out Kurt Suzuki at 1st. Fukudome's bat may not be in regular season form yet, but one thing I love about this guy is he always hustles. Like today, hitting a routine grounder to short, Dome made it a very close play at first. Sam Fuld had an RBI triple, and another nice running grab in left center in the 7th inning.


Dempster was looking the right way, I was not

Carlos Zambrano looked solid in his 4 innings, only giving up 1 run on a HR to Jack Cust. Kerry Wood had a solid inning's work, allowing 1 hit and no runs. Scott Eyre had a rough 6th inning, with a Cubs error, 2 walks, and a 3 run homer by A's Bobby Crosby. Michael Wuertz pitched well in his 1.2 innings, no runs, 1 hit, with two K's. Carlos Marmol came in for the 9th, allowed a lead-off hit, struck out the next two batters, then walked Dan Johnson before closing the inning without damage getting his 3rd strikeout.

The Cubs tried to mount a comeback in the 9th, but two hard hit balls, by Geovany Soto and Sam Fuld, were caught on outstanding defensive plays by the A's to end the game.

Aramis Ramirez was sporting the high blue socks look today instead of his hidden socks. Mark the Beer Guy sang 7th inning stretch, and caught me off guard when he said "How about a big hand for Tim Sheridan, our Public Address Announcer, for 25 years here at Hohokam" before launching into 'Take Me Out To the BallGame'. Thanks Mark!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Cubs in Maryvale

Another near-perfect weather day in the Valley of the Sun. The Cubs lost to the Brewers 6-4, Mark DeRosa was back in action for the first time since his heart procedure. Rich Hill had a bit of a struggle in his start today...Here are my photos from Maryvale.


Hill during warm ups



DeRosa on deck



Dome on deck



Rich Hill on the mound



Theriot looks for the sign



DeRosa glad to be back on the field



Hill struggles



Dome checks the wood



Lou leaving the field after pulling Hill



Lahey comes in and does well



Yes, they do it here too