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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Cactus League Day 2

Well, day 2 in the desert was a windy one. We were up early and after a quick breakfast at waffle house we drove down to Tucson to check out the 2005 World Champion White Sox. Previous years we'd only been to Mesa, Scottsdale, and Surprise and so this was to be new territory for us.

It's about 110 miles from Tempe and so we found ourselves there around 10am. We pulled into the Kino Sports Complex, which the Sox share with the Diamondbacks, and found the four practice fields the Sox use just a few yards away. On all four diamonds minor leauers were working out and we watched a variety of drills including traditional infield, run downs, and a bit of batting practice.

At 10:30am two intrasquad games started on the two southernmost fields. On one diamond Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko, Juan Uribe, Rob Macowiek, and A.J. Pierzynski were set to hit as pitching coach Don Cooper looked on. Each of them got two at bats after which Pierzynski distributed four cracked bats to kids and pretty girls in the crowd and Konerko took a few minutes to sign autographs. I think there was even a Manny Trillo siting.

After watching the other minor league game for a few minutes we headed for Electric Park just down the street. There are no gates in the outfield so we had to walk all the way around the park and entered behind first base. Because the Cubs were to play the Sox there was already a substantial crowd and so we headed to the berm in centerfield where we staked out some territory on the plush grass. A polish dog and a Coke later we were ready for the game along with 11,800 other fans, a good portion of them rooting for the Cubs.

Aramis Ramirez got the scoring underway by homering off of Javier Vasquez in the top of the first, his 4th of the spring.

Glendon Rusch started for the Cubw and was quickly tagged for four runs on the strength of two doubles, two singles, and a homerun by Joe Crede. Both homeruns were well hit but a 20-30 mph wind blowing straight out didn't hurt either. Oh, and Rusch was hit in the second inning with a line drive off the bat of Joe Borchard. Not a good day.

After Rusch Jae-Kuk Ryu, who pitched well in AA last season and should start in Des Moines, threw two innings and looked pretty good. I may have been dreaming but I'm pretty sure Les Waldron pitched for the Cubs as well. The last I saw of Waldron he was getting lit up as a member of the Royals in the early part of this century. When I told Ron, a Royals fan, who was pitching he asked, "Is he still alive?"

Both Ryan Harvey and Brian Dopirak played a few innings in right field and first base and Harvey batted against Bobby Jenks in the 9th. Harvey's long swing proved problematic against Jenks as he was consistently late. He fouled off enough pitches however to work a walk. For both Dopirak and Harvey 2006 will be an interesting season. Coming into 2005 both were highly regarded but the shine has started to come off a bit. Dopirak went .235/.289/.381 at Daytona (A) after a 2004 where he hit 39 homeruns at Lansing. Harvey won the Midwest League homerun crown but hit just .257/.302/.484 with a strikeout/walk number of 137/24 in 506 plate appearances. Ouch.

The Cubs only other offensive highlight included a double by Ronny Cedeno followed by a triple by Juan Pierre in the fifth when they scored two additional runs. Jim Thome hit a toweing double off the center field wall in the midst of a rally in the bottom of the fifth and the Sox hit another homerun in the 8th to make the final score 9-4.

During the middle innings I took a walk around and saw the World Championship trophy and happy Sox fans lining up to get their picture taken with it. Sigh.

After the game we drug our wind blown bodies back to the car and headed back to Phoenix. Not much between Phoenix and Tucson except an ostrich farm where you can feed the birds and buy "ostrich products" - whatever those are. We didn't stop.


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