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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.

Nico Hoerner got his second start at shortstop.
Nico Hoerner got his second start at shortstop.
John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

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.