The scene was perfectly set.
Cincinnati ace Johnny Cueto matched up with Cubs opening day starter Jeff Samardzija on a warm evening in front of a packed house.
The only thing was, it didn't count.
Next time they each take the mound, it will.
Both pitchers were in regular-season form Tuesday night as Cueto threw six shutout innings in his best outing this spring and Todd Frazier homered for the Reds in an 11-1 victory.
Cueto struck out five and walked one. Samardzija also was on point, giving up one run and five hits in five innings while striking out five.
"It was a good atmosphere, a good primer for the regular season," said Samardzija, a Valpo High and Notre Dame grad. "I've known Johnny for a long time, and it helps raise the overall competitiveness when the other guy is pitching well. I'm glad the final spring outing went well. I think I can speak for all of us when I say it's been a long spring. We can't wait to get out of here and start the regular season."
Cueto, too, declared himself ready to go. His performance was a stark contrast to his previous one, when he gave up five runs, two walks and couldn't get out of the second inning.
The right-hander was sharp against the Cubs, using precise fastball location to carry him through.
"Everything went as it should," Cueto said through translator Ron Ortegon, the Reds' assistant hitting coach. "It was nice to move beyond the last start and finish my spring on a good note. I'm excited for opening day."
Cueto's opening day assignment was earned with a strong 2012 season. He went 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA in 217 innings.
Samardzija is stepping into a No. 1 role for the first time. He was 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA on a terrible team in his first full major league season as a starter. He earned his opening day start with a strong spring that flashed his vast potential.
"Jeff has been real good for us, and I think he's ready to be the workhorse we need him to be," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said before the game. "He's made good use of his starts and at this point he's ready for opening day."
Samardzija cruised through most of the Reds' lineup, but had some trouble with Cueto in the third. The pitcher hit a line-drive single and scored on a double by Emmanuel Burriss.
Frazier went deep in the seventh, but the game was close until Cincinnati scored nine times in the ninth inning.
Cubs closer Carlos Marmol had his worst outing of the spring and was booed by the home crowd at HoHoKam Stadium. He gave up six runs (four earned) on four hits and a walk without getting an out, snapping his scoreless streak at 6 2-3 innings.
White Sox 5, Indians 4: Daisuke Matsuzaka made his final Cactus League start of the spring, working 5 1/3 strong innings in the Indians' loss to the White Sox on Wednesday.
Matsuzaka, who allowed two runs on five hits, will report to Triple-A Columbus when the Indians break camp. The Japanese right-hander is working his way back to the majors after undergoing Tommy John surgery last June.
He opened with four scoreless innings before Chicago scored two runs in the fifth on Gordon Beckham's RBI single to left and Alejandro De Aza's bunt single between Matsuzaka and first base that scored Dewayne Wise. Three of the five hits allowed by Matsuzaka were out of the infield.
Angel Sanchez hit a two-run homer to tie it in the eighth for the White Sox, who scored a run in the ninth on Steve Tolleson's bases-loaded walk for the win.
Forbes values Yankees at $2.3 billion: Forbes estimated the New York Yankees have the highest value in Major League Baseball for the 16th straight year at $2.3 billion, and the average for an MLB team increased by 23 percent in the last year to $744 million.
The magazine said Wednesday the Yankees' value increased from $1.85 billion last year.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are second in MLB at $1.62 billion — nearly $400 million below the price paid for the team last May when a group headed by Mark Walter, Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson bought the franchise from Frank McCourt.
Forbes valued Boston third at $1.3 billion, followed by the Chicago Cubs ($1 billion), Philadelphia ($893 million), the New York Mets ($811 million), San Francisco ($786 million), Texas ($764 million), the Los Angeles Angels ($718 million) and St. Louis ($716 million).
The bottom five are Tampa Bay ($451 million), Kansas City ($457 million), Oakland ($468 million), Pittsburgh ($479 million) and Miami ($520 million).