Arizona is the Cubs' home away from home.
They've trained there during the spring forever. And by a scheduling quirk, they're making their second regular-season visit to Phoenix this weekend for a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Cubs fell 8-3 to the Diamondbacks, dropping their record to 59-98.
Spring training seems an eternity ago. Looking back, there are a few "who'd have thought" items that jump out.
For example, who'd have thought Travis Wood would become the de facto ace of the pitching staff at the end of September?
Wood failed to make the rotation out of spring training and started the season at Class AAA Iowa, and it took him two tries to make it back up for good. He didn't look like much of an ace Friday, giving up 5 hits and 5 runs, including 2 home runs, in 5 innings.
And who'd have thought second baseman Darwin Barney would be the front-runner for the Gold Glove award in the National League?
Barney entered Friday with 141 consecutive errorless games at second base, but that streak came to an end in the eighth inning when he made a throwing error after backhanding a single by Justin Upton and throwing the ball away.
Already the holder of the National League record for consecutive errorless games at second base, Barney shares the major-league record with Placido Polanco, who set it with Detroit in 2007.
Friday's error was his first since April 17.
"It goes without saying he's Gold Glove material," Cubs manager Dale Sveum told reporters before Friday's game.
Sveum then ticked off for reporters why he thinks Barney has been so good, and deserving of the Gold Glove.
"He puts everything into the package, going for popups down the right-field line, double plays, the range," Sveum said. "He has so many different things in his toolbox. It's not just a guy catching the ball, routine balls. He's been spectacular all season."
As for left-hander Wood, he fell into the No. 1 slot of the rotation gradually. First, the Cubs traded pitchers Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm. They then put Matt Garza on the disabled list with an elbow injury before shutting down Jeff Samardzija because of his innings count.
Wood entered the game 6-12 with a 4.23 ERA, but he was 2-3 with a 2.86 ERA over his previous 7 starts.
As for things being different with the Cubs from spring training, that's to be expected, with the new management team having begun a rebuilding process.
"We were talking about that the other day in the coaches room, how everything has changed so much," Sveum said. "Going into it, we had a feeling it could change a lot, so it wasn't something we weren't prepared for, or something we didn't know could happen. It's just part of baseball sometimes."