A's 4, Cubs 3

PHOENIX – The Cubs gave up three unearned runs in the first inning after a Josh Vitters fielding error and never recovered in a 4-3 split-squad defeat to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.

The good: Geovany Soto finally looks to be rounding into form after missing over a week early in camp with a groin strain. Soto not only hit his first home run of the spring, he also doubled, with Marlon Byrd thrown out trying to score from first base on the extra-base hit. Soto doubled his hit total this spring in his first two at-bats.

The bad: Vitters, a former first-round pick, didn’t inspire anybody with his play on defense. In the first inning he backpedaled while trying to play a bouncing ball from Oakland’s Manny Ramirez off his left hip. He made a fielding error that opened the door for a three-run inning for the A’s. A few innings later he backpedaled on another ground ball, but made the play that time. Vitters also went 0-for-4 and grounded into two double plays, the second of which ended the game.

Beyond the box score: Paul Maholm seemed to get better as his outing went on Sunday and his breaking balls became more effective. Throwing curveballs and sliders for the first time this spring, Maholm admitted he didn’t have much when he gave up three unearned runs in the first inning. But he followed that with two scoreless innings as his breaking balls became sharper.

Up next: In Mesa, Cubs right-hander Andy Sonnanstine (0-0, 9.00) will take on White Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd (0-0, 2.25). In Las Vegas, Cubs right-hander Chris Volstad (1-0, 0.00) will take on Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison (1-0, 1.80). Both games Sunday are set for a 3:05 p.m. CST start.