Manager Joe Maddon’s Cubs debut in Mesa ended in a tie. The Cubs and Athletics played to a 2-2 tie Thursday in front of 11,132 fans at Sloan Park in the manager’s first game. He liked the interaction with the fans during the course of the game
“I thought we played well,” Maddon said. “Oakland pitches well always. That was a typical kind of game you play against the A’s and have to win but we did not get any more hits because they do pitch well. I liked the effort.
“It was just a really nice wonderful first day,” he said.
In the other split squad game, Kyle Schwarber hit a grand slam on his 22nd birthday and Billy McKinney added a solo shot but it wasn’t enough as the Giants rallied for five runs in the eighth to beat the Cubs, 8-6, in a split squad game in Scottsdale. Hunter Cervenka served up four earned runs on four hits and two walks in one-third of an inning to take the loss. Schwarber connected in the second inning off Ryan Vogelsong, while McKinney hit a solo shot in the eighth.
In Mesa, Barry Zito, 36, a non-roster invitee who is attempting a comeback after not pitching last season, retired the first five batters he faced, then hit Chris Coghlan with two outs in the Chicago second to set up Mike Olt’s two-run homer. Ryan Sweeney followed with a single off Zito, who got Junior Lake to ground out and end the inning.
Travis Wood, battling for the fifth starter spot in the Cubs rotation, struck out two of the six batters he faced in his first outing. An All-Star in 2013, Wood scuffled last season, posting an 8-13 record and 5.03 ERA.
“You always learn more when you fail than when you succeed, and I learned a lot last year about how to go about when you fail, picking yourself back up and getting back after it,” Wood said. “That’s what we took into the offseason.”
He heard that Maddon had named four starters and that Wood was not included in the quartet. The news just motivated Wood even more.
“There is [a purpose] — the purpose is to not have a year like last year,” Wood said. “I know I’m a good pitcher and just have to get back to the basics of attacking the zone and trusting your stuff.”
Oakland tallied with one out in the seventh against Donn Roach on Luke Carlin’s RBI single, and tied the game in the eighth on Rangel Ravelo’s one-out RBI double off Francisley Bueno.
The Cubs wore No. 14 caps and had a moment of silence before the game to pay tribute to Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who died in January.
* Cubs up next: Jon Lester makes his Cubs debut Friday against the Reds at Sloan Park in Mesa. The left-hander, who signed a six-year, $155 million contract, will be matched up with catcher David Ross, who was with him in Boston. No surprise, but Lester will be the Cubs Opening Night starter on April 5. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. CT, and the game can be heard on Cubs.com.
— Carrie Muskat