Camp Day at Fitch Park

As many of you probably know by now, Thursday is "Camp Day" at Extended Spring Training. This usually means an intrasquad game, and sometimes a pre-game "live" BP session or simulated game involving rehabbing pitchers.

And such was the case today.

The Cubs did play a five-inning intrasquad game this morning on Fitch Park Field #2 (which ended in a 3-3 tie), but prior to the game, LHP Mark Pawelek (ankle) and RHP Jim Henderson (shoulder) squared off in a two inning (30-pitches per pitcher) simulated game on Field #1.

Each pitcher threw 15 pitches per "inning," with the hitters (Bryan Jost, Kevin Soto, and Elvis Lara) remaining at the plate until they either walked, struck out, or hit a fair ball. Then after the pitcher finished his "inning," he would go sit on the bench and talk to EXST Cubs pitching coach Rick Tronerud while the other pitcher threw his 15 pitches.

Henderson (relief pitcher at AA Tennessee in 2007) looked very sharp, with good sinking action on his two-seamer and excellent boring action on his slider. How he felt afterward, I do not know. But he looked good.

Pawelek was a different story, though.

In his first inning, he could not command his hard stuff (fastball and slider) and threw ten balls and only five strikes. But in his second inning, he was at least able to throw his fastball over the plate (somewhat), and threw five balls and ten strikes. (He does not have control issues with his curve or change-up).

So just how wild is Pawelek? When left-handed hitting Bryan Jost stepped up to the plate to hit against Pawelek, Boise Pitching Coach Tom Pratt yelled to Jost: "What's the matter, big guy? You're looking kinda wobbly-kneed up there!"

And he did, too! 

One thing for sure... Nobody is comfortable hitting against Pawelek. Not when even he doesn't know where the ball is going.

As for the EXST intrasquad game, rehabbing RHP Jon Mueller (not to be confused with fellow EXST RHP John Muller) got the start for Squad "B" and worked three strong innings. Mueller was a middle-reliever for Daytona last year before he went down with an arm injury,

Then LHP Arik Hempy (2007 17th round draft pick out of the U. of South Carolina) threw a couple of innings, and while his outing was not quite as strong as Mueller's, at least he didn't seem to have any trouble getting his arm loose. His breaking ball looked pretty good.

18-year old Australian LHP Cody Hams worked just one inning, and struggled with his control. 

On offense, RF Nelson Perez (who hit the game-winning HR yesterday) had another big day, slamming an RBI double and an RBI triple, while also scoring a run.

2B Dwayne Kemp (hero of the Aruban Little League World Series team a few years ago) was also 2-3, with a triple and a run scored and an RBI single, and Leon Johnson tripled and scored and made a nice running catch in CF. 
Here is the abridged box score for the five inning EXST intrasquad game


1. Dwayne Kemp, 2B: 2-3 (3B, RBI, R)
2. Alvaro Sosa, C: 1-3 (RBI, R, SB)
3. John Contreras, 3B: 1-3 (2 SB)
4. Bryan Jost, 1B: 0-2 (BB, 2 K)
5. Brandon Guyer, DH #1: 1-2
6. Elvis Lara, LF: 0-2
7. Gian Guzman, SS: 1-2
8. Kevin Soto, RF: 0-2 (2 K)
9. Leon Johnson, CF: 1-2 (3B, R)
10. Jose Guevara, DH #2: 0-1 (BB)
11. Jose Made, DH #3: 0-2 (GIDP)

1. Jeffrey Rea, DH: 1-3 (SB)
2. Roberto Sabates, C: 0-2 (R, BB)
3. Junior Lake, SS: 1-2 (R, BB, SB)
4. Nelson Perez, RF: 2-3 (2B, 3B, 2 RBI, R)
5. Luis Bautista, 1B: 1-2 (2B, RBI)
6. Luke Sommer, LF: 1-2
7. Starlin Castro, 2B: 1-1 (SH)
8. Andres Quezada, CF: 0-1 (BB)
9. Josh Vitters, 3B: 1-2

1. Johan Gonzalez - 3.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 0 K
2. Cody Hams - 1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 WP

1. Jon Mueller - 3.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 3 K
2. Arik Hempy - 1.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 GIDP 
3. Jose Severino - 0.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 0 K 

Vitters - 1 (bad throw to 1st)
Lake - 3 (two bad throws to 1st, one misplayed groundball)
G. Guzman - 1 (bobbled ground ball)

Sabates (0-3 CS - bounced every throw)
Sosa (0-2 CS)

WEATHER: Cool with temp around 70, and VERY breezy



Pawelek and Vitters seem to be having some problems. It would be nice to see either one of these guys make it to A Ball at some point this year.

Any word about converting Pawelek into a hitter? He was a nasty batter in high school, IIRC.

Recent examples of left-handed hurlers turned position players: Nick Markakis. Anybody else got some?

Just how much would Pawelek have to struggle before he was taken off the mound for good? I really hope he turns it around.

There is this guy named Rick Ankiel who isn't doing too poorly.

How'd I forget everybody's favorite top-to-rock-bottom-back -to-the-top story? Ankiel probably a better example actually, since I think the Orioles actually drafted Markakis as a position player to the surprise of most other teams given that Markakis had been clocked in the mid-nineties.

As always, thanks AZ Phil. Do you think any of the guys who are debuting in the U.S. for the first time this season have a chance to go to Boise this summer? Last season, I believe Alberto Cabrera skipped the AZL season and went to Boise.

Also, how do you pronounce Junior Lake's last name? Is it like the body of water?

Submitted by Raisin101 on Thu, 04/17/2008 - 10:09pm.

As always, thanks AZ Phil.

Do you think any of the guys who are debuting in the U.S. for the first time this season have a chance to go to Boise this summer? Last season, I believe Alberto Cabrera skipped the AZL season and went to Boise.

Also, how do you pronounce Junior Lake's last name? Is it like the body of water?


RAISIN: It's still kind of early to tell if any of the Latin players who are making their U. S. debut in 2008 will be able to skip to Boise. Maybe LHP Jeffry Antigua, SS Junior Lake, or 3B John Contreras. But right now I would say probably not. 

In fact, the ones who are struggling the most will probably be going back to the Dominican Republic next month with the DSL Cubs #1 and DSL Cubs #2 managers and coaches who are presently at EXST.

There are a few Latin players at EXST who are not making their U. S. debut who have a good shot at making the Boise roster, though, including RHP Harol Tolentino, C Carlos Perez, INF Gian Guzman, and OFs Elvis Lara and Nelson Perez.

As you may already know, the Cubs, Reds, and Twins have pulled out of the Venezuelan Summer League (VSL), although they still operate academies there. In fact, I believe there are now only eight teams left in the VSL (and no co-op teams).

The problem the Cubs and a number of other MLB clubs have right now is that they simply don't have enough Venezuelan and Central American players in their system to field a VSL team (Dominican players are not allowed to play in the VSL). So instead of operating one DSL team and one VSL co-op team (as they did in 2007), the Cubs will be operating two DSL clubs (DSL Cubs #1 and DSL Cubs #2) and no VSL team in 2008. If the Cubs can sign more Venezuelan players, then maybe they could operate a "VSL Cubs" team eventually. A co-op team is kind of awkward for everybody.

But the Cubs Venezuelan Academy at Puerto Cabella is still operating. In fact, that's where RHP Rafael Cova got into shape while he was working out his visa problem, so that once he got to Fitch Park (EXST) last week, it took him just one bullpen side-session, one simulated game, and one EXST game for him to be ready to get assigned to AA Tennessee (where he is now).

In addition to the nine Cubs minor leaguers assigned to the Cubs Venezuelan Academy (until they leave next month to play in the DSL), there is always a steady-stream of prospective players coming through the academy for try-outs, Cubs Venezuelan Academy Supervisor Hector Ortega and four other part-time Cubs scouts run the place.

As for Junior Lake, everybody calls him "Lake" (like the body of water).

Here are the Cubs players presently assigned to the various foreign academies:

* bats or throws left
# bats both


Edilmar Infante
Reinaldo Navarro
Gregorio Rodriguez

Jose Bracho
Carlos Romero

Jose Avila
George Matheus

Luis Andrades
* Cesar Salazar



Bienvenido Beltre
Yelson Cabrera
Julio Castillo
Miguel Corletto
Alejandro de la Cruz
Manolin DeLeon
Arturo Florentino
* Carlos Galvez
Junniol Lami
Luis Liria
Jose Montecino
Pacheco Mota
Lenny Pena
* Marcos Perez
Francoris Pineda
Gorge Pineda
Ramon Rache
Ramon Reyes
* Abner Ruiz
Tomas Sanchez
Jose Tineo

Miguel Gonzalez
Yamel Liria
Jose Vigay

# Robert Bautista
# Ramon Bonilla
# Herasmo Magallanes
# Alexander Mejia
Carlos Morales
Juan Pena
Pedro Ramirez
Andy Soto

Albert Hernandez
Elvin Jiminez
# Nelson Pierre
# Gregorio Robles
# Jose Valdez


* Cody Hams, LHP (at EXST at Fitch Park until May 22)
Adam Spencer, RHP (still in HS, will make U. S. debut in 2009)


Wow, fantastic as always, Phil.

BTW, I hear you've lost Josh Vitters and Leon Johnson to Peoria and Jonathan Mota and Drew Rundle were demoted back to extended.

Mota promoted to Daytona....

You're right, I misread what I had read earlier and thought he was demoted (and was kind of confused as to why). Good to see him up at Daytona where I felt he deserved to start the year.

RAISIN: Yes. Drew Rundle was at the morning work-out at Fitch Park today.

I can understand Rundle getting demoted when Leon Johnson finished his rehab (because the only reason Rundle made the Peoria Opening Day roster was because Johnson got hurt), but it seems a bit odd that the Cubs would promote Josh Vitters at this time, partly because he hasn't played well at EXST (especially defensively), and partly because Peoria already has two third-basemen (Jovan Rosa and Marquez Smith) who can't play there regularly.

If the intent was to replace Jonathan Mota (a back-up middle infielder), then it probably would have made more sense to promote Jose Made (who plays 2B-SS) from EXST rather than Vitters (who plays only 3B). 

Josh Vitters' parents were at the EXST game at Fitch Park last Saturday, and they were saying that they had just returned from visiting their older son (Christian), who is a third-baseman for the Oakland A's Kane County team in the Midwest League. And they also were saying that in a way it was good that Josh was able to remain in Arizona, because the weather was better here than it was back in Illinois when they were there.

But when somebody asked them whether Josh was expecting to stay in Mesa for the Summer or go to Boise, they said he would be going to Peoria. And that the only reason Josh had been left at Extended Spring Training was because he had a blister problem on his hand at Minor League Camp that kept him from swinging the bat as well as he normally did.

I wrote that off as the fanciful dreams of a parent, but I guess they must have known something. Because it sure sounds like when the Cubs signed Vitters last August, that they not only promised him that he would get to Boise by the end of the 2007 season, but that he would be assigned to Peoria in 2008.

Submitted by Raisin101 on Fri, 04/18/2008 - 4:54pm.

You're right, I misread what I had read earlier and thought he was demoted (and was kind of confused as to why).

Good to see him up at Daytona where I felt he deserved to start the year.


RAISIN: And Daytona INF Ryne Malone was either released or retired, or was sent to EXST (although he wasn't there today). My guess is he was released, but I'll let you know if he shows up at Fitch.

Recent comments

The first 600 characters of the last 16 comments, click "View" to see rest of comment.
  • To be fair to Emery and Trestman the foreshadowing of last year started happening well before them with the failure or mismanaging of multiple draft classes forcing the team to overspend in a free agency market that is even worse than baseball. Kyle Long seems like a good pick but they traded away another good one in Olson because of Martz's stupidity and inability to change his offense to fit the team talent.

  • HAGSAG: I think Domonic Brown does fit the criteria of a reclamation project, but unless he is willing to accept a minor league contract with an NRI to Spring Training, I don't think the Cubs would be interested given where the Cubs are right now. A couple of years ago? Yes. But probably not now.

    Brown would be better-off going to a club that is rebuilding and re-establish his value there, like Chris Coghlan did with the Cubs. And if he can re-establish his value, he could get traded to a contender at the trade deadline and take it from there.  

  • "they just fade away"

    (Except in the cases of no-fade lefties like Moyer, Orosco and Rich Hill.)

  • Amazing to me how quickly it fell apart under Trestman. Year 1, they were a Chris Conte brain fart away from making the playoffs. Year 2 -- coach, staff and GM all fired.

  • I am sure Jonathon Mota will be signed next.

  • AZ Phil, what is your thoughts on Domonic Brown as a reclamation project?

  • He also played LF in deference to Curtis Granderson.

    Meh... other moves to make...hope to see a move or two soon.

  • I haven't seen much Bears football this year - difficult to watch the games out here, but the game I saw the week before I was watching in shock as I saw them actually make tackles. And Cutler has looked really good, too.

    I guess people can quibble about play calling, but the team I saw is way more than 50% better coached (my only very minor disagreement with your comment).

    Under Trestman, the team didn't do anything right. This team played like a well coached team when I saw them play the Rams.

  • "What is sometimes overlooked about Vogelbach because of his "bad body" and because he has struggled so much defensively is that he is a hard worker, has a great attitude, loves to play the game, and is very well-liked by his teammates, and while that may not seem important, teams do actually value stuff like that. "

    As well they should. Replace a word here and there and you are describing any worker someone would hire.

  • Hak-Ju Lee signs a minor league contract with SF Giants.

    Some closure on the 6 degrees of Separation for Matt Garza/Chris Archer

  • Hahahahaha

  • -0.3 WAR in 7.1ip last year...

    -3 WAR projected over the course of a season.

    the cubs just added an all-star reliever's worth of work by losing b.schlitter.


  • Rockies sign Brian Schlitter to a minor league contract. Good luck in Coors Field. Enough said.

  • i'll take him over frandy since it's unlikely he'll progress as a SS (and 2nd isn't looking much better).

    i hope patton's delivery deception skills play well in the bigs over time. cubs need pitching options that are MLB-ready and dude fits the bill for a MLB/AAA mix...both needed.

  • I'm not saying he's great, but can we agree on the word "decent"? Became a pro at 23, called up at 26; nothing wrong with that trajectory, he hasn't been knocking around. Even in the majors his SO9 is 9.7. In the minors it's 12.2, so he's always missed bats, and without being a wild man: his walks are low. He cost the Cubs an unheralded A-ball middle infielder and a roster spot.

  • he's a righty (a 27 year old one that's going to be 28 before spring training starts) that throws low 90s with a low-80s slider. that's as ordinary as it gets for a righty reliever.