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Japan tragedy overshadows Cubs-Sox rivalry

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

MESA, Ariz. — The Cubs-White Sox matchup Friday afternoon took a back seat to news of the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Coverage of the disaster blared from the TV in the Cubs’ clubhouse Friday morning, and the players eventually gathered to watch some of the most dramatic images.

At one point, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry checked on Japan native Kosuke Fukudome, who periodically used his bat handle to point at and tap on the TV screen. He spoke in Japanese to his translator, Hiro Aoyama, to make sure his family was OK back home.

Through Aoyama, Fukudome said he was able to reach his brother, who was fine. Fukudome couldn’t reach his parents through busy phone lines, but he presumed they, too, were fine because they live in the southern part of the country, far from the worst damage.

Fukudome’s wife and son already are in the States for the season.

‘‘The game has become international, and all of a sudden these things happen all over the world, be it the Dominican or Japan or wherever,’’ manager Mike Quade said. ‘‘You get to the ballpark, and the first thing you’re asking is, ‘Are your people in Tokyo or wherever OK?’

‘‘Fortunately, Fuke and the translator and everybody else have been able to get to their people, and, so far, everything was OK over there.’’

On the minds of several players was former teammate Micah Hoffpauir, who left the organization over the winter to play in Japan.

‘‘That’s the first thing I thought of,’’ said pitcher Jeff Stevens, who learned through a mutual friend that Hoffpauir was 300 miles from the quake and out of harm’s way.

Silva on the spot

With Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner pitching increasingly well this spring, each start Carlos Silva makes — starting today — takes on greater importance to his chances not only of making the rotation, but also for his roster status.

‘‘You can’t put numbers on this thing, but I’d like to see [Silva] pitch better [today],’’ Quade said of the $11.5 million pitcher who has been shelled for 11 earned runs in three innings this spring. ‘‘For his own peace of mind, he knows what he’s capable of, but it’d be good to put something together.’’

There’s also the little matter of winning a job.

‘‘We’ve still got lots of time here, but lots of time diminishes . . . after the off day [Wednesday], lots of time is about two weeks,’’ said Quade, who adds that one or two strong outings could be enough to judge a veteran such as Silva. ‘‘I’m not ready, by any means, to have harsh criticism or to be overly enthused with anybody. I’m thrilled to death with a lot of stuff I see, but let’s just keep it rolling.’’


The Cubs made their first two cuts of the spring, optioning righty Esmailin Caridad and lefty John Gaub to Class AAA Iowa.

◆ Pitching prospect Marcos Mateo left the team after the death of his mother. He’s expected back Monday.

◆ Lefty John Grabow, sidelined in recent days with a sore shoulder, is expected to throw on the side today, with a possible return to a game coming by Tuesday.

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