MESA and GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Cubs finally get a day off 3½ weeks into camp.
They headed into the one-day break with a 5-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Cubs managed just five hits, led by Ian Happ’s two-run homer in the sixth.
Oscar Colás hit a solo homer in the first for the White Sox in a 1-1 tie with the Los Angeles Angels at Camelback Ranch. It was Colás’ second consecutive game with a home run.
Chicago Tribune baseball writers LaMond Pope and Meghan Montemurro will be providing Cubs and White Sox updates throughout spring training.
Right-hander Hayden Wesneski wasn’t about to bask in four perfect innings Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He wasn’t satisfied after self-assessing his third spring start, which ended by striking out the side. Through three Cactus League outings, Wesneski hasn’t allowed an earned run in 8⅔ innings while tallying 11 strikeouts and two walks.
“To be honest with you, I’m throwing good, yes, and the results are really good and I’m working my tail off,” Wesneski said, “but I’m not as refined as I’d like to be, especially during the season, because I’m only throwing in short stints right now so it makes it a lot easier. Some of the guys haven’t seen you before. There’s just a lot of factors that play into why the results are going so well.
“So, yes, I’m getting outs, but it’s not as clean as I’d like.”
Wesneski conceded the three consecutive strikeouts to end his start were satisfying, especially the swing-and-misses he generated from the Dodgers’ Miguel Rojas, Max Muncy and J.D. Martinez.
He knows what’s at stake this spring as he battles for a spot in the opening-day rotation. Manager David Ross said Saturday that “competing for jobs is producing when it matters. That’s what boat those guys are in.”
With 16 spring games remaining, Wesneski is making a strong case for his inclusion. He’s trying to focus on his process to prepare for the season and not get too caught up in the competition.
“Man, I’m fighting it, I really am,” Wesneski said. “I’ve never been in this position, so you don’t know how to treat it. I’ve talked to a bunch of guys about it. I try to get to the right people and ask the right questions. I think I’m handling it well … but it’s not easy.
“It’s just another pressure, but you have to remember it’s the same game. If I strike out every (batter) from now on, in reality, I still won’t make the team sometimes. It happens. It’s out of my control, so I try to remind myself of that.”
Michael Kopech just missed striking out Mickey Moniak looking with a slider in the first inning Sunday.
He went with a fastball for the next pitch and got a swing-and-miss, fanning the No. 2 hitter in the Angels lineup.
Kopech pitched three perfect innings and had the one strikeout in his first outing of the spring.
“I feel like I’m where I should be,” he said. “I had enough consistency with stuff, and velocity is built over time.
“The first one out there, I’m happy with stuff. I could be a little more consistent as far as getting ahead of guys. But in general, I think it was where I should be for my first one.”
Kopech took some lessons away from working with the pitch clock.
“In hindsight, I had plenty of time,” he said. “I could have slowed down if I needed to. I was trying to make sure I stayed in control of it and didn’t let it control me. There’s a little bit of give and take there. It’s something to be played around with.
“I’m happy with how I was able to control that time, but I can give myself a little bit more.”
Back-to-back home runs Sunday didn’t concern an overall pleased Adrian Sampson.
Sampson was looking to get on track after two shaky outings to begin his spring. All three runs Sampson allowed against the Brewers came in the second as he otherwise got through four innings in the Cubs loss.
He thought his stuff was where it needed to be and credited being on the same page with catcher Tucker Barnhart from the get-go.
“There were a lot of off-speed (pitches) in the zone, getting a lot of swing-and-misses,” Sampson said. “Even if I gave up a couple runs in the inning, a couple zeroes here and there. In a regular-season game I’d be able to get six innings or so out of that one. My pitch count was low and kept the guys in the game.”
Sampson is maintaining his focus on what he needs to do to prepare for the season. He isn’t worrying about the competition to be the Cubs’ fifth starter.
“All the other stuff you can’t control,” Sampson said. “You’ve got to let Rossy and Jed (Hoyer) and all those guys make those decisions. Luckily for me, I can do whatever they ask. I can come out of the bullpen, I can start, I can do whatever they want so long as we put ourselves in a good chance to win. That’s the most important thing.”
Sox relievers entered Sunday with a 3.50 ERA, best in the Cactus League and third in baseball.
“I really like our bullpen and we’re not completely healthy yet,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “I look at our bullpen now and I envision our bullpen on May 1 and in June, and I just think (it) is going to continue to get better and better.
“There’s a lot of guys out there with versatility and experience. I really like that part of our club.”
Among the pitchers working their way back from injuries is left-hander Garrett Crochet, who general manager Rick Hahn said at the start of camp could return “if everything goes smoothly sometime in approximately mid-May.”
Hahn also said at the start of camp the team would provide an update on Liam Hendriks’ status closer to opening day. Hendriks announced in early January he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Frank German has six scoreless innings this spring and Bryan Shaw has four.
- Cubs outfield prospect Owen Caissie, 20, showed off his power in Team Canada’s back-and-forth battle with Great Britain on Sunday.
Caissie drove in two runs, highlighted by a monster solo homer to dead center. Caissie’s fellow Cubs prospects Pete Crow-Armstrong and James Triantos were in the stands.
- Cubs first-base prospect Matt Mervis went 1-for-3 with a walk in Team Israel’s 3-1 win over Nicaragua on Sunday to open pool play.
- A trio of Cubs helped Team Italy advance to the knockout stage after a five-way tie in its group. Miles Mastrobuoni tallied a hit, Ben DeLuzio drove in a run and Vinny Nittoli struck out three of the four Netherlands batters he faced in a 7-1 victory Sunday.
- Sox third baseman Yoán Moncada heated up at the perfect time for Team Cuba, going 3-for-4 with a home run, a double, an RBI and two runs in Saturday’s 7-1 win against Chinese Taipei in a Pool A game in Taichung, Taiwan.
“He’s a dynamic player,” Grifol said.
Sox center fielder Luis Robert Jr. went 1-for-4 with a run.
All five teams went 2-2 in Pool A, and Cuba was declared the winner via tiebreakers. It advances to the quarterfinals March 15 in Tokyo.
- Sox reliever José Ruiz had one strikeout and one walk in a scoreless two-thirds of an inning and was credited with the win for Venezuela in Saturday’s 5-1 victory against the Dominican Republic in Pool D play in Miami. Sox pitcher Nicholas Padilla was the winner for Puerto Rico with a scoreless one-third of an inning in a 9-1 victory against Nicaragua on Saturday in Miami.
“I saw a couple of his dances on the mound. You know he’s feeling sexy when that happens. … Looks like he’s in midseason form.” — Cubs manager David Ross on the inning he was able to watch of Marcus Stroman’s start for Team Puerto Rico on Saturday in the WBC