Cubs Spring Training 2014: Daily Updates, Scores, News and Analysis

R. Cory Smith@@RCorySmithSenior Writer IFebruary 27, 2014

Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo hits an RBI single off Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Paul Maholm, scoring Starlin Castro, during the third inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Following a 66-96 season, the Chicago Cubs are in desperate need of a turnaround season.

But in the middle of a deep division that includes the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds, the Cubs have a ridiculously tough road to hoe.

Chicago has a plethora of young talent like Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro hoping to erase the memories of last year's failure. For that reason in particular, the Cubs have a glimmer of hope heading into spring training.

Though Jeff Samardzija avoided arbitration during the offseason, the 29-year-old ace for the Cubs knows his time might be limited, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times:

All I can do is increase my value as much as possible, and I think in the end it’s going to help the organization no matter what. Either it helps the organization by keeping me here and proving to them that I’m that guy, or I increase my value and it helps them get prospects in return.

[...] But it’s all speculation, and you’ve got to start playing on the field before you get a better answer, a better feel for that. [...] Sometimes you’re just a product of the situation. I think that’s where I’m at.

Heading into the spring season, the Cubs will hopefully be working toward retaining Samardzija rather than looking to move him. With the team putting together a successful season, the starter might be able to stick around on the roster through the trade deadline.

Armed with a brand new manager in Rick Renteria and a young core, the Cubs could make a splash this season, which will start with figuring out the roster in the spring.

The Cubs got their spring season underway on Thursday. Here's a look at their recent results following each game, followed by a pre-spring training season prediction.

 

Cubs Spring Training Schedule
DateOpponentTime (ET)Score
Thurs., Feb. 27Arizona Diamondbacks3:05 p.m.L, 5-2
Fri., Feb. 28Los Angeles Angels3:05 p.m.L, 15-3
Sat., March 1San Francisco Giants (SS)3:05 p.m.Rain
Sat., March 1Arizona Diamondbacks (SS)9:10 p.m.Rain
Sun., March 2Kansas City Royals3:05 p.m.L, 5-3
Mon., March 3Milwaukee Brewers3:05 p.m.W, 4-2
Tues., March 4Oakland Athletics3:05 p.m.W, 6-4
Wed., March 5Colorado Rockies3:05 p.m.L, 7-5
Thurs., March 6Cleveland Indians3:05 p.m.L, 1-0
Fri., March 7Los Angeles Angels (SS)3:05 p.m.W, 3-2
Fri., March 7Cleveland Indians (SS)3:05 p.m.L, 7-2
Sat., March 8Cincinnati Reds3:05 p.m.W, 9-0
Sun., March 9Milwaukee Brewers3:05 p.m.W, 3-2
Mon., March 10San Francisco Giants3:05 p.m.W, 3-2
Tues., March 11Colorado Rockies3:05 p.m.L, 13-0
Wed., March 12Seattle Mariners3:05 p.m.L, 8-7
Fri., March 14Los Angeles Dodgers3:05 p.m.W, 5-4
Sat., March 15Kansas City Royals (SS)3:05 p.m.W, 6-5
Sat., March 15New York Mets (SS)3:05 p.m.L, 9-4
Sun., March 16Cleveland Indians (SS)3:05 p.m.L, 3-2
Sun., March 16New York Mets (SS)3:05 p.m.W, 6-3
Mon., March 17Oakland Athletics3:05 p.m.L, 6-2
Mon., March 17Los Angeles Angels3:05 p.m.W, 4-2
Tues., March 18Texas Rangers9:05 p.m.L, 7-6
Wed., March 19Colorado Rockies8:40 p.m.L, 9-6
Thurs., March 20Seattle Mariners3:05 p.m.L, 3-0
Fri., March 21Chicago White Sox3:05 p.m.W, 7-0
Sat., March 22Cincinnati Reds3:05 p.m.L, 8-3
Sun., March 23Oakland Athletics (SS)3:05 p.m.W, 10-6
Mon., March 24San Diego Padres9:05 p.m.L, 7-1
Tues., March 25Los Angeles Angels (SS)3:05 p.m.L, 6-4
Tues., March 25San Diego Padres (SS)9:05 p.m.T, 5-5
Wed., March 26Arizona Diamondbacks3:10 p.m.L, 14-4
Thurs., March 27Chicago White Sox2:05 p.m.W, 4-3
Fri., March 28Arizona Diamondbacks8:40 p.m.W, 3-1
Sat., March 29Arizona Diamondbacks2:40 p.m.W, 9-8
MLB.com

 

March 29: Cubs Down Diamondbacks with Surge in Ninth, 9-8

Matt York

The Cubs ended preseason play in dramatic fashion. After taking a big early lead, Chicago gave up six runs in the seventh inning to fall behind by two only to score three in the ninth to take the one-run victory.

It was a rocky day for the Cubs' pitching rotation. Marcus Hatley was absolutely torched by Arizona. He failed to record a single out while allowing five hits and five runs for an 11.12 ERA. Jonathan Sanchez wasn't much better, allowing two hits and two runs without recording an out either. He finished with a 9.72 ERA.

Luckily for the Cubs, the bats were on fire.

The scoring began in the top of the second inning, as Darwin Barney lined an RBI single to left field. Chris Valaika recorded an RBI single of his own in the fifth inning to put the Cubs up 2-0.

Chicago poured it on in the sixth.

Luis Valbuena brought in Dan Vogelbach on a sacrifice fly, Ryan Kalish recorded an RBI single and Arismendy Alcantara capped it all off with a two-run blast to right field.

After giving up eight-consecutive runs, the Cubs suddenly found themselves down by two entering the ninth inning.

Christian Villanueva got things going in a big way, bringing home two runs on a line-drive single to left field. Rubi Silva brough home Chadd Krist shortly after on a sacrifice fly to put the Cubs back into the lead.

Lendy Castillo came into the game in the bottom of the ninth and earned the save by pitching a shutout inning.

This is a great way for the Cubs to enter the regular season. Opening Day is fast approaching and Chicago has built up some great momentum over its three-game winning streak.

 

March 28: Cubs Knock off Diamondbacks, 3-1

The Chicago Cubs took advantage of a strong effort from Edwin Jackson on the mound to defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 3-1 on Friday night in spring training. Chicago's shutout bid was ruined in the bottom of the eighth inning when Evan Marzilli doubled to score the D-Backs' only run. 

Anthony Rizzo would drive in the opening run for Chicago in the top of the first, per the club's official Twitter account: 

The Cubs would add runs in the top of the fourth and fifth innings midway through the game.

Jackson earned the win for Chicago, allowing just one hit and striking out two in four innings pitched. The win makes Jackson 2-3 overall in spring training. 

Trevor Cahill picked up the loss for Arizona, surrendering three earned runs in six innings pitched. 

Chicago will close out spring training on Saturday with a rematch against Arizona. 

 

March 27: Travis Wood Shines as Cubs Down White Sox, 4-3

Mar 27, 2014; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Travis Wood (37) throws in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at HoHoKam Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs jumped out to an early lead on Thursday and never looked back as they downed their cross-town rivals.

Travis Wood was solid on the mound and pitched three scoreless innings, which helped to keep the White Sox off the scoreboard until the eighth inning.

On the mound, the only disappointment was Wesley Wright , who gave up home runs to Adam Dunn and Dayan Viciedo.

Offensively, it was Ryan Sweeney who came through the biggest thanks to his home run in the second inning. The Cubs made the most of their eight hits to cruise to victory.

 

March 26: Bullpen Blows Early Lead as Cubs Fall to Diamondbacks, 14-4

Mark Duncan/Associated Press

Jeff Samardzija turned in a stellar start on the mound for Chicago, yielding just one earned run in three innings of work. Unfortunately, Arizona lit up Chris Rusin for 10 hits and nine earned runs in just 2.2 innings en route to a decisive victory.

That came after the Cubs had built a 2-1 lead, courtesy of a tie-breaking RBI single from catcher Welington Castillo.

D'Backs left fielder Mark Trumbo jacked a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth in response, and Arizona never trailed thereafter. Zach Buchanan of AZCentral.com pointed out how Rusin gave up three first-pitch homers in a row:

As MLB.com's Carrie Muskat implied before the game, Rusin was trying to establish himself as the potential fifth starter in the rotation and could have used a strong performance on Wednesday to help his cause:

Trumbo's blast was the first of six dingers the D'Backs smashed on this occasion—none of which came off Samardzija. Arizona ace Brandon McCarthy improved to 2-0 this spring with the win in his final appearance ahead of Opening Day, yielding three earned in six frames with six strikeouts.

The relieving struggles are definitely not a good sign for Chicago near the end of spring training as it looks to rebound in 2014 following four straight losing seasons. Up next for the Cubbies is an intracity tangle with the White Sox on Thursday.

 

 

 

March 25: Cubs Mount Late Comeback, Tie Padres, 5-5

Mar 18, 2014; Surprise, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Javier Baez (70) follows through on a swing against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

After the other half of the split squad let a ninth-inning lead slip away earlier in the day, the Cubs rallied for one run in the eighth and three more in ninth to force a 5-5 tie with the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night. 

Top pitching prospect C.J. Edwards got his first taste of the big leagues but was roughed up, surrendering three runs on four hits and three walks in 2.2 innings. He struck out just one. 

Still, the 22-year-old, who ranks as the 28th-best prospect according to Baseball America, showed glimpses of his promise despite battling the expected nerves in his debut. 

“When I went out the first inning, the nerves were crazy-like,” he said after the game, via the Chicago Sun Times' Gordon Wittenmyer. “I can’t even explain the nerves that I had. But overall, being out there, I felt like I can be out there like I’m supposed to.”

The Cubs made sure his first foray into the big leagues wouldn't be paired with a loss, though, as Rubi Silva hit an RBI double in the eighth, Dustin Geiger delivered an RBI single in the ninth and two more scored to tie the game when Javier Baez reached on an error. 

Baez, who ranks even higher than Edwards on most prospect lists, finished 1-for-5 with a stolen base, bringing his spring average to .298. 

 

March 25: Cubs Blow Lead in Ninth, Fall to Angels 8-4

Alberto Cabrera blew a save by allowing the Angels five ninth-inning runs while recording just one out. This paved the way for the Angels to turn a 4-2 deficit into an 8-4 win. 

Tsuyoshi Wada got the start for the Cubs after being re-signed to the a Minor League contract the previus day.

He was decent while pitching four innings and allowing two earned runs. He also picked up four strikeouts. 

The Cubs picked up nine hits in the game. Only Dan Voglebach was able to record more than a single hit. He went 2-for-4 on the day to continue his solid spring and raise his average to .333. 

 

March 24: Padres Breeze Past Cubs in Easy 7-1 Win

Matt York/Associated Press

The Cubs got off to a strong start on Monday night against the San Diego Padres, knocking in the game's opening run and convincingly grabbing the early momentum.

But it didn't take long for the Padres to answer back.

San Diego knotted things up in the top half of the second inning off a Seth Smith double that drove home Jedd Gyorko, and Smith came home two innings later on a two-run jack from Tommy Medica that put the Padres up 3-0. 

Two more runs in the fifth, then two more in the eighth, simply were too much for the Cubs, who couldn't get their own bats going en route to a 7-1 loss on Tuesday night.

It was an offensive barrage from San Diego, but Medica and Smith will go down as the heroes of the night as each amassed 2 RBI on the win. 

Meanwhile, the Cubs struggled as a unit. Anthony Rizzo was 1-for-3, but only seven team hits weren't enough to generate the offense that Chicago needed to get back into the game.

 

March 23: Bats Come Alive as Cubs Beat Athletics, 10-6

Mar 12, 2014; Peoria, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs left fielder Junior Lake (21) runs first base after hitting a first inning single against the Seattle Mariners at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

After failing to score in the first five innings of the game, the Cubs lineup finally started getting on the board and they finished with 10 runs in the next four innings. The bullpen did the rest and Chicago left with a 10-6 win.

Jason Hammel got the start for the Cubs but the pitcher ran into trouble early. He gave up five hits in the first inning with a hit by pitch, but was fortunately able to limit the damage to just two runs.

He was then able to settle down to finish with a respectable line for a spring training game:

The 2-0 score remained until Junior Lake and Luis Valbuena decided to showcase their power. The batters hit back-to-back home runs in both the sixth and ninth innings, with Lake also adding a third home run in the sixth.

Brett Taylor of Bleacher Nation joked that this was similar to a home-run derby:

This power was enough for the Cubs to take over the lead and pull away late. The bullpen then only allowed a single earned run the rest of the game and they were able to leave with a quality win.

 

March 22: Rizzo Stays Hot but Cubs Lose to Reds, 8-3

MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 27:  Anthony Rizzo #44 of the Chicago Cubs at bat during the spring training game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Cubs Park on February 27, 2014 in Mesa, Arizona  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It wasn't a good start for the Cubs or for starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, as he gave up three runs in the first inning. He cleaned it up a little bit from there, but ended the day with seven strikeouts and eight hits in five innings for a 5.14 ERA.

Jackson highlighted pitch location as his weakness after the game according to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune:

It’s just a matter of location, but overall we continue to battle and (stay) in the game. They made me work, which was good. I needed to get some work in. You’re going to have shaky starts and you realize it’s spring but I was able to come back and keep the team in the game. I just got to locate pitches better.

It didn't get much better once he left the game, as Cubs pitchers gave up 17 hits in total, but there were some positives to take away for manager Rick Renteria.

The biggest one was the continued excellence of first baseman Anthony Rizzo. He went 3-for-3 in the game, driving in two runs in the process, but the more important stat is that he has gone 5-for-11 against left-handed pitchers this spring—a significant improvement over the .189 batting average he posted against southpaws last year.

In addition, shortstop Starlin Castro returned to the lineup in a minor-league game, which is a good sign for his hopes of returning for the season-opener.

 

March 21: Valbuena, Rusin Shine in 7-0 Victory over White Sox

A day after getting held off the scoreboard, the Cubs returned the favor with a shutout of their own, earning a 7-0 win over their cross-town rivals.

Chris Rusin, a 27-year-old lefty who earned a 3.93 ERA through 13 starts last year, held the Chicago White Sox scoreless through five innings. He allowed two hits and no walks while amassing three strikeouts, making a strong case to win the club's final starting rotation spot.

While fans were not treated to any moonshots from Javier Baez, the youngster collected a hit while playing shortstop. This time around, the offense came from a more unlikely source in Luis Valbuena.

Battling with Mike Olt for playing time at third base, the 28-year-old smashed two home runs, giving him four during the spring. While he displayed some pop last year with 12 homers through 108 games, he hit an uninspiring .218/.331/.378.

However, as Rotoworld's Matthew Pouliot, it was encouraging to see the left-handed batter crush both deep balls off southpaws John Danks and Scott Downs.

He rarely receives playing time against lefties, but Valbuena actually hits better against them. He wields a career .712 OPS against left-handed pitchers compared to his .644 OPS against righties.

Olt also held some ground, going 2-for-4 with a walk as the designated hitter. He's now hitting .289 with four homers this spring and brandishes more upside than his competitor, even though they're both likely keeping the hot corner warm until Kris Bryant is ready for the big leagues.

 

March 20: Samardzija Sharp but M's Shut Out Cubs, 3-0

Chicago's offense couldn't get anything going against Seattle Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez in a 3-0 loss on Thursday afternoon in front of another Cactus League record crowd.

The Cubs drew 15,243 fans for their matinee against the M's, about 50 more than the record they set last week against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Cubs fans were treated to a strong showing from ace right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who struck out eight batters in 5.1 innings of work. But he was also charged the loss after giving up a pair of sacrifice flies—one to Dustin Ackley in the first inning and another to John Buck in the sixth.

In all, he allowed two earned runs on six hits and two walks. Trade rumors have surrounded Samardzija all offseason, and Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reported there were plenty of scouts on hand to watch his outing.

Following the game, Samardzija told reporters that he recently tweaked his mechanics with pitching coach Chris Bosio, via Carrie Muskat of MLB.com.

The more I pitch, the more I realize it's little things. You start overhauling stuff too much, you'll find yourself constantly changing. Sometimes it just clicks, a lot of times it has to do with conditioning and your arm, and when your arm strength comes around, you're able to do more things than what you could do before.

But it could have been worse for Samardzija if it wasn't for a stellar catch by Junior Lake to rob Logan Morrison of a home run in the sixth inning.

Lake also hit a double on the afternoon, but it was the only extra-base hit for the Cubs, who had four total hits.

With less than two weeks before opening day, Samardzija is clearly still drawing a lot of interest from other MLB clubs. No details of progressing contract talks have emerged out of the media lately, so his status with the team will be a key storyline to follow as spring training winds down.

 

March 19: Cubs Fall to Rockies 9-6 After Wild Final Inning

Chicago rallied with three runs in the top of the ninth during Wednesday's game against Colorado, but Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon belted a walk-off, three-run homer off of Paolo Espino to end this thriller at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

The Rockies' PR Twitter account noted that Blackmon is the 17th different player to go yard for Colorado this spring:

All-Star Carlos Gonzalez had a three-run dinger in the third inning off of Carlos Villanueva, too, so the Rockies changed the complexion of the game with two big swings of the bat.

In that context, it was a poor display of execution from the Cubs in critical, situational baseball, which is what often separates the best from the rest in the MLB.

But part of what sparked Chicago's late charge was a massive, 452-foot solo blast to straightaway center field from 21-year-old prodigy Javier Baez in the eighth. ESPN Stats & Info noted how Baez stacks up with other top prospects in Keith Law's rankings (subscription required):

Unfortunately, it wasn't quite enough in the end.

Losing back-to-back games in heartbreaking fashion is a rather fitting development for the star-crossed Cubs, but the franchise has nevertheless shown signs of promise before the beginning of the 2014 regular season. Perhaps this very early adversity is something Chicago can learn from and apply to close games when the games start to really matter.

Before then, the preparation must continue, and the Cubs must focus on the task at hand. It can be hard to stem the tide in a situation like this, but they will do their best on Thursday in squaring off with the Seattle Mariners.

 

March 18: Cubs Blow Early Lead, Lose to Rangers, 7-6

Mar 18, 2014; Surprise, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Marcus Hatley (73) pitches in the tenth inning against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. The Rangers won 7-6 in ten innings. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Hammel struggled in his most extended start of the spring, and the Cubs' bullpen bookended it with struggles of their own, as Texas came back to defeat Chicago 7-6 in 10 innings. Michael Choice won the game for the Rangers on a two-out infield single off Marcus Hatley, who lost his second game of the spring.

The evening was a double-edge sword for the Cubs, though, who continue to get promising out comes from their high-profile prospects. Mike Olt and Javier Baez hit back-to-back home runs in the third inning off Rangers starter Alexi Ogando, who was pelted for five runs in only three innings of work.

Olt and Baez have become two of the most promising signs this spring for Chicago, which dropped to 10-12 as it prepares for another non-playoff season. Olt may wind up playing his way into the everyday lineup if his power numbers keep up. Baez, meanwhile, has done nothing to disprove his standing among the best prospects in baseball.

Hammel was pelted across five innings of work, allowing seven hits and five runs while walking an additional two. His ERA rose to 4.50 this spring, and he seemed frustrated with his command after the game, per ESPN's Jesse Rogers:

The last two innings [I left] some balls up in the zone that they hit. Everything felt good. I felt strong. Threw some breaking balls early in counts. Not looking at the results I felt pretty good…The only thing that bugs me is the walks. Been walking too many guys right now.

Other notable performances from the Cubs' side included a 2-for-5 day from Ryan Kalish. 

 

March 17: Edwin Jackson Pitches 4 Scoreless, Cubs Beat Angels, 4-2

Matt York/Associated Press

After a rough outing against the Cleveland Indians 10 days ago, Edwin Jackson got back on track by tossing four scoreless innings against the Angels on Monday afternoon. He struck out six against Los Angeles' watered-down lineup, giving up just three hits and one walk.

He talked about his performance after getting the win, via MLB.com's Carrie Muskat:

It was one of those days when you don't necessarily have your best stuff, and you have to be able to throw out your best pitches for strike. I was able to go out and do that and fortunate enough to get out of a couple jams early in the game.

An Emilio Bonifacio RBI triple and Ryan Roberts RBI double fueled a three-run third inning, and that was all the insurance Jackson would need to record his first victory of the spring. 

Darnell McDonald added two hits and an RBI, while Neil Ramirez recorded the three-out save on three pitches. 

 

March 17: Stifled by Joe Savery and Oakland, Cubs Fall, 6-2

Mar 17, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics second baseman Eric Sogard (28) turns the double play while avoiding Chicago Cubs center fielder Brett Jackson (7) in the fifth inning at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The split-squad Cubs didn't get on the scoreboard until second baseman Jonathan Mota smacked a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning, but by then, it was too little and too late, as the Athletics pulled out the 6-2 victory. 

Starting pitcher James McDonald left the game after just two pitches due to shoulder soreness, and Yao-Lin Wang proceeded to give up two hits and two runs in 1.1 innings before eventually being saddled with the loss. Dallas Beeler was also roughed up in relief, surrendering five hits and three runs in 3.2 frames. 

At the plate, the Cubs experienced similar problems.

Joe Savery struck out five while giving up just two hits in his two scoreless innings of work, while the bullpen continued to shut the Cubbies out for 26 outs. Ryan Kalish was the only player to record multiple hits, going 2-for-3 to raise his spring batting average to .300. 

 

March 16: Strong Pitching, Hot Bats Spark 6-3 Cubs Victory Over Mets

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Chris Rusin pitched four scoreless innings to open the game against the Mets, and he had plenty of help offensively to come up with the win. Allowing just one hit (a single), Rusin was in full command of his game, which is exactly what he needed to put himself in position to earn a roster spot this season. 

"I was able to find all my offspeed [pitches] and keep the ball down in the zone with movement. And when I do that, I'm able to get ground balls, and that's what happened," Rusin said afterward, as noted by Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. "I just have to build on it. I'm pretty close with all my pitches -- breaking balls, fastballs, two-seams away. I just have to keep being consistent."

Donnie Murphy, Daniel Vogelbach, and Arismendy Alcantara each provided instant offense with home runs to spark the 6-3 victory, taking advantage of Mets starting pitcher Jenrry Mejia, who came out flat.

He's going to need to sharpen up quickly in light of the injury to Jon Niese, as alluded to by Anthony DiComo of MLB.com:

The Mets scored three runs after Rusin left the game, but by then the Cubs had already racked up five runs, which proved to be more than enough to win. 

 

March 16: Cubs Hitters Come Up Short in 3-2 Loss to Indians

GOODYEAR, AZ - FEBRUARY 27:  Justin Masterson #63 of the Cleveland Indians pitches during a spring training game against the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark on February 27, 2014 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Travis Young overcame a rocky start on the mound to give the Cubs a fighting chance to beat the Indians on Sunday, but he had little help from Chicago's bats in the contest. Young allowed two runs in the first inning but settled down with four scoreless innings afterward.

Unfortunately, Chicago couldn't generate much offense on the day, scoring its first run in the sixth inning and earning just six hits total on the afternoon.

The team's struggles were largely due to the exceptional pitching display put on by Cleveland's Justin Masterson, who struck out eight batters in five scoreless innings. He's not yet allowed a single earned run thus far in spring training and is slated to be the opening-day starter for the Indians. 

"He's just building." head coach Terry Francona said, as noted by the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "You see a little bit more power to the fastball. He's got three more starts, and he'll be ready to go." 

 

March 15: Cubs Pitching Collapses in 9-4 Loss to Mets

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

It was an ugly start and an even uglier finish for the Cubs on Saturday. The Mets put runs on the board early, then again late, after some shaky pitching from the home team.

Tsuyoshi Wada got the start for the Cubs and looked rough out of the gate. He allowed three runs in the first inning after allowing RBI doubles from David Wright and Andrew Brown. Wada looked better in the second inning; however, he was yanked after giving up an RBI single to Brown in the third.

The pitching woes didn't stop there, as Zac Rosscup earned the loss on the day, walking two and allowing a two-run jack to Wilmer Flores.

Not all pitching was horrible, however. Carlos Pimentel pitched 2.2 innings, walking one and striking out four without allowing a single hit.

Offensively, Anthony Rizzo had the hottest bat of the game for either team. Rizzo blasted two home runs, totaling three RBI's and walked once. He finished the game with a batter rating of .417.

Five different players accounted for the Cubs' seven hits on the day.

 

March 15: Cubs Rally Late for 6-5 Win over Royals

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 15:  Brett Jackson #7 of the Chicago Cubs bats against the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field on August 15, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Astros 7-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It started out very shaky for the Cubs on Saturday. The Royals put up four runs over the first four innings and another in the eighth. However, the resurgent Cubs found their bats late and rallied with two-consecutive three-run innings in the eighth and ninth so come away with a one-run victory.

Relief pitching was on point for the most part; however, Jeff Samardzija had a rough outing. He pitched 3.2 innings, giving up seven hits and four runs while walking three and only recording one strikeout. He finished the game with a 6.39 ERA.

Samardzija was bailed out by the late-game heroics of Brett Jackson. In the eighth, Jackson started the scoring run with a line-drive, three-run homer to to right.

In the ninth, after a Marco Hernandez RBI single, Jackson was at it again. This time he singled on a ground ball to center, netting two more RBI's. That would be the difference in the game, as Jeffrey Lorick pitched a scoreless ninth to complete the save.

 

March 14: Cubs Hold on Late for 5-4 over Dodgers

Mar 4, 2014; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (79) throws to the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of their spring training baseball game at Cubs Park. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports.
Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

A big sixth inning gave the Cubs the lead and the bullpen was able to hold on to come away with a 5-4 win.

Down 1-0, Luis Valbuena scored on a ground out in the fifth inning to tie the game. The third baseman then hit a two-run home run in the sixth to cap a four-run inning for Chicago. Carlos Villanueva allowed one run in three innings and Jose Veras allowed two more later, but the Cubs still were able to leave with the narrow win.

The team got a great start out of Kyle Hendricks, as noted by Carrie Muskat of MLB.com:

The 24-year-old pitcher is coming off a fantastic season between AA and AAA and he is hoping to making the leap to the majors this year. With more starts like this, it will be tough to keep him out of the rotation.

Overall, the Cubs should be happy with a solid all-around effort from the lineup and the pitching staff as the team gets closer to being ready for Opening Day.

 

March 13: Cubs Fall 8-7 to Rockies in Extra Innings

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Ty Kelly singled in a game-winning run in the 10th inning and the Cubs' pitching foibles reared their ugly heads as the Mariners scored an 8-7 victory over Chicago in a late-night nailbiter.

At multiple points, the Cubs' offense put them ahead and in position to win. Mike Olt hit two home runs and Javier Baez had another, as Chicago's four-run sixth inning helped give it a 7-4 lead going into the ninth inning. But a two-RBI single from Mariners catcher John Buck capped off a three-run ninth inning and send the game to extras.

Kelly's single in the bottom frame an inning later ended the game, scoring Abraham Almonte. The Mariners have showed a propensity for late-game heroics thus far in the spring, and they're now 12-4 during a time when records mean very little. With a massive spending spree this winter, they expect to compete for an AL West title. 

At the very least, outcomes like this can give management confidence going into the season.

The Cubs, meanwhile, couldn't really care less about the result—only development. Seeing Olt and Baez, two of their most prized offensive weapons, hitting the ball over the fence in the game game is probably worth a win in and of itself. Olt, 25, needs to find a way onto the Cubs' roster this season if the team really plans on developing him more.

With three home runs already this week, though, Olt should be back on the right track after some early struggles. 

 

March 11: Cubs Fall to Rockies, 13-0, On Mistake-Filled Day

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press