GLENDALE, Ariz. –- With the largest crowd of the spring (11,599) on hand, not to mention a live television audience back home, the White Sox rallied late but fell 4-3 to the crosstown Cubs. Mark Buehrle struggled in his third spring start and the offense sputtered until the ninth.
The good: The bullpen did its part as Will Ohman, Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton each pitched a scoreless inning. The trio combined to give up one hit (off Thornton in the eighth inning), while striking out two (both credited to Thornton). The offense didn’t do much until the ninth when Stefan Gartrell ended the shutout with an RBI hit and Lastings Milledge smacked a two-run home run.
The bad: Buehrle struggled to find the strike zone, throwing 63 pitches over three innings, including two walks. When he did throw strikes, he was rocked for six hits. He still has three more starts scheduled before he gets the call on Opening Day at Cleveland on April 1. The first five hitters in the White Sox’s lineup (Alejandro De Aza, Gordon Beckham, Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Dallas McPherson) had just one hit combined heading into the last inning.
Beyond the box score: On Thursday, manager Ozzie Guillen was saying that Milledge had started to pick things up in the battle for the fourth outfield spot. His home run in the ninth inning only helped his cause and he obviously was pumped up when he removed his helmet before crossing the plate. Milledge’s advantages: He can run, play all three OF positions and hit from the right side.
Up next: Edwin Jackson is set to make his third start of the spring when he faces the Texas Rangers at Camelback Ranch in a 2:05 CST start. Jackson’s 1.69 ERA after two starts (5 1/3 innings) is a shade behind Jake Peavy’s 1.59 mark.