SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Braden Looper's only brush with baseball last year came when he coached his son's Little League team.
On Sunday, he took his first step toward making the Cubs' rotation this season, pitching into the fourth inning as a Chicago split-squad beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-5.
Out of baseball last year after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus after the 2009 season, Looper struck out two in 3 2-3 innings, allowing a run on five hits. He made relief appearances against the Rangers and Rockies before this start.
``This was a good outing because I concentrated on certain things,' Looper said. ``I worked out of the stretch more than in previous times, and I got that done. I'm progressing and ready to go.'
Right now, Looper is locked in a seven way competition for the final two starting spots in the Cubs' rotation with James Russell, Andrew Cashner, Carlos Silva, Todd Wellenmeyer, Casey Coleman, and Randy Wells.
``Overall, he did a nice job,' said Pat Listach, who guided the Cubs because manager Mike Quade took a spilt-squad to Las Vegas for a game with the Dodgers. ``We wanted to get his pitch count up and that was successful. With an outing like this, he continues to be a strong candidate for an open spot.'
Looper also helped his cause by going 2 for 2, including a RBI double in the fourth inning.
Ryan Roberts is trying for a spot on the Diamondbacks' roster. Entering Sunday, Roberts was hitting .577. He picked up his fourth RBI of the spring when he scored Russell Branyan with a second-inning single.
But Roberts, filling in for Melvin Mora at third base, made a two-out error in the third inning that allowed Chicago to take a 2-1 lead.
The Diamondbacks committed three errors overall, catching the attention of manager Kirk Gibson.
``We simply can't play that way,' Gibson said. ``Way too many errors. Look, we're here to find things out, but right now, it's terrible.'
The Cubs' Carlos Pena slammed his second homer of the spring off Arizona starter Daniel Hudson in the fourth. Brandon Allen, competing for the Diamondbacks' first base job, homered off Chicago reliever Jay Jackson, with none on, also in the fourth.
NOTES Looper's last appeared in a major league game was on Oct. 2, 2009, for the Brewers at St. Louis. The Diamondbacks lost left-handed pitcher Zach Duke for at least a month. Duke's pitching hand was broken March 12 when he was hit by a line drive off the bat of the Rockies' Charlie Blackmon in the second inning. Prior to Arizona's game with the Cubs Sunday, Gibson told reporters, ``we have depth, and when he comes back, he still will be effective for us.'
The Associated Press News Service
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