Power Rangers: Four Texas homers send Cubs to 13-1 loss in Cactus League play Thursday
Fifth-starter Colin Rea struggled in the start, and rookie Nico Hoerner looked good in another audition for the top job as Javy Baez’ backup at short.
Rangers 13, Cubs 1
Four Texas Rangers home runs, including a grand slam in the first inning and three-run shot in a seven-run eighth, gave this spring loss a similar vibe to the high-scoring opening series loss for the Cubs last year in Texas. The Cubs fell to 3-3 in Cactus League play.
Fits and starts: Right-hander Colin Rea’s long shot to earn the fifth-starter job got a little longer with a rough first inning that included a single, two walks and Rougned Odor’s grand slam on a 3-1 pitch. “That fifth spot is open, but there’s also spots in the bullpen that are available that guys can slide into as a long guy or whatever,” manager David Ross said before the game. “That’ll all play out in front of us.”
Short story: Rookie Nico Hoerner got a second start at shortstop as Ross takes a look at what might be his best option to back up starter Javy Baez. Hoerner played well again, including making a play in the hole on a sharp grounder by Adolis Garcia and a long throw for the first out in the fourth inning.
Happ-enstance: Versatile Ian Happ, who will see most of his time in center field, Ross said, started there and turned a routine single into a two-base play in the second, allowing Elvis Andrus’ hit to roll under his glove. Happ also singled leading off the game, reached on a fielder’s choice in the second and drove in the Cubs’ first run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth.
Miller makes impression: Left-handed-hitting outfielder Ian Miller, a non-roster rookie who debuted for the Twins last season (17 games), singled to right in the second, then flared a ball into shallow left field near the line and legged it out for a leadoff double in the fourth.
Steele dossier: Among the impressive innings by the Cubs’ bullpen candidates was a 1-2-3 fourth by left-handed prospect Justin Steele, 24, whose minor-league career has been hampered by injuries. His fastball reached the mid-90s. He’s an intriguing pitcher to watch in part because of a dearth of relief lefties, exacerbated by Brad Wieck’s rehab for a recently corrected heart arrhythmia.
On deck: Cubs at Padres, Peoria, 7:40 p.m. Friday, MSN, 670-AM, Tyler Chatwood vs. Zach Davies.