Hernandez Suspension Nears End
The EXST Angels defeated the EXST Cubs 6-4 this morning at very windy Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa.
In what will quite possibly be his final Extended Spring Training outing before he rejoins the Peoria Chiefs, RHP Robert Hernandez became the first EXST Cubs pitcher to go five innings, allowing four runs on five hits, while issuing no walks and striking out three.
Hernandez retired 12 of the first 14 hitters he faced, allowing only solo home runs to Hank Conger in the 1st and Ryan Mount in the 3rd. He ran into trouble in the top of the 5th, surrendering back-to-back doubles and a single to the first three Angels batters, before retiring the final three hitters on an infield pop up, a sac fly, and a ground out.
One of the Cubs better pitching prospects, the 19-year old Hernandez is presently serving a 50-game suspension after testing positive for steroids in April, but barring a rain out or other postponement, Peoria will hit the 50-game mark on Sunday, making Hernandez eligible for reinstatement on Monday.
Of course it's always possible that the Cubs will keep Hernandez at Fitch Park beyond the end of his suspension, either as further punishment or because there is no room for Hernandez on the Peoria roster. But based on the way he has thrown the ball so far at EXST, Hernandez looks to be more than ready to step back into the Chiefs starting rotation immediately. (He also shook everybody's hand after the game, like he is planning on taking a long trip someplace soon).
2007 17th round draft pick LHP Arik Hempy (U. of South Carolina) followed Hernandez to the mound, and struggled with his command, allowing two runs on three hits and a couple of walks. Hempy had TJ surgery his senior year in college, and he has had difficulty getting his elbow and shoulder into game shape this Spring.
18-year old RHP Rogelio Carmona is probably the hardest thrower at Cubs EXST, although he sometimes struggles with command. But the young Dominican fireballer was smokin' today, striking out four Angels hitters in just 1.1 IP in relief of Hempy. And the one hit Carmona allowed was an opposite-field broken bat dribbler that barely eluded second-baseman Jose Made before sneaking into short RF.
The Cubs had a frustrating day offensively, failing to score with runners at 2nd & 3rd with only one out in the 5th, failing to plate a run after a lead-off triple in the 6th, hitting into a DP with runners at 1st and 3rd and one out in the 7th, and failing to advance a runner who reached 2nd base with no outs in the 8th.
The Cubs probably should have figured it would turn out to be "one of those days" with the stick, as 11 of the first 12 Cubs hitters (batters) either walked or struck out.
I didn't write a report on yesterday's EXST Cubs game at the Angels Minor League Complex at Diablo Park in Tempe, but I can tell you that the Cubs won 3-0, as Mark Pawelek, Marcus Hatley, and Harol Tolentino combined to toss the shutout.
Pawelek went the first three innings and was a bit wild, throwing 61 pitches (only 35 strikes). He allowed two hits, issued two walks, hit two batters, and struck out two, but was able to pitch out of jams in all three innings. His fastball topped-out at 92 MPH, a tremendous improvement over the mid-80's "heater" he's been throwing the previous couple of years.
Pawelek has allowed no runs on eight hits, four walks, and three HBP, with 14 K in 11.1 IP, since returning from a sprained ankle suffered the first week of EXST. .
Hatley followed Pawelek, and allowed four hits and a walk while striking out two in his four shutout innings of work. Hatley has allowed three runs (all earned) on eight hits and five walks, with 10 K, and a 0.91 WHIP (1.89 ERA), over his last 14.1 IP.
I would say Hernandez, Pawelek, and Hatley (probably in that order) are the three pitchers presently at EXST (Fitch Park) who are most-likely to get promotions to Peoria if and when there are openings on the Chiefs' pitching staff.
In EXST Cubs roster news, 19-year old RHP Ryan Acosta (the Cubs 2007 12th round draft pick out of Clearwater Central Catholic HS in Clearwater, FL, and son of deceased former Cubs pitching coach Oscar Acosta) has been demoted from Peoria to EXST (making room on the Peoria roster for LHP Chris Siegfried, who was reactivated from the DL), and LHP Cody Hams has returned to Australia.
The young left-hander from down-under will be attending the MLB Australian Baseball Academy starting next month, along with fellow-Australian RHP Adam Spencer (who just graduated from HS) and highly-regarded Korean SS Hak-ju Lee (recently signed to a big bonus contract).
Hams, Spencer, and Lee were signed by the Cubs Pacific Rim scouting contingent (Paul Weaver and Steve Wilson) over the past two or three months.
The 18-year old Hams, a 6'5 former star Aussie cricket player (bowler) who only saw his first baseball game just last year, was in the U. S. on a two-month visa in 2008, but he will be in the U. S. for the full-year in '09.
And long-time Cubs minor league infielder Robinson Chirinos, who was sent to EXST from AA Tennessee last week to learn a new position (catcher), had a chance to warm-up a pitcher in the bullpen during the game. I wonder if he knows what he has gotten himself into!?
Here is today's abridged box score (Cubs players only):
NOTE: Although the EXST Angels won the game in regulation, an extra inning was played to allow the pitchers to get additional work.
1. Cesar Salazar, DH #1: 0-3 (BB, 2 K, GIDP)
2. Drew Rundle, CF: 0-3 (BB, 2 K, CS)
3a. Marwin Gonzalez, 3B: 1-3 (3B, K)
3b. Junior Lake, 3B: 0-1
4. Nelson Perez, RF: 1-4 (R, 3B, 2 K)
5. Carlos Perez, 1B: 1-3 (RBI, BB)
6. Kyler Burke, DH #2: 0-3 (BB, 2 K)
7a. Roberto Sabates, C: 0-3 (K)
7b. Alvaro Sosa, C: 1-1 (R)
8. Jose Made, 2B: 0-3 (R, HBP, K)
9. Kevin Soto, LF: 1-1 (RBI, R, 3 BB, 2 SB)
10. George Matheus, SS: 2-4 (RBI, 2B, K)
1. Robert Hernandez - 5.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 3 K, 2 HR (5/7 GO/FO)
2. Arik Hempy - 1.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 WP (0/4 GO/FO)
3. Rogelio Carmona - 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 WP
4. Carlos Rojas - 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 WP (1/4 GO/FO)
WEATHER: Mid 90's, mostly sunny, and VERY windy (beyond just breezy)