Ten hits and a walk in four innings from your Opening Day starter is probably not quite what we wanted to see, but of all the pitchers we have, I'm probably least concerned when Dan Haren does it. He didn't seem too bothered by the afternoon's performance either: "I'm not going to beat myself up too much about it. It's spring, you know. Things were going pretty well for me up until now, but that's baseball. Baseball has a way of humbling you and showing you who is boss real quick."
Today, that would be the Cubs, despite Conor Jackson's best efforts to prove otherwise, with two of Arizona's five hits, including a home-run. Details after the jump, but I'll keep them brief, because we're now two-third of the way through spring training, and so I need to update the Heroes and Villains of spring to reflect the past ten days or so of games. That'll be going up later tonight.
"I had a good week of work and I felt OK in the bullpen. I just left some balls over the plate and they hit them. I got my pitches in, and I'll go out next time and be fine." That was another post-game comment from Haren, who threw about 80 this outing. He has one more start, presumably next Tuesday or Wednesday, and wants to get up to three digits there so as to be ready for Opening Day. This afternoon, he allowed three singles in the first, resulting in two runs, but it was the second inning where things fell apart: six hits, half of them for extra-bases, led to the Cubs adding five more runs.
Haren did settle down after that, keeping the Cubs off the board for his other two innings, and the bullpen followed suit, posting five more zeroes beyond that: Jordan Norberto, Chad Qualls, Bob Howry, Juan Gutierrez and Esmerling Vasquez were the men responsible for that. Qualls and Howry pitched perfect innings: good to see from both men. Gutierrez is getting close to pitching a spring no-hitter; that's his seventh Cactus League appearance without allowing a hit, but I imagine we'll get into that a bit more down the page.
On offense, Justin Upton was kept out of the line-up this afternoon, but no-one seems concerned, Upton saying, "I felt good running through the stuff we had to do. It's getting better and I hope it gets better every day." He may be back tomorrow: "It depends how I wake up and feel in the morning. I'm going to test it out." Of those who played, Conor Jackson was the offensive star, going deep off Tom Gorzelanny to lead off the first, and then adding a double. Kelly Johnson had a hit and a walk, while Mark Reynolds added a double, driving in the Diamondbacks' other run during the sixth inning. Jackson also had an assist, helped by Miguel Montero faking out the runner at home-plate.
Couple of minor bits and pieces to note. Nick Piecoro reports that Kris Benson will start a minor-league game tomorrow against the Rockies, with another one scheduled, five days beyond that. However, whether he gets the call as the #5 starter, could be based less on performance than other factors, such as Webb's return date. Benson has no minor-league options left, so if he is only needed for a start or two, because Webb is coming back, they will probably opt for Buckner or Mulvey, who can be sent back down without issues. If Benson comes up, it's likely to be for a lengthy stint. Hot wife or not, I think we'd all rather not see him, because of what that implies.
However, AJ Hinch said we might see Benson in an exhibition game next week: "Obviously we are going day by day with him. We'll see how many pitches he throws." Hinch also spoke about the other teams in the division, and puts Colorado and Los Angeles as the teams to beat before Opening Day. "I think defense is going to be a key contributor to keep everybody in ball games. It’s hard to count anyone out based on how this division has acted over the last few years. It’s completely flipped over within 24 months, so it’s going to be an interesting division. Injuries, and people recovering from injuries, will play a role in it. Right now the Dodgers and Rockies are returning as top of the division rivals until somebody knocks them off."