Sightseeing on the Pacific Coast Highway...


...350 miles west of Chicago on I-80, Mike Wellman keeps tabs on the Iowa Cubs in the PCL...


Living here in Des Moines I've always gotten a kick out of the local team playing in the Pacific Coast League. I guess that makes the portion of the 'road to Wrigley' that runs through here the Pacific Coast Highway. Here's my dispatch after the season's first homestand.

Of the eight games scheduled four were lost to opponents, three were lost to Mother Nature [one of which was reclaimed as the front end of a day/night doubleheader] and two went into the win column.

The team now heads to Nashville for a four-game set with the [micro] Brewers as the I-Cubs and Sounds resume their subsidiary version of the growing rivalry between Chicago and Milwaukee.

It's hard to glean much from the limited six-game sample, very little of which was played in conditions conducive to baseball, but here are some early trends that will bear watching as the season unfolds:

* Matt Murton is hitting .368 with zero RBI's. Jake Fox is hitting .240 with seven.

*Neal Cotts has two appearances so far. Each lasted two innings. He's allowed one hit with no walks and fanned six. Makes you wonder what's in the company file on him when they called up Marshall for a bullpen lefty instead.

*Jose Ascanio looks promising. He won't be 23 until next month and seems slotted as the closer here. I'm looking forward to watching him when it gets hot outside.

*I miss Micah Hoffpauir. He's supposed to be in Arizona getting oblique massages. Have you seen him down there, Phil?

*While trying to figure out what the brass is doing with various pitchers [Marshall, Cotts, Pignatiello] I was reminded that a year ago I was watching Carlos Marmol anchor the Iowa rotation before getting called up to become the anchor of Chicago's bullpen. Wait and see...

*Sean Gallagher looked very sharp in his lone start. In five innings he threw 75 pitches, 55 of them for strikes. He should throw tonight in Nashville since he was scheduled for the getaway day matinee here that was postponed due to winter.

*Sam Fuld is hittin' a hundred [1-10]and seems to have been assigned a personal trainer by the Cub organization. The accident/injury prone wallbanger has been followed from Peoria to Tennessee and now to Iowa by Matt Johnson, who's the I-Cubs' new team trainer.

*Murton has played in both right and left-field. Eric Patterson has been strictly a second-baseman. Fox has been at first base with Hoffpauir gone, but will also play in the outfield and at DH when the team is on the road against AL affiliates.

That's about it for now. Going forward I hope to make better use of my media credential which grants access to the ballpark, the press box and the playing field, but stops at the clubhouse door.

The team returns for a brief four-game stand versus Oklahoma on April 19. Stay tuned...MW

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Comments

Matt Murton is hitting .368 with zero RBI's. Jake Fox is hitting .240 with seven.

Looking at RBI totals are pretty irrelevant without looking at the context.

Makes you wonder what's in the company file on him when they called up Marshall for a bullpen lefty instead.

Nope... I don't really wonder at all. Cotts has shown, over the last two years, that he has an inability to get people out at the major league level. Marshall has shown that he DOES have an ability to get people out.

Would Cotts be a better option? Perhaps... but it seems pretty clear that the Cubs, or maybe just LouPa, have lost confidence in Cotts.

Murton has got to be going bananas -- the guy hits .300 everywhere he goes, and he can't get a job in MLB.

somewhat misleading perhaps, but not irrelevant...as for Cotts, he's also previously shown an ability to get big leaguers out, so yeah, I guess I was implying what you apparently inferred, that Cotts gets a big vote of 'no confidence' @ this point from Lou, the same 'thumbs-down' that's in store, it appears, for Felix...

somewhat misleading perhaps, but not irrelevant

Disagree. They are both misleading and irrelevant. I really do not want to get into an argument about RBI, but they are obviously connected to things like opportunities with RISP.

Cotts, he's also previously shown an ability to get big leaguers out

Cotts has had numerous opportunities over the last two years to show that he still had that ability to get big leaguers out, and he failed almost every time.

Again, I still think that Cotts can be a successful LHP out of the bullpen, but it isn't difficult to figure out why the Cubs would call up Marshall rather than Cotts.

And further, while I would rather see Marshall starting everyday in AAA than in the MLB bullpen, he does also provide you with another option if you need multiple innings out of a guy.

How about this slightly more relevant fact, then:

He's hitting .368. He's also slugging .368.

early, but worrisome...

Murton seems to go on these long stretches where he pounds everything into the ground. Someone get Jim Frey or Ryne Sandberg on the phone and get Murton to lift the ball and pull it once in awhile. 

I've been thinking about Pie. I remember early last year when Jacque Jones was really struggling, I had said when he bats it looks like Jacque Jones v. Jacque Jones. He had the abilities, but he was just struggling with himself too much.

With Pie, imo, it's kind of the same thing, except he doesn't have the abilities. Pie is battling with himself mentally, when he should be battling the pitchers. I'll say what I've said all along, he is over matched at the MLB level and if he wants to continue to progress, he's going to have to adjust, even if it means a more compact, but less powerful swing. There's no shame in base hits, kiddo. The point is he's going up looking to clobber the ball because that's what he's used to doing but the simple fact is the pitchers he's seeing now are better than him.

Don't get me wrong, the kid's got it, and maybe this stage of failure is normal for some young players. Maybe it serves as a wakeup call that says, "hey, a lot of these pitchers are better than you, find a way to scrap some hits".

Need to see if AL team needs good hitting, limited power DH.

Does this mean that the sometime experiment with Patterson in CF is officially over, or will they continue to tinker with him defensively? And does he continue to look shakey out there at 2B?

given that they take starters in Iowa and use them in the mlb bullpen and vice versa...I think EPat, if he does get a shot with the mlb club, will most likely get the call to be the Lefty bat in CF if Pie doesn't succeed...and that all depends on how big a leash they have on Pie this season. If they do get tired of PIe, Reid Johnson will probably get the majority of playing time anyway.

So EPat playing 2B doesn't mean much as far as his cub future imho.

There is a big difference between moving back and forth between starting and the bullpen and playing CF even though you have only been playing 2b.

Don't get me wrong - starting and relieving are different, and take different approaches.

But a starter should be able to make the transition relatively easily to the bullpen.

I don't think you can say that the transition from 2b to CF would be the same thing.

If the Cubs were interested in playing EPat in CF in the bigs, they would be playing him there now.

Zambrano pitching Friday
Lilly pitching Saturday
Sunday will be Marquis or Marshall/Lieber if Marquis is still sick. Cubs have day off on Monday.

50% chance of rain in Philly tonight though, which sounds doable but if there are storms they will be pretty heavy thunderstorms, so they might do a day-night on Saturday (Cubs only visit to Philly).

This would be awesome for me as I'm driving to Philly tomorrow (from CT where i live) for Saturday and Sunday and would love to see three games rather than two (and see Big Z now that he got moved up a day).

Just a quick update, as for me, I haven't written in a while as I'm sorting out trying to move back to Chicago soon. In time for lots of games this summer...

Five...
Five...
Five wins in a row...
(cue horrid, but strangely addicting Subway commercial)

Despite all the Felix Pie hype most people just never understood his inability to hit breaking pitches. This is why he should probably spend the next 2-3 years in the minors till he can maybe figure it out. If the league wasn't aware of Pie's weakness they are fully aware of it after Matt Morris toyed with him. At worst you might see Pie at the old age of 25 again, he is still young.

Now onto Rich Hill....with Pinella's comments everyone is hyperventilating over Rich Hill and being out of the rotation. I really dont think that is going to happen, i think its nothing more than motivation from Lou to Hill. Because i really don't see after 2 starts that we need to back up the truck on a guy with 327 career innings with 301 SO's.

And he hasn't been as bad as its being made out to be. He recovered after the 1st inning to have a good 2nd, walked a couple the next inning but still got out of it without giving up any runs and then was pulled. I wouldnt of pulled Hill after the 3rd but it seems Lou is trying to send a message. Whether your veteran or young someone is on the roster ready to take your job. Pie has his challenger in Johnson, Hill has his in Lieber, Theriot has Cedeno, and vice versa.

Well said, MikeC. I agree. I don't think it's time for Rich to go, and I don't think Lou thinks it's time for Rich to go.

Lou's done this song and dance before. It's how he motivates his players. Whether that's a good way or a bad way to go about it is a bit of a different discussion. He did it last year with Jacque, Eyre, and Izturis. If you're not going to play well, there's other major league talent on this roster that can play better. A lot of us got on Lou last year for sticking with those three too long when they struggled. I don't except Rich to go anywhere anytime soon, but as I said in the previous thread, I really wish he'd figure out how to throw strikes with his new delivery.

a year ago I was watching Carlos Marmol anchor the Iowa rotation

As good as Marmol has been in the pen for the Cubs, is there a chance he could wind up starting again some year (though not this one)? I'm not sure he has a third pitch, and he seems to enjoy the pen and hopes to be a closer someday, but it's an intriguing idea.

Actually, Carlos used to throw a curve and a changeup, both of which were okay. His control seems to have improved a bit since being converted to the bullpen, but there is always the possibility that he's improved because he's been pitching longer now (used to be a catcher, right?) rather than because of throwing fewer kinds of pitches.

I've been wondering how he would do as a starter since his first few weeks of total dominance in the pen, but I suspect that if he continues to pitch well we'll never get to see the chance. Of course, I'd love to see someone who is a little more savvy about the organization respond to this one, since I am merely a fan speculating.

He seems to throw harder in the pen. Alot of guys (Eric Gagne) seem to do better "letting it go" for 15-20 pitches at a time, than 120 pitches per time.

That and all the steroids.

A little bit off topic, but I was watching the Mets and Phillies play earlier this week and started thinking about home grown guys like David Wright, Jose Reyes, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. That got me to thinking about any standout position players in all of MLB that came up through the Cubs farm system. Are there any? I couldn't think of any.

Hmm... best position in recent years out of the Cubs system...

Eric Hinske?
Corey Patterson?

But Matt Murton is a proven .300 hitter at the MLB level. I would consider him a cubs home grown prospect.

Depends on the definition of "standout." Grace may be the last one who was a solid, every-day player. Brendan Harris could become a decent second baseman, but not likely a standout one.

Besides Hinske and Patterson, there have been a lot of busts: Choi, Hill, Kelton, Cline, Brown (Brandt and Roosevelt). Here's hoping Soto breaks the dismal string.

MIKE W: I haven't seen Micah Hoffpauir down here yet. At least he hasn't been out on the field. Oblique injuries can really linger for a long time, but I imagine he'll end up on a rehab at Fitch Park (EXST) eventually. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Jeez, the game in Nashville tonight has already been called! DH scheduled for tomorrow...

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  • Looking for Bryant to break up another no-no with a long fly ball in the sixth.

    But any hit will do.

    Eric S 9 sec ago view
  • this game is f'n flying by.

    also, "Hernandez (5-4, 3.45) versus Hendricks (9-7, 2.39), ruined by ESPN tomorrow at 7:08pmCST." gets 1000 upvotes and a gold star.

    crunch 11 min 46 sec ago view
  • His control is still off with a lot of overthrowing of his fastball. Mariners haven't been able to take advantage of it so far but it still doesn't seen like he's had a start this year where his mechanics have been great start to finish.

    johann 17 min 15 sec ago view
  • Why is that disconcerting, OB?

    Charlie 24 min 53 sec ago view
  • He was a big key to the crazy start, a big key to the end of last year, a big key in not beating the Mets (although lots of help from a tired inexperienced team there), so although the team as a whole can get through a series with a good Jake it will be tough with a bad Jake. I don't think it's realistic to have the insanely great Jake again, but maybe it is. Seeing today's box score it appears maybe it is - but I haven't been able to tune in yet.

    Old and Blue 38 min 22 sec ago view
  • IMO Jake is really the key to winning the World Series, but maybe I'm putting too much emphasis on one player.

    Rob Richardson 1 hour 9 min ago view
  • The reports that they offered EITHER Jimenez or Torres for Chapman are a little disconcerting. I hope 1) Those reports are wrong, and 2) if they are not wrong, that they will hold on to him, as the team could use the outfield depth. I have only seen him in the futures game, but he looks like a keeper.

    Old and Blue 1 hour 31 min ago view
  • Very nice. I saw him in Lansing in May. I'm still stunned that he hit a 400-foot foul ball onto Larch Street ... which is going the other way for a right-handed batter. It was perhaps the most amazing swing I've ever seen a minor league player take. I should also mention that it was about 40 degrees out at the time. Not that it's evidence of anything per se, but I feel his plate approach is way more advanced than Soler was at this stage in his development and that the comparisons aren't really fair to Jimenez. 50/50 chance I'll go to Midland tonight for the low-A debut of Oscar de la Cruz.

    John Beasley 3 hours 20 min ago view
  • Eloy Jimenez grand slam tonight. Hoping Soler power returns and gets hot but future looks bright in the outfield regardless.

    Finished the night 4-5, with two doubles - 32(!) on the season - along with the grand slam. Sick

    Eric S 4 hours 42 min ago view
  • Meanwhile, out West:

    SF is 2-11 since the break, lead over LA is down to one game, and they are running out Cain and Peavy this weekend against the Nats. Challenging times by the Bay.

    billybucks 5 hours 29 min ago view
  • Thanks for the updates Phil. Too bad about Frazier.

    Hagsag 9 hours 24 min ago view
  • The Cubs have released RHRP Scott Frazier (2013 7th round dfraft pick - Pepperdine).

    A Cubs pitching coach told me in Spring Training 2014 that he thought Frazier had the best pure stuff in the organization. Absolutely electric fastball & breaking ball combo. Other pitchers would gather behind the screen just to watch him throw "live" BP. That's how amazing he was. 

    Arizona Phil 14 hours 33 min ago view
  • Got a chance to see Diamondbacks RHSP Zack Greinke (15-day DL - strained oblique) throw a rehab start at Sloan Park Friday night. Four of the first seven AZL Cubs hitters singled and the Cubs did score an unearned run in the bottom of the 1st inning, but then Greinke got serious and struck out five in a row.

    ZACK GREINKE: 3.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R (0 ER), 0 BB, 5 K, 4/0 GO/AO, 49 pitches (34 strikes)

    Arizona Phil 14 hours 47 min ago view
  • Have fun - It may be good for Arrieta to be facing a team that doesn't know him as well as the NL teams. A nice shutout would do wonders for his confidence. He is confident in public but baseball is hard and he could use a boost, I'm sure.

    Old and Blue 19 hours 39 min ago view
  • Me too. I'll be at the game tomorrow and would love to see Good Arrieta.

    Brick 20 hours 4 min ago view
  • Last few games have been the April version of the Cubs that disappeared completely the past two months.
    Hope they can sustain it.

    blockhead25 20 hours 30 min ago view