MESA, Ariz. — Cubs ace Jake Arrieta pitched a 1-2-3 first (for nine straight outs to open the spring), then started the second with an “intentionally unintentional” walk to Derek Norris so he could work on pitching with a man on base — something he said he thought about doing in his first start last week.
“What I really wanted to work on was pitching from the stretch, with good timing, with good rhythm and good tempo,” said Arrieta, who pitched four otherwise sharp innings.
Even better, he said, was having the speedy Jemile Weeks lead off the third with a single.
“I had to vary sometimes, had to pick over,” Arrieta said. “He ended up ultimately stealing the base, but it was a good sequence there that I was really happy with.
“Those are the things I need to work on now and become comfortable with and more efficient at.”
Outfielder Jorge Soler, whose fielding was shaky in right as a rookie last year, is moving this year to left – where a pair of misplays led to runs.
After gliding under a deep fly in the third, he lost sight of it as it cleared his glove for a run-scoring double that should have been ruled an error.
And with two out and none on in the fifth, he tried to make a sliding catch on a line single by Travis Jankowski, allowing it to carom past him for a three-base error and “Little League homer.”
On the other hand…
Outfield prospects Albert Almora and Billy McKinney made exceptional plays late in the game.
Almora, who seems to make a highlight-worthy catch once a game, sprinted from straightaway center to the left-field gap, leaped at the wall and made the catch as he hit the wall, landing on his feet and holding the ball high – to end the inning with the bases loaded.
In the ninth, McKinney, borrowed for the afternoon from the minor-league side, made a sliding catch on a low liner to right and another catch leaping at the wall for the final out.
Victorino on tap
Veteran outfielder Shane Victorino, a leading candidate for a possible bench job, was considered for a return to the lineup before having his return pushed back to Tuesday. He’s been out with a sore calf much of the past week.
Cubs at Padres, Peoria, Ariz., 3:05 p.m., mlb.com audio, Clayton Richard vs. Tyson Ross.