Cubs lose opener in front of record crowd

MESA, Ariz. --– The Chicago Cubs opened their new spring stadium by dropping a 5-2 decision to the Arizona Diamondbacks in front of a record Cactus League crowd of 14,486, breaking the mark (13,721) set last year by the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox.

New manager Rick Renteria was impressed.

"The park is beautiful," he said afterward. "They saw their Cubbies back in action."

The good: Starlin Castro went 2-for-2 with an RBI. Neither hit was cheap as he lined a first-inning single to left then went to right center for a run-scoring double in the third. He was right on both pitches. ... Jeff Samardzija got out of a first-inning jam after a four-pitch walk and a base hit but faced the minimum after the first two batters, getting six outs to complete his day.

The bad: Newcomers Wesley Wright and Jose Veras gave up the lead as they combined for two innings of work giving up four hits, a walk and five runs. Both pitchers also hit a batter.

Barney the starter at second: Despite Emilio Bonifacio leading off and playing second base in the spring opener, Renteria declared Darwin Barney his starting second baseman. There has been some speculation that Bonifacio could unseat Barney as the starter after the latter hit .208 last season, but that's not the case.

"I look at Bonifacio like Chone Figgins," Renteria said. "Where he can go here or there or anywhere. It allows him the freedom to be in the lineup as often as possible. His flexibility is a big plus for us."

Bonifacio went 1-for-2 with a leadoff triple and scored the game's first run.

What's next: The Cubs are on the road Friday as they'll take on the Los Angeles Angels. Chris Rusin will be on the mound and top prospect Javier Baez will play shortstop and bat seventh.


• Injured pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa threw a second bullpen session off the mound on Thursday morning.

• Renteria is taking it slow with Arodys Vizcaino, who struggled in the intrasquad game Wednesday after missing the past two seasons.

"That's why we all have to keep perspective," Renteria said. "He's coming back after a long layoff."

• Renteria was asked if spring stats or performance can be more important to players coming off subpar years.

"Spring matters more to them not so much in the numbers but if they are working on something and they are starting to accomplish chipping away at a deficit," Renteria said.


• "It must have been the fireworks. I think it's the first time the Cubbies have ever had fireworks, ever." -- Samardzija, joking about why he walked the first batter of the game after pregame fireworks.

• "Everything I've done in camp has been with Castillo. The way he's improving is unbelievable." -- Samardzija, on the "progression of catcher Welington Castillo.