Three takeaways from Cubs win over Royals


by - Staff Writer -
Adbert Alzolay had a solid outing on Tuesday (Matt Kartozian - USA Today Sports)
Adbert Alzolay had a solid outing on Tuesday (Matt Kartozian - USA Today Sports)

Well, so far, so good in terms of early Spring Training success. I know these games don't count, but it is fun to see Cubs baseball again, especially with fans in the seats. Not only that, for the second straight day, the Cubs pulled out a victory and have yet to trail as they downed the Royals on Tuesday 3-2.

Adbert Alzolay got the start in his bid for the final spot in the rotation and pitched one scoreless inning of work with a strikeout and a leadoff HBP. The Cubs then turned to a bevy of bullpen arms, all looking to make the team in Dan Winkler, Jonathan Holder, Dillon Maples, Gary Fenter, Brendon Little, and Jake Jewell. Each pitcher threw an inning without allowing a run until the seventh and walking four and striking out seven. What is even more impressive is they nearly no-hit the Royals giving up their first hit in the seventh.

Offensively, the Cubs still haven't gotten the bats going, but that shouldn't come as a surprise in the early part of spring. They did, however, pick up five hits, and all the offense came from one swing. Rafael Ortega ripped one to right with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth, clearing the bases as he gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead. Kansas City put an end to the shutout bid at the top of the seventh when Edward Olivares took Jewell deep to left, but the Cubs improved to 2-0 with a 3-2 win.

Will the real Dillon Maples, please stand up: For years, Maples was viewed as a top 20 prospect in the Cubs system with the stuff to transform into a closer. Unfortunately, that has never happened, as his inability to command the strike zone has led to him being on his last straw with the organization.

Unlike seasons past, Maples is out of options, so the only way he makes this team is out of camp. If he continues to pitch the way he did on Tuesday, Maples will be a very valuable piece to the Cubs pen. His slider has always been a lights-out pitch, but his fastball command has been suspect at best. Today was one of the rare occasions where he located well and hit his spots. The results show what can happen when he does that, and Maples has the potential to be an X Factor in this lineup.

New look top of the order: We do not know what David Ross will write down on the lineup card on opening day, but one thing we do know. Ian Happ will be the team's leadoff hitter after doing a great job with that role last season. The rest of the lineup behind him is where the questions begin as the Cubs look to put together a formidable lineup.

In seasons past, Kris Bryant would typically hit No.2 with Anthony Rizzo following him at three. I'm not too fond of that approach this season as Bryant, too me, would be better suited behind Rizzo and batting fourth. That would leave the No. 2 spot open where I like Nico Hoerner. Yes, Hoerner lacks experience, and I have felt that he needs more time in the minors.

However, if you are going to leave him on the big-league roster, why not let him hit second. He has a great approach at the plate and is a contact first type of hitter. That is something this Cubs lineup has lacked for years. If Happ gets on base to lead things off, Ross could play hit and run with Hoerner, which could pressure on the defense. What was a struggle last season could turn into a lineup strength this year.

Boog and Jim make a good pair: Not only was this the first Marquee Network game of the 14 scheduled Spring tilts, but it was the first with a new play-by-play guy Jon "Boog" Sciambi running the show. After nearly 15 years of Len Kasper in the booth, the Cubs have a new voice as Boog joined his new partner Jim Deshaies on the broadcast.

I always felt that Schiambi was a better announcer out there and loved when he did the ESPN games. Now that he is a part of the Cubs family, I feel fortunate. The duo did a very excellent job today, and they seem to interact well with one another and get along. It will take a little while for both to get used to one another, but this pairing is certainly going to work this year, and Cubs fans should be both happy and excited about it.

The Cubs return to Sloan Park tomorrow when they host the Seattle Mariners. Game time is set for 2:10 CDT and can be seen on both ESPN and the Marquee Network.

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