Ruggiano homers, extends sizzling start for Cubs
MESA, Ariz. (AP) Justin Ruggiano went 3 for 3 with a two-run homer and three RBIs, raising his spring training batting average to .583 as the Chicago Cubs outlasted a Milwaukee Brewers split squad 10-8 Sunday.
Brewers slugger Ryan Braun was 1 for 2 with a double, lowering his average to .636.
Tyler Thornburg, who has an outside chance to win a spot in Milwaukee’s rotation, gave up the home run to Ruggiano but then settled down and blanked the Cubs for the next three innings.
Thornburg said he didn’t feel comfortable at first, but, ”Something clicked” between the first and second inning.
”Obviously, the results are the main thing in baseball,” Thornburg said. ”The results after that were a heck of a lot different.”
Manager Ron Roenicke said Thornburg made a mistake on the homer, which was his first changeup of the game.
”It has to be a good one,” Roenicke said. ”He left it thigh-high. The guy hit it like you’re supposed to. After that, I thought everything was good.”
Chicago prospect Kyle Hendricks allowed two runs in three innings while walking two and striking out four.
Milwaukee scored five times in the seventh, aided by an error on third baseman Kris Bryant.
The Cubs scored four in the bottom half, including a two-run single by Brett Jackson. Brewers third baseman Pete Orr made two errors in the inning.
Chicago’s Frank Batista was credited with the win, but was also tagged with a blown save. Justin Grimm got the save after surviving a ninth inning in which Cubs’ fielders lost a pop fly in the sun and the Brewers left the bases loaded.
The game drew a Cactus League-record crowd of 14,770 to the Cubs’ new ballpark in Mesa. That eclipsed the previous mark of 14,680 set last Sunday against Kansas City.
”It’s a great looking ballpark,” said Roenicke, who got his first look Sunday. ”It helps when you pack every single seat. Pretty cool place.”
BRAUN LOCKED IN
Roenicke said Braun has ”looked great” at the plate this spring, and praised his work in moving from left field to right field. The Brewers are trying to make room for Khris Davis in left.
”He’s done really well,” Roenicke said. ”We’re trying to get him innings out in right field. That’s probably bigger for him than the at-bats.”
Hendricks was a bit disappointed with two second-inning walks as both runners ended up scoring.
”I got out of my mechanics a little bit throwing those two walks,” he said. ”You don’t want that, obviously, but that’s something I know that as I go out there more often, I’ll be more consistent in my mechanics, and that won’t happen.”
Hendricks acknowledged that he tends to issue a lot of walks early in spring training, but isn’t sure why. Overall, though, he judged this start better than his first one.
”I was more in tune with the speed of the game,” he said. ”And I made a lot of good pitches.”
Cubs reliever James Russell, dealing with a ”little bit of a dead arm,” threw on the side Saturday and reported no ill effects. Russell, who has had this issue in the past, indicated he may throw again Tuesday and then be ready for game action.
”Nothing I haven’t dealt with before,” he said.
Also, Cubs outfielder Ryan Sweeney was replaced in the second inning because of right knee soreness. Sweeney appeared to slip in the outfield. He is considered day to day.
K-ROD NEARS DEBUT
Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez, a late signee, threw live batting practice Sunday. He could make his Cactus League debut Wednesday at the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Tempe, Roenicke indicated.