Pierce Johnson Wows 'em at Riverview, But A's Rally to Edge Cubs
Vicmal de la Cruz ripped a two-run double as the Athletics rallied for two runs in the top of the 7th inning and edged the Cubs 2-1 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning on Field #6 at the Under Armour Performance Center at Riverview Park in Mesa, AZ.
RHP Pierce Johnson (hamstring rehab) got the start for the Cubs and threw five shutout innings (75 pitches - 48 strikes), allowing three hits (all three singles) and a walk while striking out seven. Johnson's fastball velocity was clocked as high as 97 in the 2nd inning and his killer-slider was virtually unhittable, but he did struggle to throw his change-up for strikes. Johnson retired ten A's in a row at one point over innings 1-2-3-4, striking out five of the six batters he faced in the 2nd & 3rd innings.
After he left the game, Johnson went out to the LF bullpen and threw another 15 pitches, so he's definitely stretched-out. It would appear that his rehab is complete (although it actually appeared that way last Saturday, too), but it's very possible that Johnson's move to the AA Tennessee starting rotation is related directly to Jake Arrieta completing his Minor League Rehab Assignment at Tennessee this weekend.
No question Johnson has been impressive in his two Cactus League EXST game starts, allowing just one unearned run, seven hits, and one walk in 10.0 IP, while striking out 15 and throwing 71% of his pitches for strikes.
Veteran RHSP Joel Pineiro followed Johnson to the mound (just like he did last Saturday) and worked the final four innings (66 pitches - 43 strikes), allowing two runs on three hits (two singles and a two-run double) and two walks. He only struck out two (his fastball velocity is 87-88), but once again he was able to induce lots of ground balls (7/2 GO/FO). Pineiro probably needs just one more EXST start before he'll be ready to move up to AAA Iowa (presuming the Cubs are happy with what they have seen from him).
The game was called after 7-1/2 innings because the A's ran out of pitchers, but the A's batted in the top of the 9th even though the Cubs did not bat in the bottom of the 8th or 9th innings so that Pineiro could get his scheduled work.
Prior to the game RHP Josh Conway (2013 elbow stress fracture) and RHP Hector Perez threw a two-inning "live" BP session (40 pitches thrown by each pitcher - 20 pitches thrown each "inning") on Field #5, with Jorge Soler (hamstring rehab), Ricardo Marcano, and Shamil Ubiera the three hitters. Soler was swinging freely and without any visible discomfort, although he still is not participating in outfield or baserunning drills.
Here is the abridged box score from today's game (Cubs players only):
1. Rashad Crawford, CF: 0-2 (4-3, BB, BB, K)
2. Charcer Burks, LF: 1-3 (BB, 1B, 5-4 FC, F-9, CS)
3. Justin Marra, 1B: 1-3 (2B, K, F-7)
4. Eloy Jimenez, DH: 0-3 (F-9, 5-4 FC, K)
5. Varonex Cuevas, 2B: 0-2 (BB, 5-3, K, R)
6. Gleyber Torres, SS: 1-3 (3-U, F-8, 1B)
7. Arnaldo Calero, RF: 0-2 (F-7 SF, F-9, 6-3, RBI)
8. Alberto Mineo, C: 1-2 (1B, BB, F-8)
9. Jesse Hodges, 3B: 1-3 (K, P-6, 2B)
1. Pierce Johnson: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K, 2/6 GO/FO, 75 pitches (48 strikes)
2. Joel Pineiro: 4.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R (2 ER), 2 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 1 PO, 7/2 GO/FO, 66 pitches (43 strikes)
CUBS ERRORS: 1
SS Gleyber Torres - E-6 (two-base throwing error allowed batter to reach 2nd base safely)
WEATHER: Sunny with temperatures in the 80's
if they dont win at least 130 games this season they can pack it all up, turn wrigley into a concert venue, and move the damn team to san jose.
I see where catcher Cael Brockmeyer was promoted to Tennessee a couple of days ago, to fill a roster spot vacated by David Freitas, recently promoted to Iowa. Caratini is the other catcher at Tennessee.
They've already clinched a minimum winning percentage of .607 for the month, and that's only if they lose the last 2 games. If they win both, they can push that up to .679. So much for "stumbling" in May. When you're winning over 60% of your games, you're doing baseball well.
If the best walk-off hit possible is a solo home run in a zero-zero game--Eloy did it tonight!
(But maybe it's a grand slam when your team is down three? He didn't do that.)
Number eight for Jimenez. His team is 31-17. Yesterday they scored 17 runs against Lansing. Two weeks ago it was 15 runs against the same team. This is a nice team, South Bend. The Cubs must have had a good draft last year.
Tonight the pitchers were Sands, Brooks and Effross.
He'll be fine. He's not some wimpy young pup.
In all seriousness the Cubs have the fewest amount of games played in the NL which means they're gonna be facing quite the grind later on including 24 games in a row at the end of June and beginning of July so I hope he does get a few days off.
Meh. He only got one hit today. Maybe give him a rest?
Good thing the Cubs have five left-handed batters in the lineup. Velasquez is just tearing thru the righties [edit - doesn't seem to faze Bryant!]
ben zobrist gets to ride up front tonight cause he's a good guy at sports.
cubs with a 5 run lead and a lackey shutout through 3ip \m/
HAGSAG: I have not seen Joe Nathan out on the field, but he is supposedly at the UAPC.
ERIC S: Best outing I've ever seen from Manny Rondon, and I've seen most of his outings since the Cubs got him from the Angels.
M. Rondon is competing with six others (Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, Jose Paulino, Pedro Silverio, Jesus Castillo, and Erling Moreno) for a starting slot at Eugene, and (as you can probably tell from the EXST box scores) the competition has gotten fierce over the last couple of weeks, With the exception of Moreno, the Eugene SP candidates have upped their game lately, and M. Rondon's outing yesterday was especially impressive/dominating.
E-MAN: Pierce Johnsion was mixing a 92-94 MPH fastball with a plus-change-up AND curve, and he threw strike-after-strike-after-strike with all three of his pitches. I believe that was the best command and pitch-efficiency I've ever seen from Johnson, who often pitches from behind in the count and issues too many walks.
Of course now he has to avoid a recurrence of the lat strain (whch he has had previously in his career) as well as all of the other miscellaneous physical problems he's had over the last three years (hamstring, quad, back, etc).
PHIL: Any movement on P. Johnsons pitches? What was his "out" pitch? I know he was working on a 4th pitch, so wondering what he is looking like these days. Thanks.
AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.