Of Mice and Mesa

For some, it's Christmas. For others, it's Thanksgiving or the 4th of July. Or Arbor Day, maybe. But for a certain "special" few, it's the home opener for the AFL's Mesa Solar Sox. And for us, tonight was the night. Like the other six AFL teams, the Solar Sox are an amalgam of six MLB clubs. The six teams vary from year-to-year (last year the Solar Sox consisted of players from the CUBS, HOU, LAD, MIN, and NYM), but the Cubs are always the "host" team, because the Solar Sox play at HoHoKam Park, Spring Training home of your Chicago Cubs. This year, the Solar Sox consist of 35 players, seven players each from the CUBS, BOS, HOU, MIL, and STL. The seven Cubs players who are assigned to the Solar Sox are RHPs Matt Avery, Justin Berg, Sean Gallagher, and Rocky Roquet, SS Joe Simokaitis, 3B Josh Lansford, and OF Sam Fuld. And tonight was one of those rare AFL games where ALL SEVEN Cubs players got into the game! Facing the Phoenix Desert Dogs (CHW, BAL, MIN, OAK, and PIT), Sam Fuld led off for the Solar Sox and played RF. He drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch in his first AB in the bottom of the 1st, but was thrown out trying to steal. In his 2nd AB, he bounced out to the first-baseman (unassisted) on a 3-1 pitch. He also made a nice running catch into the RF corner, before being replaced by a PH in the 6th inning. Josh Lansford started at 3B and hit 3rd in the order. In his two ABs before being replaced, he swung at the first pitch and grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP the first time, and then grounded out 6-3 with a runner at 2nd base and one out in his second AB. Joe Simokaitis hit 8th and played SS. He played the entire game and went 0-3, including a strikeout (swinging) on a 2-2 pitch, a bounce-out to third, and swinging bunt dribbler where he was thrown out 2-3. He also made several nice plays at short (a leaping catch, a backhanded stop and 6-4 FC throw from deep in the hole, and a strong throw to catch a batter running to first on a slow dribbler 6-3). Sean Gallagher entered the game in the top of the 4th and worked one inning (10 pitches). He got the first batter he faced (Nyjer Morgan of PIT) on a line drive to Simokaitis (that was the nice leaping catch), and then struck out the last two hitters (Nolan Reimold of BAL and Chris Getz of CHW) in the inning on just seven pitches. His curve looked great (he threw it five times, and it was a strike each time), and his fastball topped out at 94. An impressive (albeit short) performance for Gallagher. The MLB scouts behind home plate were VERY impressed with Gallagher. Matt Avery entered the game in th top of the 5th, and was equally impressive. Throwing just eight pitches (including SEVEN sweeping curve balls), Avery retired the side on two 6-3 groundouts to Simokaitis and a strikeout (that woild be Jeff Fiorentino of BAL). Justin Berg worked two innings, the 6th and 7th, and he struggled with his command in the 6th. Not anywhere near as sharp as Gallagher or Avery, Berg gave up a lead-off line drive double to Matt Macri (MIN) into the LF corner, followed by a 5-3 bounce out (runner held at 2nd). Berg then walked the next hitter (Cliff Pennington of OAK) on four pitches, before Nyjer Morgan hit a hard ground ball single to right that scored Macri from second with the game's only run. Berg then retired the next two hitters (Reimold and Getz) on a strikeout and a 4-3 ground out, stranding runners at 2nd and 3rd. Berg had a much easier second inning of work, retiring the Desert Dogs 1-2-3 (6-3, 2-3, F-8) on just seven pitches in the 7th. Rocky Roquet entered the game in the top of the 8th, and worked a 1-2-3 inning (16 pitches). Effectively mixing a 95 MPH fastball and a 84 MPH slider, he struck out the first two hitters he faced (Matt Macri and Donny Lucy, both on 3-2 pitches), before walking Cliff Pennington on a 3-1 pitch. But then Rocky immediately picked Pennington off first with a quick, nifty move that froze the runner.
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Comments

I am having a little trouble getting excited about the AFL, just because I only think three of those guys are legitimate prospects (Gallagher, Roquet and Fuld though I don't think he's going to be an every day regular in MLB).

Any idea why Colvin, for example, has shown up for the instructional league instead of the AFL? Any idea which of the American ballplayers are expected to play in the winter leagues?

Colvin is actually on Team USA. I believe AZ Phil said he was at instructs as he prepped for a week of Team USA vs. AFL teams.

Mexican Winter League started yesterday - I see 2 Mexican-native Cubs on some of the rosters (IF Issmael Salas and RHP Marco Carrillo) along with Mexican Pacific League vet in Casey McGehee. AZ Phil probably has a better idea, though.

yeah, Colvin is with Team USA, getting a few swings in at Instructs and AZ Phi mentioned that Team USA will play some AFL teams.

Do any of our Cub pitching prospects in Arizona have good changeups in their arsenal yet, as in a changeup that is a strikeout pitch (it seems we're stong on fastball/slider combos)?

AZ Phil,

What do you estimate the ratio of scouts to fans at AFL games to be? When I went they all sat near the wall between the two batting circles - stop watches in their right hand, radar gun in their left.

George Altman — October 11, 2007 @ 7:48 am
AZ Phil,

What do you estimate the ratio of scouts to fans at AFL games to be? When I went they all sat near the wall between the two batting circles - stop watches in their right hand, radar gun in their left.

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GEORGE A: At a typical AFL game, it's about one scout for every two fans.

BTW, they played the recording of Harry Caray singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" for the 7th inning stretch. And In case you were wondering.. no, the scouts do not sing along with Harry.

cubster — October 11, 2007 @ 5:22 am
Do any of our Cub pitching prospects in Arizona have good changeups in their arsenal yet, as in a changeup that is a strikeout pitch (it seems we’re stong on fastball/slider combos)?

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CUBSTER: The kids at instructs are all trying to master a change. RHP Dumas Garcia (ex-South Georgia Penauts) already has a change that's a strikeout pitch, and 18-year old Korean RHP Dae-Eun Rhee has a splitter that acts like a change, and it's defintely a strikeout pitch. LHPs Mark Pawelek and Chris Siegfried throw change-ups, and RHPs Chris Huseby and Ryan Acosta are close to mastering one.

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