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cactusThe Cubs dropped their inaugural game at Cubs Park against the Diamondbacks today, setting their fake Spring season off to an inauspicious start. Among the interesting performance notes:

  • Starlin Castro ripped two hits today, one to left and one to right center. He does look a bit stronger, and he was right on the ball (still in his wide open stance, by the way). It’s obviously as early as it gets, but that’s a nice early return.
  • Justin Grimm looked particularly sharp in his inning of work, sitting in the mid-90s with a very sharp slider. Theo Epstein was in the booth a couple innings later saying very complimentary things about him. Grimm gave up a single and struck out one in his scoreless inning.
  • Pedro Strop was all over the place, which has been his bugaboo in the past. That’s why the Cubs were able to get him at all from the Orioles, so I guess you take the good with the bad.
  • New relievers Wesley Wright and Jose Veras were charged with all of the damage today. I didn’t think Wright looked all that bad, and it’s worth remembering that his in-season role will probably skew lefty specialist, rather than whole-inning setup dude.
  • Hector Rondon struck out the side in his inning, and he may be picking up right where he left off in the second half last year when he was quietly excellent.
  • Mike Olt got two at bats. Eyesight: undetermined. His first at bat was a first pitch pop-up, and his second at bat was a long one where he watched a lot of pitches (and struck out looking).
  • Matt Szczur made another diving catch in center field. He really appears to be improving his game out there. In his post-draft days, I recall reading that it was his athleticism – not necessarily his ball-reading, route-taking, etc. – that allowed him to be a serviceable outfielder. As he gets more experience and gets better and better overall, he could turn into a very good defensive center fielder, and that could get him to the big leagues as a 4th outfielder, perhaps next year.
  • I discussed Jeff Samardzija’s performance earlier.
  • Javier Bryant

    Rondon and Grimm stood out to me. But even Parker and Cabrera did fairly well.

  • Napercal

    Szczur seems like a guy who was over-loved when the Cubs signed him, but I think is now under-loved. When he signed everyone loved his raw athleticism. He’ still a great athlete and appears to have developed, slowly, but surely, as a baseball player as he has progressed through the system. He seems to me to be a two-sport college athlete who took some time to hone his baseball skills once he committed to baseball – just like Samardzija.

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      Well he is a perfect scrappy love candidate and he makes it to the majors that love will come back.

    • Kyle

      Can’t hit.

  • Jon

    Looks like Justin masterson is taking extension with the Indians, ruh-roh

    • Jon

      *talking

  • MightyBear

    All those FA pitchers the Cubs were going to sign next year seem to be drying up quick. If Masterson re-ups, it’ll be Scherzer and Shields. Scherzer won’t make it to FA but if he pitches like last year and does make it to FA, he’ll be a Yankee or a Dodger and they’ll pay through the moon. That leaves Shields.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I hope tomorrow we get a look at Baez and Bryant. Stropp looked like Carlos Marmol Jr. I was impressed with Grimm and Rondon. Still a long way to go. I hope we get a look at Viscaino soon. I love the Castro came out. He may snuff out all the trade and position change rumors real quick if he continues like that.

  • JM

    My hope is that fans don’t take an outing (or two or three) and presume that it is indicative of who that player will be. So if Strop struggles or, God forbid Baez, we don’t get all crazy. I sense that kind of thinking is coming…

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      Stropp struggled with command last year. That has been his main problem and is the reason that he was unloaded by B’more.

      • Cornish Heat

        Strop.. One ‘P’.

        Also, Vizcaino.

  • http://chicagocubsblog.tumblr.com/ Walking Blue Bear

    Whoah Whoah Whoah. There are two things that I have grown accustomed to since becoming a fan of this site. 1: a ridiculously corny joke in that morning’s bullets, and 2. An interactive box score anytime the Cubs play a game. Brett, I believe you are slacking.

    • dumbledoresacubsfan

      I, too, was looking forward to a box score.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Tut tut. I don’t do EBS for Spring Training (for a number of reasons, including the absurdity of Spring box scores, and not the good kind of absurdity). Spring Training Miscellany is the post-game piece du jour.

      Also: my jokes are never corny.

      • jp3

        That would be an absolute migraine to try and read an EBS with everyone having 1 AB and 20 pitchers pitching per game.

      • CubFan Paul

        “Also: my jokes are never corny”

        Someone doesn’t listen to the first ten minutes of his own podcast…

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          10 minutes of gold, every time.

          • Soda Popinski

            I love you, Brett, but the first ten minutes of your podcasts sound like you just ran into an old friend at the grocery store. It’s kind of hilarious.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              That’s a pretty accurate sum-up; it’s far worse when we haven’t done a show in a long time.

  • Jason P

    Darn, I was hoping to see some of the prospects. By the next telecast, at least Almora and Soler might already be back in minor league camp.

  • candyland07

    Matt Szczur time with the Cubs are numbered. He was at one time considered to be a top prospect with the Cubs, but his attention to the baseball when batting is below average. Although he has above average speed he runs like he gets lost between the base paths – bad initial acceleration is one culprit when gets caught stealing. The time has pass on this youngster and the Cubs have proven that sometimes its better to pick up players from dumpster to be your 4 or 5 outfielder. The time and investment it would take to improve his trade value is nil – trade him earlier so other young players can have his roster spot in the minor leagues. let him be a throw in any future trade.

    • ssckelley

      At 23 years old he still has upside. He will have a shot at Iowa this year.

    • blublud

      Huh. Are you serious. So you would rather dumpster dive other guys and give away Szczur for free. If Szczur is the guy you say he is, why not just dumpster dive from our own minors leagues.

      Also, I disagree with you about Szczur.

      • candyland07

        The Cubs front office has made a habit of dumpster diving these past few years. The Cubs front office has has some success in picking a 4-5 outfielder from the waiver wire . All I am saying if Szczur can compliment a trade then Dp NOT hold back and let him play for some one else. Szczur does not figure in the long term plans of the Cubs. When the Cubs drafted him he was a two sport athlete with a high ceiling . his approach and production level had a high batting average with a sick OBP good natural swing with the ability to steal bases and low K ratio, his ability recover from miss read of fly balls makes him exciting until an error happen. Now three years have passed and his growth has not developed into higher expectations . He is the same player the Cubs drafted not quite exceeding expectations for a person of raw talent that he has or had, His strength has not materialized , he is sloppy on the bases and his hitting is fair but not great with three years of minor league ball.

        By the time he is major league ready to play for the Cubs . other players will surpass him and start in center-field. I just feel the Cubs can get more from his potential rather than keep him and be a “serviceable outfielder” when it all said and done and the cubs have no problems in picking up other team trash to accomplish that goal.

      • ssckelley

        But to his point Szczur has been a disappointment at the plate. Ever since his 2011 season where he was a top 100 prospect he has been on a downward spiral. He does not have good power, his base running does not look that great, and he does not hit for a high average. But what he does do is get on base at a decent rate and so far has looked good defensively in the outfield which are the qualities you are looking for in a 4th/5th outfielder.

        But at 23 years old it is too early to give up on Szczur and no way should he just be thrown into a deal just to give him a way. But this year will be huge for Szczur at Iowa, I hate to say it is a make or break year for him but the Cubs will have a hard time justifying continuing to use a 40 man roster spot on him when there may be better options coming up behind him.

        • blublud

          I agree with that. I don’t see Szczur as anything more than a 4th OF. However, to say you would rather dumpster dive for an extra OF when the type of player you would dumpster dive for(a player like Szczur) is already on your team, with 6 years of control, all of which will probably be cheap if he’s not a star, makes no sense.

          Why dumpster dive for an old, trashy table, if you already have an old, trashy table of equal value and no plans on keeping both.

      • Blackhawks1963

        Szczur has the potential to become a decent spare outfielder. What he needs to improve upon is becoming rock solid in the fundamentals of the game and polish up his defense. If he can do that then he has an okay shot at becoming a versatile Reed Johnson type someday.

  • SenorGato

    I hate the CF cam, it was the first thing I noticed. As a fan who likes to think he knows pitching I love the ground level CF cam right behind the pitcher. From that view I can almost tell right away.

    I have the game recorded and just started it soo…hopefully something interesting happens. Maybe something like Bonifacio’s standup triple to start. Good for him. I do like him as a bench option.

  • Rich H

    Isn’t Arizona one of the teams that started ST a weeks early so they could play the season opener in Australia? That might explain why the Cubs looked a little behind where the DBacks are at.

    • spearman

      The sign in the new weight room says no excuses.
      Just kidding, but it does.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Ballots in—MOY- Mgr Rick for showing up? Shark Cy Young for Dodgers?

  • Diehardthefirst

    Barney gold glove for Yankees? Rizzo triple crown?

  • Diehardthefirst

    Emilio stolen base leader? Hendricks ROY?

  • Diehardthefirst

    Castro COY? (better be!!!)

  • Blackhawks1963

    The big challenge facing Renteria this season is going to be the same one faced by Sveum the past two season….how to put together a lineup card each game that can manage to put up some offense. The 2014 Cubs strike me as a club that will be SIGNIFICANTLY offensively challenged. I can see us leading the league in shutouts against, perpetually stranding 7 million baserunners in scoring position, etc.

    162 games might see 162 different lineup cards.

  • cubmig

    Two observations from yesterday’s game: 1) I noted that Strop had an odd wrist/hand action when releasing a pitch. I couldn’t think who it reminded me of, but this morning the name came to me. Alfonseca. It’s the “snap” at the end in the delivery. 2) The problem of hitting with risp still shows itself. I know it’s extremely early and the focus on ST may be on other things, but the inability to mount an offense still reared its ugly head.

    ……which takes me to this. The off-season concentrated primarily on pitching. Choo was the only serious candidate that offered a skill addressing the risp problem—–even though many said age-wise, that was a negative as was his price. The hope is (as I see it) seems to be to count on the youngsters coming up. That means more waiting. I hope that “hope” pans out, though there’s no guarantee.

    The ONLY guarantee in all of that is the “waiting”.

    • Edwin

      For most players, hitting with runners in scoring position isn’t a skill. That’s why it varies for most players year to year, and over a large enough sample size, ends up pretty close to career hitting in all situations. If the Cubs want to score more runs, they need to get more players on base.

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