One of the tough parts about Spring Training is that you sometimes have games that last longer than normal. Wednesday’s contest between the Cubs and Dodgers provided such a game. Our game went nearly four hours yesterday, which about an hour longer than what a normal regular season game would run.
However, Len and I were lucky enough to be joined by Patrick Mooney, the Cubs’ beat reporter for CSN Chicago. Pat came in during the top of the second inning to talk with us, which ended up being a 40-minute conversation as the top half of the inning saw lots of scoring. Normally we keep the reporters in the booth for a whole inning, but given the length of the top half of the second, we let Pat go back down to the field. Pat is a tremendous reporter and an even better person. As a young guy, I feel he really brings a lot of energy to the broadcasts and produces some great content for CSN.
The use of a lot of pitchers was one reason yesterday’s game lasted so long. I believe part of it is that Arizona does not have a lot of humidity, and it is hard for many of the pitchers to get movement on their ball. Some of the off-speed pitches don’t break like the pitchers want it to. As a result, a lot of guys are struggling with their command and are trying to figure out where the ball is going while they throw it. It was something pitchers from both teams struggled with yesterday, but I look for the pitchers to adjust as the spring goes along.
The worst part about yesterday’s game was that former Smoky Starlin Castro pulled up at first base with what the club has called a tight hamstring. You don’t want anyone to get hurt in spring training, especially your All-Star shortstop. That was a little bit of a deep breath situation, but the training staff has listed Castro as day-to-day. Castro will be out for a couple of days as I’m sure the club will be cautious with him. I would not be surprised to see the Cubs bring over guys from Minor League camp to fill in while Castro is out since the team does not have another shortstop, per say. The young shortstop played in every game last year so he’s got a lot of innings out on the field.
That is one of the special things about Castro. He is a guy you can always pencil down in the lineup. It’s great for baseball because you don’t have many of those type players anymore. I remember when Cal Ripken was making his run to pass Lou Gehrig for most consecutive games played. You could just pencil him in the lineup every day. But with the way things are now, you’ll sometimes take a couple of days off if you get nicked up. Starlin has never been one to do that and it’s part of what makes him a unique player.
Another thing that has been pleasant this spring is that I’ve been able to catch up with a lot of former Smokies and witness their development since leaving Tennessee. It’s been nice seeing guys like Nick Struck and Blake Parker in the clubhouse and talking with them. I’ve also gotten to interview Brooks Raley, who started yesterday’s game, for the Cubs’ pregame show and Logan Watkins as well.
It’s been great to catch up with those guys and see how they’re doing. As somebody who got to know them and watch them develop, you kind of hope for them that they make the team, but it seems like it’s the guys who have been at the Major League level and have put their time in are going to be the guys that will make an impact early in the year.
A couple of the former Smokies who have been most impressive are Jeff Samardzija and James Russell. They both have become very, very good pitchers and Samardzija has a real chance to be the Cubs’ Opening Day starter. Russell can come out now and paint the corners, as he throws a really deceiving ball that’s been tough on hitters this spring. That has been great to see for him.
To see them now and to see them when they were Smokies is tremendous, because in your mind you think back to the guy who showed up at Double-A. For instance, I remember when James Russell came out of Texas and the Cubs were pushing him through the system. He was pretty young at the time, but the Cubs had confidence in him and he succeeded. The confidence Russell and Samardzija have displayed and their ability to get outs has been impressive. I’m happy for them.
Then you think about a guy like Darwin Barney, a Gold Glover and an impact player for the Cubs. He’s still the same Darwin that we know and love, he just now happens to have won a Gold Glove Award and a guy who is one of the best at his position. It will be great to see what other former Smokies step up and have a big spring for the Cubs.
The Cubs host the Athletics today at 4:05 EST. You can listen to Len and I at Cubs.com