Padres MLN: Plusses and minuses

Mesa, AZ—- The Padres extended spring roster was on the road again on Saturday to play the Chicago Cubs squad. There were positives and negatives (a 7-1 loss) from the morning game.

Rey Garramone pitched two scoreless innings to begin the contest. The right-hander averaged 88-89 MPH with his fastball and gave up a single while striking out two. He pitched down in the zone consistently and worked ahead of the hitters. He looks better than he did last year during Padres' Instructs as his mechanics are clean and his pitches showed good movement.

Yesid Salazar worked the next two frames, giving up three hits but inducing two double-play grounders. One hit, a perfect bunt by a Cubs speedster would never have been prevented and all of the outs he recorded came on ground balls. He worked 88-89 MPH with his fastball and showed solid bite with his off-speed pitches.

Cooper Brannan worked one inning,, falling behind each hitter he faced but roaring back to retire the side in order. His fastball topped out at 86 MPH but he was down in the zone even when he was throwing balls. No pitch went above the belt and it took him 14 pitches to end his inning.

Tyler Mead was the first to be scored upon. He gave up a one-out triple, which was followed by a sacrifice fly. With two outs, Mead issued another single and was called for a balk for failing to come to a stop in his delivery. The batter at the plate singled up the gut to plate run number two. Five of the six outs he recorded came on ground balls but the hitters were sitting on his 84-85 MPH heat when he fell behind.

Dustin Gibbs was hammered over two-thirds of an inning as he was charged with five runs. After a leadoff walk, Nelson Perez – who fell a double shy of the cycle – homered to deep centerfield. His ball cleared the 20-foot high wall near the 400 foot sign 20 paces away. After a strikeout, Gibbs walked the next batter before a fielder's choice. After a stolen base, he hit a batter and allowed a run scoring single. He was pulled after 34 pitches thrown – most up in the zone. He worked to a 3-2 count with five of the batters he faced.

Jose Martinez came on in relief and allowed a ringing double to plate the two runners he inherited on a fastball left up in the zone. He would pitch the ninth inning, despite the score already determined at 7-1 in favor of the Cubs. He allowed a two-out single before striking out the final batter. Martinez topped out at 90 MPH on the gun. Martinez has some funky mechanics to get his body aligned towards the plate and will likely be refined to enhance his command.

Justin Pickett, who saw three innings at catcher on Saturday, notched two singled, including a bullet off former first round pick Mark Pawelek. Pickett moved to first base in the fourth but did receive a few words after not looking at the coaching staff when a runner reached base.

"Pick, you have to look at me when runners are on base," AZL Padres manager Tony Muser said. "We might have something going on."

Pickett performed well behind the plate otherwise and his pitchers responded in kind with three scoreless innings with him behind the dish. He did not have a chance to test his arm.

The Padres loaded the bases twice in the game and came away with just one run. Yefri Carvajal lined a single to left to start one rally and he would represent the lone run when Jeremy Cleveland punched a single to left. They bags were juiced with no outs but Luke Cannon struck out, Cleveland notched his single, and Yoeli Florentino hit into a double play, showing his displeasure by slamming his helmet into the turf. They again loaded the bases with one out in the ninth but Carvajal popped out and Colt Morton struck out to effective end the game.

Three runners were pegged by Chicago's catcher – two were caught attempting to steal second base and Keisy Marte was picked off first base.

One of the strangest plays witnessed occurred in this game. With a runner on first base one of the Cubs popped a ball up behind first and Pickett lost it in the sun. The runner at first could not advance because he thought it would caught. The ball dropped and Pickett fired the ball to second but Marte covering second never caught the ball. Ray Stokes played relay man and picked it off about five steps from the bag and turned and ran to force the runner out.

The play earned a "have you ever seen that before?" from the coaching staff and Muser was not happy that Stokes cut off a perfectly well thrown ball that would have made it to second without his help.

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