Cactus Catchup: World Baseball Classic Action and Mike Matheny On T-Shirts

It’s been an interesting two days around camp for the Cubs. I guess that is to say, as interesting as Spring Training can be for a club just coming off a World Series win that still has most of that same curse-breaking core intact.

Cubs camp got its first novelty matchup of the spring this week, playing Team Italy on Tuesday (Tommy La Stella and Anthony Rizzo were asked to join Team Italy for the World Baseball Classic, but both declined.) Italy’s lineup featured Francisco Cervelli, Daniel Delscalso, Chris Collabello and more — and collectively scored eight runs on eleven hits to beat the Cubs 8-7.

The second matchup of the week featured Mike Montgomery as the starter against his former team the Seattle Mariners. Montgomery was followed in the outing by his likely rotation mate Brett Anderson and Wade Davis. Montgomery allowed three hits, one earned run and struck out one, Anderson allowed five hits, two earned runs, and also struck out one, and Davis allowed two hits and one earned run with two strikeouts.

Putting In Work

Though the Cubs lost to Italy on Tuesday at Sloan Park, they still managed to score seven runs  — and the none of those runs came from starters (if you don’t count Jon Jay scoring on a wild pitch.)

Taylor Davis, Jemier Candelario and Chris Dominguez all combined to churn out those seven runs. Davis and Dominguez both hit home runs with runners on base. Davis continued to have himself a week, also gathering two RBI on Thursday against the Mariners.

The Cubs got a chance to loosen up some bullpen veterans this week, giving Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, and Justin Grimm all time on the mound.

The question of health hasn’t quite lingered for Strop anymore, who allowed three earned runs and two walks in just 1/3 of an inning of work on Tuesday, but that question has more so for Hector Rondon. Rondon, though suffering his injury last season and returning at nearly the same time as Strop, seemed to have a less narrow path to recovery. Rondon gave up three hits, two runs (one earned) while striking out two batters on Tuesday against Italy.

Anthony Rizzo greeted Sloan Park with his first home run of the spring on Thursday, launching a solo shot off Mariners pitcher James Paxton. Speaking of Rizzo, check out how Rizzo speaking about his approach at the plate in this video from MLB Network’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days.

Camp Happenings

The St. Louis Cardinals missed the playoffs by 17 1/2 games in the NL Central and one game out of an NL Wild Card spot, all while their arch-rival Cubs went out and won a World Series that broke professional sports’ longest curse. Though the Cardinals are no longer considered the strongest link in the NL Central, this rivalry is still alive and kicking. It just has a new twist.

“I think we have T-shirts somewhere that say something about winning at home,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said during a media session at camp this week, a remark that could easily be connected to Joe Maddon and his Cubs variety of tee shirts and slogans produced in 2016.

Matheny also made comments regarding the fact that while everyone praises the Cubs for having brought up such a young core so quickly, the Cardinals have a promising young team on the field as well. “The fact is, there’s a core group [in Chicago] that has performed really well, and what they did last year was very special,” Matheny said, “But also, we’re only one year removed from a team that won 100 games [in 2015], and we have a core group of young guys who are much better than what they were a year ago … I think we can compete with whatever [the Cubs] throw at us.”

A few of the Cubs players ordered new boots this offseason, and those boots were not just any boots. They were World Series boots. Check it out:


Of course, pitchers John Lackey and Jon Lester were among players who received a pair.

Game Results:

March 7th: Italy 8, Cubs 7

March 8th: OFF

March 9th: Mariners 8, Cubs 6

Lead photo courtesy Mark J. Rebilas—USA Today Sports

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