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by alex ciepley
TCR reader and Cub enthusiast Helen Simmins-McMillin recently dropped me a line fresh from a week watching the Cubs in Mesa, and I thought her thoughts were well worth passing on. In her own words:
"My husband and I just got back from six days in Mesa, and five Cubs games in a row. Here's what I can tell you after watching the team from Sunday through Thursday:
Scott McClain should fill the Macias hole -- he made a couple of nice defensive plays, and even his (few) unproductive at bats were good ones -- solid contact, fouling off lots of pitches and such. He ran the bases well, too. If he's sent down, we've still got a nice core of competent players at Iowa that can be used for trades or injury covering. I even feel pretty good about the players some folks are complaining about -- in years past we've had benches filled with the types we're sending down to Iowa. The fact that they're not on the 25-man roster is a good sign to me. (Though I admit I don't know how their spring performance will relate to their in-season work.)
The pitching staff performed as expected, though I didn't see a lot of innings out of anyone. Maddux was a real joy to watch, even making a couple of very nice defensive plays. Hawkins was used as a closer twice and was less than spectacular both times we saw him pitch. Kerry Wood rocked on a very hot day. (Both Sunday and Thursday our car thermometer was over 100 when we left the park.) Cubs pitchers seem to be paying a bit more attention to defense early on this year as compared to last, thank goodness.
The Cubs were hitting the ball well. Whether this is normal in Spring Training or not I don't know, as this was our first trip. Baserunning still appears to be an issue, with runners being sent at some inexplicable times, and errors by our starters bit us hard against the Angels. Good news though: Wendell Kim consistently held runners instead of waving them around second and third. Maybe someone said something..."
A big thanks to Helen for sending us her interesting observations.