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Scenes from Spring Training: Wake me up when Kerry Wood comes in

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I’m not gonna lie to you: it was not the most riveting day at the ballpark.  Low energy game and a low energy crowd. It happens.  Random notes:

The Cubs took the field wearing their full-blown home whites with pinstripes. LOVED it. I’m not a big fan of the lazy looking spring training warmups some of these teams wear. Wanna be professional? Look professional.  Says the jeans-and-untucked-shirt-wearing sports writer.

Also: pitchers batted today. No DH sullying the proceedings. Excellent.

The Cubs played sloppy defense. Three errors as I type this, and the game is still going.  Some nice leather from an unexpected source, however: Ryan Braun.  In the first inning he ranged far to his right to snag a sinking line drive that would have dropped in front of a lot of guys. Then, a couple of batters later he gunned down Reed Johnson who was trying to tag up from third. Braun with the defense. Who knew?

Cubs GM Jim Hendry sauntered into the press box around the third inning and just sort of hung out for a bit.  I’ve been to about 12 spring training games between this year and last year and that’s the first time a GM has just bopped around like that. Fun fact: the number one rule of the press box is that you’re not allowed to cheer.  That rule does not apply to the guy who runs one of the teams involved. It made me quite happy, actually, that Hendry cheers and roots like some regular fan.

By dint of the Brewers playing the Cubs, this was easily the most Midwestern Day of spring training thus far.  Lots of Big Ten sweatshirts in the crowd. Lots of guys who looked like this.  I almost felt like I was at home.

Except that I would never, ever be allowed to eat that hellacious creation to the left if I were at home. My wife is gonna kill me. If my diet doesn’t kill me first.

HoHoKam Stadium features organ music. Honest to goodness organ music, not piped in rock or pop.  This gave me a happy.

I wandered the crowd during the fifth and sixth innings. There was a vendor yelling “Lemonade, lemonade, just like grandma made!”  I’m sure he’s not the only lemonade vendor on the planet that uses that one, but I liked it.  Another vendor yelled “Old Style! Ice-cold Old Style!” in an extreme Barry White basso profundo. Imagine my surprise, then, when I got a look at him and saw that he was a skinny white blond kid in his mid-20s.

Kerry Wood came into the game to pitch the top of the sixth. He got a standing ovation. A bigger round of applause than the team got taking the field to start the game. Too bad he gave up two runs on three hits and a wild pitch in his inning of work.

Late game substitutions for the Brewers: Cutter Dykstra, son of Lenny. He’s someone I’m rooting for.  Also in the game: number 94.  When he was announced no one in the press box could figure out who he was because his name wasn’t listed on the roster.  Finally someone figured out it was Reggie Keen. With a number that high and a name that hard to find, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that he doesn’t make the 25-man out of camp.

Oh, and when Keen came up to bat in the eighth he was wielding a skinny orange bat that looked like a fungo. He cracked it on a foul ball and substituted it with a new one that looked far more normal. Then he walked.

It’s 5-3 in the top of the eighth now, Keen on first and nobody out. I could wait until it’s officially over to post this update, but I’m guessing nothing terribly notable is going down.  I’ll stay here and watch it anyway. Wouldn’t you?

I was originally planning on seeing the White Sox tomorrow, but I may kick them until Thursday because they’re playing the Brewers tomorrow and I kind of want to see as many different teams as possible.  As I sit here, I’m thinking — surprise! — it will be Padres-Royals instead.

Seriously: the Royals play in Surprise so even if you weren’t expecting anything it is, technically speaking, a Surprise.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.