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Shota Imanaga showed some striking things in his spring debut

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Shota Imanaga scored in his Cactus League debut for the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.

Don’t allow a home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The course of events for the Japanese leftist did not turn out as he had hoped; He gave up a three-run home run to Andy Pages in the second inning on a 93 mph fastball. However, Imanaga managed to strike out the next three batters before walking a batter in the third. That inning also ended with a strikeout capping his 2 1/3-inning start in front of 12,134 fans at Camelback Ranch.

“Even though (the home run) happened, it was a good learning experience trying to figure out how that could have been a single to left field,” Imanaga said through interpreter Edwin Stanberry. “It was an 0-1 home run and I should have thrown the fastball a little higher.

“I’d like to work on throwing it higher in the zone or missing it lower; even if it’s a lower pitch, that would be a little bit better.”

He didn’t show off his entire repertoire Saturday, but he plans to include it all so opposing hitters know he can make more than one shot. Imanaga finished with five hits, three by lefties, including Freddie Freeman, who threw a 94 mph fastball in the second of the first inning.

“I felt better sinking the lefties and getting ahead in the count,” Imanaga said.

Imanaga’s game began with a clock violation and he struck out the first batter of the game, striking out Miguel Rojas to fall behind 1-0. This was his first playing experience where he had to pay attention to the clock behind the plate.

“I would like to understand the field clock a little better,” Imanaga said. “What they call a breach today is a good learning experience. But I want to start using it to my advantage.”

Imanaga wasn’t sure if his next start would be on a five- or six-day schedule. In the meantime, he wants to focus on his recovery and figure out how he can best do that as he continues to improve.

Photos: An inside look at the Cubs’ spring training

Manager Craig Counsell wasn’t expecting to see anything special from Imanaga’s first start, he just wanted him to come out of the game healthy. Counsell advised the team and Imanaga to be patient as they observe the trip.

“I’m not really interested in (his stuff) today, if that makes sense. I’m really not,” Counsell said. “I’m really interested in him going out there and having fun, throwing two innings, coming off the mound, being good and moving on to the next time. That’s really what needs to happen today.

“He’s got enough going on that it doesn’t need to be a big evaluation day. It’s not really like that.

Ian Happ was out of action due to injury

A mild left hamstring strain will keep the left fielder out of Cactus League play for the foreseeable future after suffering the injury on Thursday.

The Cubs are optimistic he will have enough time to be ready for opening day, but Counsell said Happ will need to play in spring games if he wants to avoid starting the season on the injured list.

“This spring training, I think that probably leads us to be conservative regardless of injury,” Counsell said. “The most important thing is that we hit enough before opening day that Ian feels like he’s in a good spot offensively. And we’ll be in a good spot to do that.”

First baseman Garrett Cooper, whose minor league deal and invitation to big league camp became official Saturday, and Dom Smith will make their first spring appearances Monday. Patrick Wisdom (right quad) is expected to return to the lineup on Tuesday.

Cooper gives the Cubs another option with depth and big league experience. Counsell acknowledged Cooper joined a crowded group at first base that included Matt Mervis, who hit a solo home run over the 400-foot center field wall on Saturday. Cooper appeared in 481 games over seven major league seasons, primarily with the Miami Marlins, hitting .269 with a .338 on-base percentage.

“But you can see something happen and then a lot of things make sense, right?” Counsell said. “So I think there is some protection for us. “We will give Garrett the opportunity to show us what he can do.”

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