Created on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 Written by SCOTT BAIR,Associated Press
MESA, Ariz. (AP) — The scene was perfectly set.
Cincinnati ace Johnny Cueto matched up with Chicago Cubs opening day starter Jeff Samardzija on a warm evening in front of a packed house.
The only thing was, it didn't count.
Next time they each take the mound, it will.
Both pitchers were in regular-season form Tuesday night as Cueto threw six shutout innings in his best outing this spring and Todd Frazier homered for the Reds in an 11-1 victory.
Cueto struck out five and walked one. Samardzija also was on point, giving up one run and five hits in five innings while striking out five.
"It was a good atmosphere, a good primer for the regular season," Samardzija said. "I've known Johnny for a long time, and it helps raise the overall competitiveness when the other guy is pitching well. I'm glad the final spring outing went well. I think I can speak for all of us when I say it's been a long spring. We can't wait to get out of here and start the regular season."
Cueto, too, declared himself ready to go. His performance was a stark contrast to his previous one, when he gave up five runs, two walks and couldn't get out of the second inning.
The right-hander was sharp against the Cubs, using precise fastball location to carry him through.
"Everything went as it should," Cueto said through translator Ron Ortegon, the Reds' assistant hitting coach. "It was nice to move beyond the last start and finish my spring on a good note. I'm excited for opening day."
Cueto's opening day assignment was earned with a strong 2012 season. He went 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA in 217 innings.
Samardzija is stepping into a No. 1 role for the first time. He was 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA on a terrible team in his first full major league season as a starter. He earned his opening day start with a strong spring that flashed his vast potential.
"Jeff has been real good for us, and I think he's ready to be the workhorse we need him to be," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said before the game. "He's made good use of his starts and at this point he's ready for opening day."
Samardzija cruised through most of the Reds' lineup, but had some trouble with Cueto in the third. The pitcher hit a line-drive single and scored on a double by Emmanuel Burriss.
Frazier went deep in the seventh, but the game was close until Cincinnati scored nine times in the ninth inning.
Cubs closer Carlos Marmol had his worst outing of the spring and was booed by the home crowd at HoHoKam Stadium. He gave up six runs (four earned) on four hits and a walk without getting an out, snapping his scoreless streak at 6 2-3 innings.
NOTES: Cubs RHP Zach Putnam and INF Alberto Gonzalez have been told they won't make the 25-man roster, but haven't officially been reassigned. Putnam will still pitch for the big league team on Wednesday, but will go to minor league camp after that. Gonzalez will leave Arizona with the Cubs and play two exhibition games in Houston against the Astros. Those cuts increase the odds that LHP Hisanori Takahashi or RHP Cory Wade and C-INF Steve Clevenger will make the roster, although the Cubs are still looking at external options in the bullpen and on the bench. ... 3B Ian Stewart (quadriceps) and RHP Matt Garza (back) will remain at the team's spring training facility to rehab their respective injuries. ... The Cubs hosted their first night spring training game since March 28, 2005, against the Seattle Mariners.