MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Eric Stults pitched effectively into the sixth inning and Tommy Medica hit a two-run homer off Carlos Villanueva, sending the San Diego Padres to a 7-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Monday night.
Stults gave up a leadoff triple to Emilio Bonifacio, who scored on a groundout, and allowed two more runners in the first inning but avoided further damage. The left-hander settled down from there, yielding five hits in 5 2-3 innings with one walk and three strikeouts.
“The last two starts he has thrown the ball well,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “The first part of spring he didn’t feel real comfortable with his release point and he wasn’t finishing his pitches. He wasn’t quite getting out over his right side, but I think he cleaned that up in a couple of bullpen sessions and took it out to the game.”
Medica, a first baseman, continued his push for a roster spot with his third home run, which broke a 1-all tie in the fourth. Medica is hitting .349 and leads the team in hits (22), runs (10) and homers.
Seth Smith and Everth Cabrera both had two hits for the Padres
Villanueva gave up three runs on three hits and three walks in four innings. He struck out three.
“I feel good and can’t wait to get this thing started,” he said. “At this stage in my career, I feel ready for the season.”
Bonifacio and Welington Castillo, who doubled in the sixth, had the only extra-base hits for the Cubs before a crowd of 15,126 at their new spring training ballpark.
Padres: Projected as San Diego’s fourth starter, Stults also got out of a jam in the third after allowing singles to Donnie Murphy and Anthony Rizzo with one out.
“That’s his trademark, his steadiness and consistency,” Black said. “We need that out of him again. Last year he threw over 200 innings and it would be fantastic if he did that again.”
Cubs: Villanueva hasn’t been told yet if he’ll be a starter or a reliever. He has 18 strikeouts in 15 2-3 innings this spring, but his ERA is a lofty 6.35.
“My stuff is crisp,” he said. “I feel if I get a guy to two strikes right now that I’m getting to the point where I am confident that I am going to get him out.”
Padres: Outfielder Chris Denorfia, sidelined with a sore right shoulder since Thursday, is expected to return to game action this week, Black said.
Cubs: Shortstop Starlin Castro came through a minor league game without any setbacks. He reacted to all the balls in play – although he didn’t have any hit to him – without any discomfort. Castro also had an RBI single and ran the bases hard without a problem.
It was a nice result on his 24th birthday as he continues to prepare for next Monday’s season opener in Pittsburgh.
“I feel great, really good,” said Castro, sidelined since he strained his right hamstring on March 2. “I tried to do all the moving, and I feel pretty good.”
Junior Lake needed a confidence boost. A three-homer game, like the one he had Sunday against Oakland, will do just that.
Lake, who asked for more at-bats in minor league games, was struggling this spring to show the promise he displayed in his first taste of the big leagues last year, when the outfielder batted .284 with six home runs and 16 RBIs in 64 games.
“I work every day to be prepared,” said Lake, hitting .250 with three home runs and nine RBIs this spring. “I’ve been seeing more pitches (in minor league games) and it helped me get ready.”