The Mesa Solar Sox played their AFL home opener tonight at HoHoKam Park in Mesa. No wind, and cool temps. A couple of hundred fans and a couple of hundred scouts. A very pleasant evening.
After getting shoutout 3-0 in their AFL opener yesterday afternoon at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the Mesa Solar Sox turned the tables on the Dogs with a 3-0 whitewash of their own tonight.
For those of you not familiar with the AFL, it is a post-season developmental league (roughly AA+) sponsored by MLB that is designed to provide added experience for AA and AAA players who are considered potential MLB players.
There are six teams in the AFL, and each team receives seven players from five MLB clubs. The teams providing players to each team varies from year-to-year. This season, the Mesa Solar Sox received players from the Cubs, the Houston Astros, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Minnesota Twins, and the New York Mets. The Cubs also are providing the Solar Sox manager this time around, and that would be 2006 AA West Tenn skipper Pat Listach
. Players wear the home (or road) uniforms from their parent MLB club and a Solar Sox cap.
The Cubs players assigned to the Solar Sox this year are RHPs Adam Harben
(acquired from MIN in the Phil Nevin
deal) and Lincoln Holdzkom, LHPs Carmen Pignatiello
and Clay Rapada, 2B Eric Patterson, INF Scott Moore, and C-OF Jake Fox. (Harben started yesterday's game and was the loser, giving up just a solo home run in two innings of work).
Six of the seven players assigned to the Solar Sox from each of its MLB clubs are on the regular 30-man roster, and one position player from each of the five MLB clubs is assigned to the five-man "Taxi Squad." Players assigned to the Taxi Squad are only eligible to play on Opening Day, all Wednesdays, and all Saturdays, but they also provide a cadre of players available to replace an injured position player from 30-man roster.
Although the Taxi Squad has not yet been announced, it is likely that Scott Moore is the Cubs Taxi Squad representative. And there is already an injured player on the Solar Sox who will probably need to be replaced, that being #1 SS Chin-Lung Hu
(LAD), who suffered what appeared to be a broken finger or hand after being hit by a pitch in the 5th inning.
As for tonight's game, I won't go into great detail about what happened, but I will mention how each of the Cubs players performed.
was the only Cub player in the starting lineup, hitting 2nd and playing 2B. He grounded out to the right side of the infield in his first two ABs (he is mostly a pull hitter), then reached on a nifty bunt single down the third-base line in his 3rd AB, eventually coming around to score on FC, barely beating the throw home from the Phoenix third-baseman with a daring head-first slide. In his 4th AB, Patterson popped another bunt to the pitcher.
For those of you not familiar with the younger Patterson, he is bit taller than his older brother, but doesn't have Corey's power. E-Pat is more of a "small ball"-type, a slap hitter who doesn't elevate the ball that much, and a guy who likes to bunt a lot. Basically, he is the type of hitter the Cubs and a lot of Cubs fans always wanted Corey to be.
came into the game in relief in the 6th, and made quick work of the Dogs 1-2-3. Radar guns behind home plate showed him consistently throwing 94, and he had the best slider of any of the pitchers (on either team) I saw pitch tonight.
Holdzkom was one of the pitchers acquired from the Marlins in the Todd Wellemeyer
deal at the end of Spring Training, and the only time previous I had seen him pitch was when he was on a DL rehab at AZL Mesa in July. He was throwing pretty hard then, but his breaking ball tonight was miles ahead of what he was throwing three months ago. A wicked, wicked slider. With his leg-kick and similar physique, he reminds me of Rob Dibble
Holdzkom had been the Marlins top closer prospect in 2003, and had even been added to their 40-man roster. Then he suffered a torn ligament in his elbow in '04, underwent Tommy John ligament transplant surgery, and was shuffled to the back of the deck. He looks VERY healthy now, though, and I would say he is a strong candidate to be added to the Cubs 40-man roster by the November 20th deadline. He looks like he could be a first-class MLB relief-pitcher (middle relief, set-up, or closer). I think the Cubs might have made out OK, exchanging Wellemeyer (who was out of minor league options) for Holdzkom.
came into the game with one out in the 8th to face a couple of left-handed hitters. He walked the first one, but then picked him off. Then he struck out the second hitter to end the inning. For those of you who have never seen Rapada, he is a Mike Myers
clone, a side-slingin' southpaw who is murder on left-handed hitters. He is another strong candidate to be added to the 40-man roster by November 20.
(at catcher) and Scott Moore
(at 1B) came into the game in the middle innings, and each got one AB. Fox struck out on a slider, and Moore smoked an RBI double into the left-center alley. Most of you have seen Moore, because he was recalled by the Cubs and got to play a bit (mainly 1B and PH) over the last few weeks of the 2006 season. I would project Moore as a future Geoff-Blum
-type 3B-1B-LF-RF lefty bat off the bench, although I guess he could be an everyday MLB 3B on the right team.
Fox was Rich Hill's battery-mate at the University of Michigan. He has struggled with his catching mechanics (receiving skills) and still has a long way to go in that area, but he has an OK arm and at bat he has plus-power. I don't know if he ever will improve enough to be an everyday catcher. Right now, he looks like the kind of guy who will maybe eventually morph into a LF-RF bench guy with power who can also catch.