Our dear Chicago Cubs found themselves in Tempe yesterday to play their first spring game against the Anaheim Angels of California, PST, USA. Travis Wood was the first pitcher to showcase himself in the battle for the rotation. He started Saturday and threw two innings. How did he feel in his first live game action since September?
“I like it, where I’m at,” he said after throwing two innings against the Angels on Saturday. “There’s still other guys out there, and everyone is competing for the same spot. It’ll be fun the rest of camp. We’ll see what happens.”
He started Saturday’s game surrendering a walk and a double but got the next six batters out before departing — though not before those two runners scored.
“I hate leadoff walks, but it was nice to get back out there and get in the flow of things and game situations,” Wood said. “It was nice to go out and have a good second [inning] once I calmed down and got the first out of the way and back to business.”
He struck out two in that second inning, while the two runs he gave up came on ground outs.
Sounds like a Cy Young candidacy was born.
The Cubs managed to score 11 runs in their first game. After hitting a home run in Friday’s intrasquad game, Luis Valbuena began to stake his claim to be the starting third baseman by hitting another home run against the Angels.
“I’d be so happy if I win that job,” he said after the game. “Happy because of the work I do all year. Winter ball and spring training, that’s what I try to do — put everything together.”
Ian Stewart’s injury, combined with Dale Sveum’s lukewarm feelings toward him, might have opened the door for Valbuena. Is he thinking about the opportunity at hand?
“It’s not my decision,” Valbuena said. “I’m just competing. I do my job like I know how to do.”
Another Cubs hitter who looked good Saturday was Brett Jackson. And that’s not just because he’s so handsome. He hit two triples and I’m sure looked great running the basepaths.
“I’m focused and determined to be the player I want to be,” Jackson said. “I’ll keep working until I am that player. I think I’ll be that player sooner than later. And I think my work ethic and my passion for the game dictates how I’m going to make that adjustment – fast – if I haven’t already.”
Junior hitting coach Rob Deer has taken young Brett under his wing, apparently trying to make him not be like Rob was as a player.
“I know what it feels like to be booed in front of 50,000,” Deer said. “I know what it feels like to get a standing ovation in front of 50,000. So I try to use that in my coaching to be able to say: ‘Hey, you know what, everybody struggles. You’re not going to be on every single day. It’s how you handle it.’
“I’m good at being able to understand that guys are not sleeping good at night right now because they’re up thinking about too much stuff. Because I’ve been there. I wasn’t a .300 hitter. Yeah, there were times where I was struggling. There were times where I was like: ‘How am I going to make contact?’ And then there were times where I was hitting homers every other day.
“I try to use that in my coaching, to let them know it’s OK. I’ve known a lot of great hitters that really don’t know how to talk about hitting because they’re so good it just came natural. I had to work at it. I know how it feels to go down to the cage and grind it out until you find something.”
Try to help him with the not striking out so much thing, too.