Today the Chicago Cubs took down the San Francisco Giants, 5-4, upping their record to 6-4 on the Spring, which puts them on pace to make the Spring Training playoffs, at least as the second Wild Card.

Among the notable bits…

  • So, let’s get it out of our systems: Bryan LaHair went 0-3 with three strikeouts, and Anthony Rizzo hit an absolute bomb two-run home run. OMG CUT LAHAIR START RIZZO!!!!!!!1!!lol!!!!1l1ll!! No. Stop. Breathe. The Cubs have very publicly committed (a) to starting Bryan LaHair and giving him a long look, and (b) letting Rizzo get some work at AAA. If this front office changes their minds based on a handful of Spring Training at bats, they wouldn’t be the guys we were all so excited to get back in October.
  • On to brighter things: Chris Volstad was once again solid. He threw three scoreless innings, giving up just two hits, and striking out one. During the broadcast, Len Kasper interview Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, who remarked, off-hand, that Volstad looked like he was pitching his way into a rotation spot. I doubt the Cubs have made up their mind at this point, I doubt that Ricketts knows what is going to happen, and I very much doubt Ricketts would say anything if he did know. I think he was just talking.
  • Scott Maine got the ball next (suggesting he’s high up in the considerations for the “other” lefty job), and pitched a scoreless inning, giving up one hit and striking out one.
  • Jay Jackson pitched three(!) innings today, giving up one earned run on three hits. He struck out one. As I’ve said before, Jackson is largely pitching for a job in the Iowa rotation at this point, but it’s interesting that he was given three innings today.
  • Andy Sonnanstine had a rough day, throwing an inning in which he gave up three earned on five hits.
  • Alberto Cabrera threw a scoreless 9th, but made it interesting by allowing a couple baserunners (hit and a walk).
  • Edgar Gonzalez played some shortstop today while Adrian Cardenas played some second base. In other words, there was a spot open and an opportunity for Cardenas to play short (after Starlin Castro exited), and Dale Sveum opted instead to put him at second base.
  • Alfonso Soriano had a “hustle” double. That’s news. And probably kind of stupid.
  • Steve Clevenger had a hit in three at bats (and was robbed of a second), and Welington Castillo also had a hit in his one at bat.
  • Joe “Scott McClain” Mather had a double in his three at bats while playing third base.
  • Cliffy

    Cubs pitchers only gave up one walk today, Volstad got 7 ground outs, of the 9 total for his three innings. Some very encouraging things going on.

  • Gergely Hegyi

    Did Mather do anithing special at 3rd? He looks like a good utility guy to me (a poor Cubs’ Mark DeRosa).

  • brittney

    Its still early but I think Volstad will be the #4 guy in the rotation. Now I wish Wood will start pitching better to be the #5. I know Smarj is looking pretty good but I think he still needs time to perfect another pitch and command and next year he will be a serious contender to take a spot in the rotation.

  • Swaz46

    Okay, okay…I like the Joe “Scott McClain” Mather idea. But I submit to you, Brett, that if Mather continues to tear it up, he becomes Joe “Buck Coats” Mather.

    • Brett

      That’s a pretty high title to bestow upon someone…

  • KidCubbie

    Rizzo da man. I hope Lahair doesnt struggle but if he does i hope they dont wait too long to pull the trigger on bringing up Rizzo. I know its about being able to keep him under control for another year but hey, I really like the kid and need somebody to root for.

  • Bric

    I’m sure I’m the lone voice in the wilderness but the LaHair business has bothered me from the start. Why name the guy to a job before he’s earned it “for real”. I have no problem with him starting the year at first but why was he basically named the starter during the off season? He’s not a veteran.

    As you say, Brett, this is the front office we’ve wanted for a long time. But the LaHair thing is the one thing that really reminds me of Pinella and Hendry. If the guy didin’t start the year last year or win the job at some point when the games were still meaningful, then just call it an open competition so you don’t have to go back and admit a mistake later. Names like Patton, Carridad, Silva, Quade all come to mind in similar situations. Even Marmol was named closer probably before he was ready for it.

    • CubSouth

      I agree with u for the most part Bric, but u have to know that LaHair is still fighting for the job. Ok, so he is told he will be the everyday first baseman at the start of the season. But if he sputters, they will yank him and possibly let Baker have the majority of the load. Then when Rizzo is deemed eligible, they will call him up. I believe LaHair knows he is fighting for the job, til Rizzo comes to take his place. But I’m sure he knows he is also fighting to be in the majors, on the Cubs or whomever, for 2013 as well. This is his opportunity and he deserves knowing he wont have to worry about making the team…..this year.

    • Brett

      To be fair, there are good reasons to tell a guy he’s got the job before Spring Training starts – it allows him to prepare for the season in the optimal way, rather than trying only to do things to make the team (including film study, practicing certain things during games, and avoiding the added risk of injury).

      • DocWimsey

        ESPN had an article the other day about the death of the famous “spring training position battle.” There were myriad reasons, including the loss of some of the managers who really played this up to the media. However, the biggest reason that the article cited was that most teams now realize that spring training performance just does not mean much.

        Indeed, almost all of the existing position battles have one thing in common: two bad options! (The Rays starting rotation is the one exception: they’ve got 6 quality guys going for 5 spots; however, if Price has to shower much more, then that won’t be an issue! 😎 )

        • hansman1982

          If ESPN reported it then the opposite must be true.

          LaHair was named the starter after a monster 2011 in AAA, to calm some fans after not getting Pujols or Fielder and to send Rizzo to AAA for additional development, spending an extra couple months in the minors will not hurt Rizzo and the lack of a position battle will not hurt LaHair.

    • DocWimsey

      But LaHair essentially is a veteran: he’s 29 now. And given his performance in AAA the last two years, we can project pretty comfortably how he’ll perform in MLB: i.e., adequately. Moreover, regular season AAA games are much closer to “real” baseball than are spring training games. So, why call it “earning” when it’s based on a tiny sample size in less realistic conditions?

    • Norm

      “New team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have said they won’t get fooled by spring-training results, especially in hitter-friendly Arizona.”

      Thank goodness for that….

  • mark

    So far the Cubs seems to have a nice problem at catcher.

  • mark

    Right, Bric.

  • Karen P

    When a “hustle double” is news, you know you’re approaching rock bottom…

  • Mike Taylor

    Sadly, I think we all know when we’re going to see Jackson and Rizzo play-not soon enough. How I see it… Who cares about their service clocks when you should honestly anticipate offering them contracts to buy out some arbitration years?

  • LEO L

    I think naming LaHair so early is to keep the media off and the pressure off the rizzo-Lehair comptition. they want Rizzo to start in the minors. so to avoid controversy they decided to name it now and minimize any controversy. that tells Rizzo that if he sent down it not necssarily that he lost the job. It was never his to win. More about Rizzo than Lahair.

    • Tony S

      absolutely agree Leo. I was just about to type something similar.

    • ThereWillBeCubs

      As much as I want LaHair to succeed you’re right that he* [Rizzo] and Jackson have no chance of making the team. The Cubs are not expecting to compete (their best shot at least) and they are not about to throw money around for no immediate benefit in a non compete year (return to investment?).So it seams we are reduced to rooting for the wild card(s). Milk steak boiled over hard with a side of your finest jelly beans, raw.

      *Edit for clarification

      • Brett

        You don’t like milk steak?

        • hansman1982

          you know, when I get home tonight, I am gonna try milk and honey, does anyone know, do you mix the two, drink them separately, serve it chilled, boiled, steamed, steeped or room temperature?

  • mark

    “he deserves knowing he wont have to worry about making the team”

    What he deserves is specified in his contract–agents are paid to make sure that what their client deserves is included. I mean, you can say he deserves this, that or the other thing, but if it ain’t in the K, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just personal opinion.

    I tend to Leo’s view that this is more about Rizzo. If LaHair is really, really bad in ST, and Rizzo is really, really good, they’ll shift gears and Rizzo will make the team. But that could take some jiggering with the roster that I know nothing about. LaHair may get the chance to make good in the early going after a bad spring, but if Rizzo is performing I doubt that they’ll wait too long before pulling the plug. If Rizzo isn’t showing he’s ready, they improvise. Baker, whatever.

  • Richard Nose

    Any vid of the Rizzo homer?

  • Tony S

    Zambrano reportedly touching 96,97 with his fastball today….which makes me like him even less. Where was that velocity the last 2-3 years with the Cubs?
    If its simply that he’s in better shape then I will lose what little respect I had for him.
    I always chalked up his velocity decrease to age but if it turns out he just didnt care enough to get in shape he is a disgrace.

    • DocWimsey

      “in shape” has little to do with velocity. Cy Young suposedly was cut from his last team for being too fat to move, but he supposedly still had great velocity. (RADAR guns ran slow then; heck, Gatling Guns ran slow then.). More recently, there have been some real tubs of goo who could really hit high velocities.

      If Z has velocity back, then an alteration of his mechanics is a more likely culprit.

      • CubFan Paul

        Or HGH…

      • drew

        Even if being in shape indeed has no effect on velocity, all of the starts he exited due to cramping should have at least been a hint for him to get his big ass on a treadmill and stay hydrated.

  • JB88

    Off of what pitch did Rizzo hit his bomb? Worth getting excited about or was it a meatball?

    • Brett

      Slider that bounced off the plate. Nah, but wouldn’t that be crazy?

      I don’t actually know, though I suspect that almost all 400+ foot homers come off of meatballs. The key is being able to take advantage of meatballs, because they happen in the regular season, too.

      • JB88

        I was actually somewhat curious about pitch placement. I remember that one of the concerns with Rizzo was a hole in his swing on high fastballs and most young players have problems with breaking stuff, so that was why I was wondering.

        • Brett

          I hadn’t heard the high fastball thing on Rizzo (heard that on LaHair). I though Rizzo’s trouble was with the low and away breaking stuff. I could be mis-remembering.

  • czechxican

    I think we all know that Soriano will swoon, and LaHair will boom, at just about the same time

  • rbreeze

    Is it too much to ask of modern day athletes to come to camp in shape so that they can be the best that they can be.  Fatheads like Zambrano really irk me when they make $18mil a year and then show up to camp soft and out of shape.  So know he takes his job seriously after riding the gravy train with the Cubs and soft touch treatment from Hendry.  He is playing for his buddy Ozzie and wants to impress him?  I wish him well but don’t expect me to congratulate you because you finally got on a treadmill and came to work ready to play.