Jason Hammel: His spring ended in a four-inning, 68-pitch performance in which he gave up a home run to Yoenis Cespedes. He gave up five hits, but struck out six. Hammel has looked fine this spring, but we won’t know for sure if his offseason makeover takes hold until we get going next week. Even then, his work and diet this winter was about preparing him for the second half, as he’s been a very good first-half pitcher when healthy.
Albert Almora: He made a diving catch and just missed on another one in center field. He looks major-league ready on defense. In fact, scouts have been saying as much for several years, but it’s his bat which needs to catch up. Cubs manager Joe Maddon rightly noted before the game that Almora has been a very good spring player over the years – though it hasn’t always translated in-season. If it does, Almora could be make his debut this year.
Tommy La Stella: He continues to make noise as he raised his spring average to exactly .400 with a 1-for-2 day. He produced the first hit of the game for the Cubs, which led to their only rally. Maddon has even considered starting him on Opening Day as the designated hitter, though it’s not likely to happen.
Up next: The Cubs will fly to Anaheim, California, in advance of a complete day off on Saturday before playing an exhibition game against the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday. Kyle Hendricks will start that game. Regulars will get two or three at-bats. Monday night is the season-opening contest against the Angels with Jake Arrieta on the mound.