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Cubs lose again, whiff 12 times

3/8/2015

MESA, Ariz. -- The Chicago Cubs remain winless this spring under new manager Joe Maddon, as they lost 6-4 to the Texas Rangers on Sunday.

The good: Former manager Rick Renteria often talked about the Cubs' "chipping away," so he probably would have liked the past two games, in which Chicago forced the opposition to make a ninth-inning pitching change. But both rallies fell short. It's about the best you can say on a day when little went right.

At least the Cubs are living up to the "Respect 90" mantra manager Joe Maddon preaches, as evidenced by Kyle Schwarber's running hard all the way on an eighth-inning fly ball that dropped in center field. He made it to third base and eventually scored.

Tsuyoshi Wada gave up a hit but pitched a scoreless inning in his spring debut.

The OK: Jake Arrieta had a few issues in getting through two innings. He gave up just one run -- on a long ball by Mitch Moreland -- and walked three. Afterward, he said he had a mechanical issue he didn’t make an “adjustment” on quick enough.

The bad: The Cubs struck out 12 times in the first six innings, with Javier Baez accounting for a quarter of those. Both are reminiscent of the past season. Tommy La Stella went down twice via strikeout. On the mound, lefty Eric Jokisch didn't have it in relief of Arrieta. He gave up six hits and four runs in two innings. Two balls left the park.

What it means: As long as he's healthy, there should be absolutely no concern about Arrieta's spring numbers. He has more important things to worry about starting next month, and he's not a young player trying to find his way. If -- and this is a big "if" -- he goes the entire spring and keeps walking hitters, that could be a red flag, considering it's a problem he's had in previous years. But this is a different Arrieta, and unless he's slowed by injury, the spring is just about getting sharp.

Baez deserves the benefit of the doubt, as there will be failures as he works on his approach and swing at the plate. So far, there have been a few positive at-bats, in which the changes he's making were noticeable, and a few at-bats that have looked more like the past year. It's early.

Cubs winless: Before the game, Maddon discussed his winless team. Although he wants a victory, he's focused on the process -- not the results.

"If I came out and went big-picture with these guys and talked about winning games only, that's incongruent," Maddon said. "I can't do that."

In other words, focusing on wins and losses right now would go against everything he's preaching, which includes being aggressive -- sometimes, overly aggressive. Chris Valaika is the latest Cub to be thrown out on the basepaths. He made a bad decision on a base hit, tried to stretch a single into a double and was thrown out by 20 feet.

What's next: The Cubs host the San Diego Padres on Monday. Edwin Jackson is scheduled to start with Kyle Hendricks making his spring debut in relief.