MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Before he left the Milwaukee Brewers to join Team Mexico for the World Baseball Classic, Marco Estrada received well wishes from manager Ron Roenicke.
But not from Canadian teammates John Axford and Jim Henderson.
“There’s too much trash talk going on,” Estrada said. “There’s been a lot. I didn’t think it would be like this, but it is all fun and games. Ax and Hendu are giving it to me a little bit and I am giving it right back.”
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If Estrada pitches the way he did Sunday, he might return with bragging rights. The 29-year-old right-hander tossed four scoreless innings to help the Brewers beat a Chicago Cubs split squad 4-3 in front of 7,431 fans at HoHoKam Stadium.
Estrada, who went 5-7 with a 3.64 ERA in 29 games (23 starts) last season, allowed one hit, walked two and struck out three.
“I went out trying to work on stuff,” he said. “I felt like the curveball was a little off and that I was rushing. Overall, I threw pretty well. I located with the fastball and that’s the most important thing right now. Once you get that going you can work on the other stuff.”
Estrada was born in California but takes pride in playing for Mexico and feels he is ready to go.
“I know it is early but I feel like I’ve thrown enough where I can give them those 65 pitches (the first-round limit),” he said. “Hopefully we can get to the second round and build up to 80. It’s a good feeling and I feel pretty confident heading into the Classic.
“There is nothing like it and I am really excited. This is it and you are trying to win it all.”
Carlos Gomez homered and Taylor Green had two hits for Milwaukee, including an RBI single in the first inning.
Cubs starter Edwin Jackson was nowhere near as efficient as Estrada. Jackson, who signed a $52 million, four-year contract with Chicago in the offseason, allowed two runs and two hits in two innings. He also walked three, hit a batter with a pitch and made a throwing error into center field on an attempted double play.
“It was one of those days in spring training when you feel pretty good and you want to let it go, but you don’t control the tempo like you should,” said Jackson, who went 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA for Washington last season. “It was a matter of finding the tempo and you have to do a good job of slowing it down.”
Chicago was held to two hits by six Brewers pitchers. Cubs prospect Javier Baez had a two-run homer and drove in three runs.
Brewers right-hander Kelvim Escobar left after getting two outs in the sixth because of a problem with his pitching hand. He walked two and hit a batter with a pitch.
“He didn’t feel strength in his hand and the ball was coming out of his hand funny,” Roenicke said. “We will see how he is (on Tuesday).”
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo went hitless in three at-bats in his last game before joining Team Italy for the WBC.
Notes: Brewers 3B Aramis Ramirez had an MRI that showed a sprained left knee but no structural damage. He came out of Saturday’s game after sliding into second base. He is expected to be out at least a week. . . . Cubs INF Ian Stewart (quadriceps) tried hitting on Saturday but still felt discomfort. The plan is for him to get into a game around March 14. . . . Brewers RHP Yovani Gallardo (right groin) had a bullpen session that went fine. The club was leaving it up to him to decide if he will pitch for Mexico in the WBC. Gallardo was supposed to leave camp Sunday, with the first workout on Monday. WBC rules state that once he leaves camp he can’t come back to be treated or pitch. “We have to see what he wants to do,” Roenicke said.