It was caviar, champagne, wheat toast, and strawberry marmalade for breakfast, as the Iowa Cubs and Salt Lake Bees (LAA) met at Fitch Park Field #3 in what is the final ST game for both AAA clubs before they leave Arizona.
A Throng of Three (including your ol' pal Arizona Phil, who had nothing better to do) was on hand when the first pitch was thrown at 9 AM (MST), with Rich Hill (CUBS) facing Jered Weaver (LAA). It was the final tune-up for Hill before his first scheduled start next Friday at Milwaukee, while Weaver is trying to increase his pitch count and innings while recovering from biceps tendinitis.
First the Good News
: Rich Hill pitched today.
Now, the Bad News
While Jered Weaver (who is on the 15 day DL) threw his four innings and (about) sixty pitches as the Angels had hoped, Rich Hill lasted only one inning (13 pitches) before being shut-down with a recurrence of the left index-finger blister that his troubled him for about ten days. Hill told a fan as he was leaving the premises that he expects to make his scheduled start next Friday, but if I'm the Cubs, I'd have Wade Miller ready earlier than planned and/or Angel Guzman fully available, in case Hill either can't start, or can't pitch more than a couple of innings.
Hill's one inning was a pretty good one, though, as he struck out the lead-off man on three pitches (called-strike fastball, foul, and called-strike curve), gave up a first-pitch ground single to center to the #2 hitter, got the #3 hitter on a second-pitch perfect DP grounder to short that was turned into just a 6-4 FC by a slight mix-up between the I-Cubs SS and 2B, and a seven-pitch AB to his final hitter that ended with a line-drive to right-center (and fine running catch by Felix Pie!) on a 3-2 pitch.
Weaver had a good outing for Salt Lake, too, allowing just three hits, a lead-off single + stolen base in the 2nd inning by Felix Pie, and a triple by Angel Pagan and an RBI single by Eric Patterson to start the 4th, in his four innings, one run (earned), no walks, and four K. The Cubs almost scored a second run in the fourth, but E-Pat (who stole second and then third after his RBI single) was thrown out trying to score on a one-out Micah Hoffpauir pop fly to medium-deep LF. BTW, later in the game, Pagan had a double, and E-Pat drew a walk.
Just back from Vegas (where he was one of several Cubs minor leaguers brought along to add additional roster depth), LHP Carmen Pignatiello worked three shutout innings, allowing two hits (both singles) and striking out two.
Trying to get stretched-out so he can be a rotation starter at Iowa (if needed), LHP Les Walrond worked four innings and threw about 60-70 pitches. He had a terrible first inning (three runs on four hits), but then settled down and pitched shutout ball in his last three innings (6-7-8). RHP John Webb worked a 1-2-3 9th.
It appears that the reason veteran AAA guys like John Webb, Ben Howard, and Hector Almonte are still around is because it's possible that Sean Marshall (still trying to increase his pitch count after suffering from a sore shoulder earlier in ST), Roberto Novoa (shoulder), and Ryan O'Maley (groin, I think) might start the season on the Iowa DL. But Mark Prior was on the Iowa Cubs bench today, like a good employee should be.
Today's I-Cubs starting lineup and batting order went like this:
1. Angel Pagan, CF
2. Eric Patterson, 2B
3. Felix Pie, RF
4. Micah Hoffpauir, LF
5. Koyie Hill, C
6. Scott Moore, 3B
7. Casey McGehee, 1B
8. Carlos Rojas, SS
9. Rich Hill, P
Midway through the game, Hoffpauir, McGehee, and Moore played "musical chairs," as Hoffpauir moved from LF to 1B, McGehee moved from 1B to 3B, and Moore moved from 3B to LF. While out in LF, Hoffpauir made a fine running back-handed catch in left-centerfield with his back to the infield. Angel Pagan also made a fine running catch in CF, while Felix Pie made two fine grabs in RF, one the running catch to end the 1st inning, and the other a shoe-string catch to end the 3rd.
Mike Fontenot (2B-3B), Albenis Machado (SS-2B), Chris Walker (4th OF), and Geovany Soto (normally the #1 catcher) were on the Iowa bench, while OF Josh Kroeger (ex-AZ) has been demoted to AA Tennessee (where there is a shortage of outfielders due to Sam Fuld, Ryan Harvey, and Chris Amador all being on the DL at the same time). It would appear that OF Val Pascucci (ex-MON, who played in Japan in '05 and '06) and veteran MLB INF Tomas Perez (who was in the big league camp as an NRI) have been released.
The Iowa Cubs open their 2007 season at Round Rock (HOU AAA) on Thursday night.