In a new twist, I am spending four days in Arizona checking out Cactus League action to open spring training. I will still be in Florida soon, but since the minor leaguers have not even reported yet, that trip will be later in the month.
On Thursday, I attended the Cubs at the Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park, which is not the newest facility, but is well-maintained. This offered me an ideal opportunity to check out two National League Central Division rivals at once. Of course, many of the regulars did not appear and the ones who did left in the fifth, as is the custom. (see photo)
I will share a few random thoughts from the day.
Thursday, 3/3: Milwaukee 2, Chicago 1.
In a bit of an oddity, Kyle Schwarber led off for the Cubs, singling and striking out in three at-bats. The starting left fielder for the day made one disappointing, off-line throw toward home from short left field as Milwaukee scored the eventual winning run in the third.
New Brewers shortstop Jonathan Villar opened the home first with a triple to dead center that caused Cubs centerfielder Jorge Soler to spin around several times before the ball dropped in. After former Cardinals minor league infielder Colin Walsh plated Villar with a sac fly, Jonathan Lucroy reached when his liner to left-center bounced off Soler’s glove (E8).
By my estimation, Soler would be about the Cubs’ fourth option in center this season, anyway, but if this use was to showcase him, it was not impressive. It was just a bad day all around at the office for Soler, who fanned in both of his at-bats.
Walsh is in Brewers camp as a Rule 5 selection from the Oakland A’s. The 26-year-old was the Cardinals’ 13th-round selection in the 2010 draft from Stanford. He had been released by St. Louis near the end of 2014 spring training after reaching Double-A Springfield.
Cubs catcher Miguel Montero had two hits, including a hard-hit double to left-center. However, his rust showed as he was caught in a rundown after breaking for third when the next batter hit a ball to the right side of the infield.
My vote for the most impressive hitter of the day was Brewers catcher Jacob Nottingham, serving as the designated hitter. The minor league prospect recently acquired from Oakland laced doubles into the left and right field corners, respectively, in his first two at-bats. These at-bats were against Major League pitchers, mind you. The first was off Kyle Hendricks, with the other coming against Clayton Richard.
In the third, Nottingham scored on Lucroy’s single. That was the play in which Schwarber made the poor throw toward home.
Both of the Cubs’ MLB starters who pitched on the afternoon, Travis Wood and Hendricks, allowed one run over their respective two innings of work. Wood took the loss in Milwaukee’s 2-1 win.
There were a total of 22 strikeouts on the day, 13 by the Cubs. All 11 pitchers collected at least one K.
Despite the fact that 45 players took the field during the nine innings, there were no mid-inning pitching changes. That helped the game to be completed in a snappy 2:28.
The brat won the sausage race.
Later, I will share my notes from the remainder of the weekend.
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