Here's a strange schedule quirk: Five games into Cactus League play, the Brewers have played more games at Salt River Fields (two, a loss against the Diamondbacks on Saturday and a win against the Rockies on Sunday) than Maryvale Baseball Park, their home facility.
They'll play their second home contest of the spring at 2:05 today when they send Marco Estrada (9.00 ERA this spring, 3.87/3.86 ERA/FIP in 2013) to the mound to face the Cubs in his second exhibition outing. Estrada pitched two innings against the A's on Thursday and allowed two runs on two hits and two walks, recording one strikeout.
Estrada kept the ball in the ballpark against the A's, a small victory for a pitcher who has allowed more than one home run per nine innings in each of his six MLB seasons. If Estrada pitches 30 innings in the majors this season, he'll likely become one of just seven pitchers in franchise history to throw over 400 innings while allowing more than 1.2 homers per nine innings. Here are the others:
Estrada faced the Cubs three times in 2013 and was very good against them, posting a 3.60 ERA over 20 innings with just four walks and 17 strikeouts. Four current Cubs have faced him ten times or more:
He'll face 24-year-old lefty Eric Jokisch (spring debut, did not pitch in majors in 2013) in his Cactus League debut. Jokisch was the Cubs' eleventh round pick in the 2010 draft and spent last season with AA Tennessee, where he made 27 appearances (26 starts) and posted a 3.42 ERA over 160.2 innings.
I'm still away from home, so I don't have access to the prospect books I'd usually use to offer a scouting report on a minor league pitcher. All I know about Jokisch at this point is that John Sickels of Minor League Ball listed him as an Honorable Mention on his list of the top 20 prospects in the Cubs organization.
Jokisch has, of course, never faced the Brewers in the majors. He did, however, face the Brewers' AA affiliate in Huntsville three times last season and posted a 4.71 ERA over 17.2 innings of work.
As of this writing I haven't seen the Brewers' Monday lineup. If you have, please drop it in the comments.
Expect another beautiful day for baseball in the desert on Monday. It looks like the game time temperature will be in the low 70's with light winds out of the north.