arizona cactusAlthough Eric Jokisch started in the big league game today, it was Jon Lester’s start in the back fields that offers the most immediate intrigue. Jokisch might have been the emergency back-up plan for Lester, who is building arm strength after a bout with dead arm, but it looks like no emergency plan will be necessary. Lester threw 84 pitches today, and the early returns on Twitter from folks who watched/spoke to him suggest he thinks he wasn’t sharp, but will be ready for Opening Day. You never know if that would have been the case in a regular Cactus League start even if the dead arm thing had never come up, so the lack of sharpness isn’t necessarily the concern here. It sounds like he’s healthy enough to start on Sunday, which is the best first step.

As for Jokisch, it was not a good start. He lasted just 3.1 innings, giving up 10 hits and 7 earned runs. Hopefully he regroups at AAA in the early going, and remains a quality depth option for the Cubs. Speaking purely statistically – pitchers get hurt – the Cubs will need far more than five starting pitchers this year.

Those seven earned runs gave the Rangers a 7-1 lead … from which the Cubs battled back and wound up winning 15-10, largely on the strength of youngsters (the minor league kind). Still, it was a lot of fun.

  • Matt Szczur, who is trying to win a job in the outfield, at least in reserve, hit another homer today – his fifth(!) on the Spring – and it was an absolute bomb. If Chris Denorfia starts the season on the DL (hamstring), there’s a really great chance Szczur makes the team.
  • Not that Junior Lake is doing anything too wrong – he singled today … though he also struck out twice. For now, if you had to choose between the two, you’d probably rather see Lake continue working on his new approach at Iowa, and Szczur helping the big team with his speed and outfield defense (and anything with the bat – which looks possible – is a bonus).
  • Drake Britton, still in camp as one of three lefty relief options (together with Phil Coke and Zac Rosscup), gave up a couple earned runs on three hits in his inning of work. He got the first two outs quickly, but then gave up single-single-double. He then struck out Shin-Soo Choo. Britton is out of options, so there was a chance the Cubs would give him an edge in making the bullpen, but it’s possible they’ll go with only one lefty (Coke), meaning the Cubs will have have to try and get Britton through waivers to keep him.
  • It seems like every game, Jorge Soler is 1-3. Makes sense, then, that he’s batting .333 on the Spring.
  • A nice Spring moment for minor league utility prospect Wes Darvill, who hit a deep homer (he’s got 8 in nearly 1900 minor league plate appearances).

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