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