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)

SS Gleyber Torres - E-6 (two-base throwing error allowed batter to reach 2nd base safely)


WEATHER: Sunny with temperatures in the 80's



gawd...jed and theo both watching j.hoffman (ECU).

please let the cubs find another interest. he's pitched vs rather inferior teams given his talent and he still can't get his control stable (including wild pitches beyond the walks). he gets hit too much even if it's less than a hit per inning.

yes, he had a good showing last summer, but given that almost everyone but him on the college level had a mediocre showing it's not he had much competition to compare to there.

a guy with his stuff playing vs weaker talent than his college "top pick" peers should be getting better results even if the results he's getting don't suck ass.

great talent, yeah...top half of 1st round guy, yeah...but top 4? meh.

McLeod's in Texas tonight watching Kolek.

i have no doubt they're just doing due diligence with scouting...not specifically targeting anyone this early.

i imagine the reason they're in g-ville, NC watching hoffman is because rondon is going to be pitching in raleigh, NC tomorrow and they can watch 2 high profile draft targets in 1 trip.

...i just hope hoffman is a bit lower on the cubs wish list than a lot of other names out there.

Although East Carolina righthander Jeff Hoffman possesses electric stuff—some of the best stuff in the class with three potentially plus pitches—evaluators have expressed their concerns about his performance in recent weeks, given the range where his stuff makes him likely to be drafted. Hoffman, who entered the season with a career strikeout rate of 6.8 per-nine, has increased his strikeout rate to 8.5 per-nine with a strikeout-walk ratio of 2.9.

His numbers remain below the historical performance standards for college pitchers drafted in the top 10. The 15 college pitchers drafted in the top 10 from 2009-2013 averaged 10.1 strikeouts per-nine, with the range spanning from 13.9 (Stephen Strasburg) to 8.4 (Mike Leake). Hoffman’s career rate is 7.2, which is 14 percent below the lowest rate in that group, Leake’s 8.4. His career walk rate of 2.9 per-nine is 19 percent higher than the group’s median (2.47). His strikeout-walk ratio (2.47) is the second-lowest in the group, which averaged 3.80.

But as one evaluator said recently “the stuff is the stuff.”

...not only that, but ECU doesn't exactly play a top-tier NCAA college baseball schedule. given his stuff, one would expect some better than average #s, not worse than average numbers compared to other top tier guys...both current and historical.

he's got 8 WP in 59.1ip this year...he had 9 WP last year in 109.2ip. sure a better catcher can turn some WPs into blocks/catches, but that's still a lot of missing his target.

Mooney with some really telling quotes from Samardzija.

“When you’re hitting your prime and you’re hitting free agency — like it’s supposed to be done — then that’s the way it sets up for guys behind you,” Samardzija said. “I definitely have a responsibility to the players that are younger than me and approaching arbitration or approaching free agency to keep the numbers where they should be.

“And rising as they should be, in accordance to the economy and the state of the game. That’s more important than anything else — what you owe the players that did it for you and then the players behind you.”

He's obviously been talking to an agent... :)

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