Scenes from Spring Training: Greetings from HoHoKam Park

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Or is it HoHoKam Stadium?  And is that capitalization correct?  Really, I can’t tell you because I’ve seen it written differently in different places.  I think “Stadium” is correct but Park rolls off the tongue better. Probably doesn’t matter considering that they’re building a new place a couple miles from here and will thus be leaving the joint soon.

I’ve only been here in Mesa for an hour or so, but there’s quite a different vibe to the place than the others I’ve visited.  Right off the exit there’s a huge trailer park advertising seasonal rentals for Cubs fans.  At a gas station down the road there were lots of folks wearing Cubs caps, over five hours before game time.  Mesa is a big sprawling suburb, but it’s a lot like how things felt in Port St. Lucie with the Mets last year: everyone seems like they’re here for the Cubs.

But with that kind of devotion comes some of the minor hassles that, while common in Florida, aren’t all that common in Arizona. Unlike everyplace else I’ve been so far this spring, there were attendants working the parking lot as early as 8AM, making sure I was where I was supposed to be and pointing me toward a media lot.  Likewise, this is the first time that anyone actually checked my credentials at the main gate to the park.  Sure, the other places have people giving your badge a glance as you walk by, especially after fans start showing up, but this is the first place that someone seated at a desk gave them any scrutiny at all.  It was polite scrutiny and I wasn’t held up, but one certainly gets the sense that the Cubs are more vigilant against would-be gate-crashers.

And speaking of crashing a gate, I think I’ll go wander around a bit and see if I can’t get in some trouble. I’m guessing it will be way easier to do here than the other places I’ve been.

Charlie Morton exits start with discomfort in right shoulder

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Astros pitcher Charlie Morton left Sunday’s start against the Angels after just one inning due to discomfort in his right shoulder, the team announced. Morton yielded a one-out double to Justin Upton, who later scored on a wild pitch. He averages about 96 MPH on his fastball but sat in the 92-94 MPH range in his one inning of work.

Morton, 34, went on the disabled list with right shoulder discomfort on August 29 and returned on September 8. It’s bad news for the Astros, who may have to go into the playoffs without him. If that is to be the case, Lance McCullers would take Morton’s spot in the rotation. It’s also bad news for Morton, who is a free agent after the season and figures to be one of the more sought-after starters.

Morton entered Sunday’s start 15-3 with a 3.15 ERA with a 195/63 K/BB ratio in 163 innings of work.