Cubs’ minor league call-ups thrived in the team’s spring training opener – a game that saw numerous player and rule change debuts.
Trailing 5-2 with most of the team’s starters out of the lineup, it was the Cubs’ top prospects that put on a show, resulting in a 10-8 win at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona.
The first seven batters got on base, scoring four runs before David Bote sent a Michael Stryffeler breaking ball to dead center to truly open the game up. Some of the Cubs top prospects were in town, including Pete Crow-Armstrong, Brennen Davis and Matt Mervis. All three showcased impressive plate discipline, but it’s impossible to draw conclusions from one game.
It’s also impossible to draw conclusions about Seiya Suzuki, but his late-game scratch is a little worrisome. About an hour before first pitch Saturday, it was announced he was taken out of the starting lineup due to left oblique tightness. Suzuki is set to play for Japan in the World Baseball Classic in two weeks, and his injury could limit his availability for the event.
Suzuki is looking to have a solid sophomore campaign following the Cubs’ signing of him in March 2022.
The Cubs’ starting lineup included four of the offseason’s signings, including shortstop Dansby Swanson, center fielder Cody Bellinger, first baseman Eric Hosmer and DH Trey Mancini.
Mancini was successful in both at-bats, while Hosmer went 1-2. Swanson flashed the leather a few times in the middle infield, preparing Cubs’ fans for an exciting middle infield tandem this season.
President Jed Hoyer focused on creating the best defense in all of baseball, adding four players who have Gold Gloves on their resume.
A few of baseball’s new rules made their debuts on Saturday, including the pitch clock that is intended to quicken games. Being at the game, the pitch clock isn’t as noticeable as you might think.
I first noticed it when I looked at my phone, and the fourth inning began before the clock struck two. The game was quicker when you take into account that it finished in just over three hours, despite 18 runs being scored. Overall, the pitch clock is doing its intended job. Spring training games have been quicker, with the league average around 2:30.
Whether fans like it or not, this is the future of the game, and the rule’s working how it’s supposed to.
In the second day of its inception major league games, the pitch clock was called in a crucial moment. With the bases loaded, two outs, and a 3-2 count in a tied ballgame, the Atlanta Braves’ Cal Conley didn’t get set with eight seconds left on the clock, resulting in an automatic strike.
Since teams don’t play extra innings during spring training, the game ended in a 6-6 tie. I don’t expect game-d`efying moments to be disrupted by the pitch clock consistently.
Major league players will have to get used to the new rule, and playing four weeks of spring training will help with unfamiliarity.