Valbuena, Rusin lead Cubs over White Sox 7-0
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Luis Valbuena hit a three-run homer just inside the right field foul pole to highlight the Chicago Cubs’ 7-0 win Friday over the crosstown rival Chicago White Sox.
Cubs pitcher Chris Rusin helped his bid for a roster spot by holding the White Sox to two hits in five innings. Four relievers shut out the White Sox the rest of the way.
”I was able to pound the zone again with strikes with all my pitches,” Rusin said. ”The defense played real well behind me. They helped me a lot.
”I just need to work on my curveball for strikes, and that’s what I did today. So far, things are going as planned.”
In 20 starts for the Cubs over the last two seasons, Rusin is 4-9 with a 4.69 ERA. The left-hander said he is trying not to think too much about his fate when spring training ends, but ”you’ve got to figure out where you’re going to live. So you start to think about it a little.”
”My confidence is very high. I had a great spring last year, too. This year, I followed it up with another great spring. That’s big,” he said.
White Sox starter John Danks gave up four runs and six hits in five innings, including Valbuena’s homer. White Sox reliever Matt Lindstrom, coming back from an oblique strain, pitched a scoreless inning in his first Cactus League appearance.
Valbuena was 2 for 3 with four RBIs, raising his batting average to .276. Cubs designated hitter Mike Olt went 2 for 4 and lifted his average to .289.
Cubs: Regardless of whether he makes the big club, Rusin said he’s ”ready for it all.”
”I’m not going to hang my head. Just get better. That’s all I’ve got to tell myself,” he said.
White Sox: Danks is 0-1 with a 3.50 ERA this spring.
”I was able to throw all my pitches, and I feel good about where I’m at,” he said. ”The goal today was to not walk anybody. I did that. The fastball command is not quite where we want it, but it’s better than it’s been.”
Cubs: Manager Rick Renteria is so confident that shortstop Starlin Castro will return in time for opening day that a backup plan is ”not even under consideration at this point.”
Castro is recovering from a hamstring injury.
”All indications are he’s 100 percent, so it shouldn’t be an issue,” Renteria said.
Castro ran the bases Thursday and participated in a full assortment of other baseball activities Friday. Now the team will see how he responds.
Castro will probably start hitting in minor league camp and then play in Cactus League games as spring training winds down, Renteria indicated.
Also, highly touted shortstop prospect Javier Baez left Friday’s game with a bruised right heel after beating out an infield hit.
White Sox: Tyler Flowers left the game with a cramp during his at-bat in the sixth inning. The team later said Flowers was fine.
HIGHS AND LOWS
It’s been a long spring at the plate for Cubs outfielder Junior Lake, who went 2 for 4 and is hitting .200.
”He’s very cognizant of what he’s trying to do,” said Renteria, who said Lake is getting at-bats in minor league camp in addition to Cactus League games. ”I think he’ll continue to maintain some calm, not think about numbers and just think about approaches.”
Lake has an undeniable upside in his prolific defensive skills. Those were on display Thursday when he leaped at the left field fence and robbed Seattle’s Logan Morrison of a home run.
”A great catch,” Renteria said. ”He really does work extremely hard in the outfield during batting practice. He tries to chase down every single ball he can. He’s trying to run scenarios over in his head.”
Coming into the game, White Sox outfielder Jordan Danks was tied for the AL lead in homers with five. He ranked second in runs (13) and was fourth in slugging percentage (.838).
The person who knows him best isn’t surprised.
”I’m so happy for him,” said John Danks, Jordan’s older brother. ”He’s on fire.
”I told him the other day, he’s doing everything he can. We’ll see what happens with the lineup and the roster. He’s definitely impressing me and I think impressing some of the higher-ups here.”
In limited major league duty over the last two seasons, Jordan Danks has batted .229 with six home runs.
”It’s fun to watch him have success. He’s kind of showing you all what I’ve known all along,” John Danks said. ”I’ve seen him do it for a long time.”
Tony La Russa and basketball buddy Bob Knight spoke to the White Sox before the game. La Russa managed the White Sox from 1979-86.