It was an opening day to “not remember”. Big Z had his shortest start ever – recording just 4 total outs. Zambrano gave up 8 ER on 6 hits, 2 walks and 1 HBP. 10 Braves batters stepped up to the plate against Big Z in the 1st inning alone. Not good. Zambrano’s assessment of his performance — “Too many pitches in the middle. They have a good lineup. Against a team like that, you can’t put the ball in the middle. You have to hit spots and the corner if you want to pitch good against the Braves.”
After being staked to a 3-run lead on Marlon Byrd’s 3-run home run in the 1st inning, Zambrano quickly walked the Braves leadoff hitter Melky Cabrera. That set the tone for the Braves big 1st inning, capped off by rookie Jason Heyward’s 3-run bomb to deep right field in his 1st major league at-bat. WOW!
Sean Marshall (5 K’s in 8 batters faced) and rookie James Russell did their best to keep the Cubs in the game with 4 2/3 scoreless innings. But then Jeff Samardzija and Justin Berg allowed the floodgates to open again in the 7th and 8th innings. Samardzija walked the first 3 batters that he faced and ended up recording just 1 out while allowing 6 runs (4 earned). Berg also walked 3 batters and gave up 2 ER on 2 hits. Bad, bad, bad.
Manager Lou Pinella was clearly upset with his staff’s performance — “I never envisioned giving up 16 runs on Opening Day — never in my wildest dreams. 16 runs after we pitched really well all spring. And not only did we pitch well, but we threw strikes and got ahead of hitters. Today was the complete opposite… You can’t pitch from behind against a good-hitting team. And you certainly can’t walk people against a good-hitting team, and that’s exactly what we did.”
One big turning point – in the top of the 6th inning with the Cubs trailing 8-5, Marlon Byrd lined a single to center field that Nate McLouth looked like he caught. But the ball bounced out of his glove for what should have been a hit and a 1st and 2nd no-out scoring chance for the Cubs. But McLouth’s body shielded the umpires from seeing the ball squirt loose and he quickly tossed the ball back into the infield as if he caught the ball for an out. The umpires ruled that he caught the ball and then Aramis Ramirez was doubled off of 1st base for the 2nd out of the inning. Talk about bad luck.
The Cubs managed just 5 total hits all day long – 2 by Kosuke Fukudome, 2 by Aramis Ramirez who stroked a 2-run bomb to deep left field and 1 by Byrd on his home run.
Let’s hope that Ryan Dempster fairs better in Game 2 of Year 1 on Wednesday night in Atlanta…
The Ricketts Family – the Cubs new owners – are jacked up for today’s Cubs opener against the Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta. Tom Ricketts had this to say about his 1st opening day — “It’s just great to be here, I’m very excited. To have the 1st game of the season on a beautiful day in a beautiful stadium, it’s really exciting. We’re looking forward to doing a lot of these…I’m not nervous, I’m just excited. I don’t have a lot to do except watch and cheer today.”
Unfortunately, it has not been a great start to the 2010 MLB schedule for the Cubs. Starter Carlos Zambrano gave up 8 ER on 6 hits and 2 walks in just 1 1/3 innings pitched. Not good – the Cubs continue to trail the Braves 8-5 in the 6th inning. We’ll have a full report for you 1st thing on Tuesday morning…
Ted Lilly will make his 3rd spring start against a minor league unit on Sunday morning at 7am at Fitch Park. He is expected to throw 60 pitches and if all goes according to plan, he should be ready to join the major league club during the 3rd week of the 2010 MLB schedule.
Lilly had this to say about his quick recovery — “Now it’s just a matter of getting my pitch count up and stamina up to make sure I can get through longer innings and be prepared so when I come back at some point, maybe not my first start or two, be able to throw 100-plus pitches and feel good about it… This is definitely not the way I’d like to draw it up. All things considered, just the fact that I’m healthy at this point and throwing without any pain, I consider myself pretty fortunate. I’m definitely not going to complain about anything. I’m lucky as it is.”
Good news Cubs fans. We need Lilly back sooner than later. And if we only have to miss him for the 1st two weeks of the season, that would be a huge plus. We’ll keep you posted how the next few minor league starts go for Lilly…
The way Tyler Colvin played this spring made Manager Lou Pinella’s decision that much easier. Colvin was the Cubs 1st round pick in the 2006 Draft and at the age of 24, it looks like he is finally ready for the big time. Colvin batted over .450 for much of the spring — leading all of major league baseball — and was the Cubs most consistent hitter right from the start.
Pinella had this to say about Colvin’s play — “There was never really a doubt for a while. He played himself onto the roster and had a great spring… We’re going to get some playing time for Colvin. It’ll be good for all of our outfielders to get a day off occasionally, so they can stay strong and are less prone to injury. We’ll figure out something over the next few days.”
Colvin was humbled by the decision — “We have four great outfielders here who have proven themselves in the Major Leagues and hopefully, when I get in there, I can contribute in some way…The Cubs are trying to win, obviously. They’re trying to get the best guys in here to do the job. We have four great guys here… Hopefully, I can do some good things, too.”
Not only is this a great story, it is a great thing for the Cubs. With Alfonso Soriano’s injury-history and Kosuke Fukudome’s propensity to go into prolonged-slumps, it will be nice for Pinella to have a dependable option out there. When you also consider the fact that 4th outfielder Xavier Nady is also still recovering from shoulder surgery, we could see a lot of Colvin this season.
Carlos Silva outdueled Colorado Rockies ace Jeff Francis in the Cubs 2-0 win over the Rockies on Thursday. Carlos Silva continued to pitch well in his final spring start – 5 innings pitched, 6 hits, no runs and now walks. As is typical with Silva, he let the other team put the ball in play so that his defense could make plays as he only recorded 1 strikeout.
Alfonso Soriano was the offensive star for the Cubs, going 3 for 3 including a 2-run home run in the 6th inning that plated the only 2 runs of the game. Soriano is still dealing with a bit of a sore knee, but his average is now up to .278 and Manager Lou Pinella has laready indicated that he will give Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome some additional rest with the emergence of Tyler Colvin this spring.
The bullpen did the rest for the Cubs. Carlos Marmol worked a perfect 6th inning with 2 K’s and picked up the win. Jeff Samardzija and John Grabow navigated the 7th inning depsite giving up a hit and a walk. Esmailin Caridad worked the 9th inning to his 1st save of the spring, although he did give up 2 hits.
Except for yesterday’s split squad losses, the Cubs have really been playing well as of late. Let’s hope this trend continues once “real games” start next week in Atlanta and Cincinnati. Go Cubbies!
Carlos Zambrano was so-so in his final tune-up this spring – an 11-0 loss to Jered Weaver and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He wasn’t as sharp as you would like to see him at this point in the spring – 4 ER on 6 hits and 2 walks – but he did rack up 3 strikeouts during his 4 innings of work. Zambrano says that he is honored to be the Cubs starter on opening day against the Braves in Atlanta and that he is ready to come out firing on all cylinders — “It’s a privilege, especially with so many good pitchers that we have on this team… I’ve been watching the Braves all Spring Training and they look like they’re ready, but I’m ready, too. We’re ready for them and they’re ready for us, so let’s rock and roll.” Zambrano went on to say that his goal is to throw at least 220 innings for the Cubs during the 2010 MLB schedule and to remain in excellent conditioning through the long season — “I have to keep myself in better shape during the season. That’s another challenge that I have. I think so far I’ve been mentally prepared and mentally ready to enter the season with a much better weight.”
Big Z is going to be a big part of any Cubs success in 2010. 9 wins from the ace of your staff with 2 stints on the disabled list is unacceptable. Zambrano needs to stay focused and committed to staying in good shape during the season. Let’s hope he is as prepared as he says he is and as others in the organization think he is as well.