Cubs Youngsters Show Flash of Future at Fitch Park

Playing in front of his family visiting from South Korea, 18-year old bonus baby Hak-Ju Lee ripped a three-run inside-the-park home run to key a four-run 7th, but the Cubs couldn't hold the lead, as the EXST Angels rallied to tie the EXST Cubs 5-5 in Memorial Day Extended Spring Training holiday action at Fitch Park Field #3 this morning. in hot & sunny Mesa, AZ.  

The Cubs got off to a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st when Jericho Jones bounced a single through the infield to score Logan Watkins from 2nd base. 

Meanwhile, 18-year old Dominican LHP Jeffry Antigua and 19-year old Venezuelan RHP (and Carlos Zambrano clone) Larry Suarez were mowing down the Angels hitters, combining to throw six shutout innings, allowing just three hits and no walks over the six frames, while striking out 11. 

The Cubs then plated their four-spot in the bottom of the 7th.

Jericho Jones led-off the inning with his second hit of the game, a ground single to RF. Juan Medina followed with a line drive single to CF, sending Jones to 2nd. Then with the Angels expecting a bunt (and defending the expected sac-bunt with the "wheel-play"), Jose Valdez crossed 'em up and hit-away, chopping a single over 2nd base into centerfield, scoring Jones and sending Medina to 2nd. 

Lee was next, lining a fastball over the centerfielder's head to the batter's eye in dead center, and then high-tailing it around the bases to score (sliding) across home plate, just barely beating the relay throw from the Angels shortstop.

Fortunately Dusty Baker wasn't present to see it, because lead-footed catcher Juan Medina was the lead runner at 2nd base, and he really clogged the bases, as Valdez and Lee (essentially half a 440 relay team) almost ran up Medina's ass before Medina could score, with Hak-Ju rounding third before Medina could cross the plate, and Valdez having to put on the brakes and slow down to avoid passing Medina between third and home. With a more-timely relay by the Angels, all three of the Cubs very well might have been thrown out at the plate on the same play.

In Fitch Park Alumni news, the Cincinnati Reds acquired LHP Mark Pawelek from the St. George Roadrunners of the independent Golden Baseball League for ca$h con$iderations this past Friday. 

As most of you probably know, Pawelek was the Cubs 1st round round draft pick ($1.5M+ bonus) in 2005 after setting all kinds of high school pitching records in Utah. but he was unable to move forward with the Cubs over four frustrating seasons, finally getting released during the last week of Minor League Camp this past March when the Cubs decided he just wasn't getting anywhere. 

While Pawelek has seemingly struggled with his command more and more every year since signing with the Cubs, he is only 21, he has a clean medical history, and he throws a 93 MPH four-seam fastball and a hard-slider that breaks into the back foot of right-handed hitters. It will be interesting to see how Pawelek fares after getting a second chance with a different organization.

Here is today's abridged box score (Cubs players only):

LINEUP:

1. Francisco Guzman, CF:  0-5  (4-3, F-8, 5-3, 3-1, K)
2. Logan Watkins, 2B-SS:  1-4  (1B, K, L-5, E-6 - 1 R, 1 SB)
3. John Contreras, C-3B:  0-4  (5-3,. E-5, K, L-6 - 1 SB)
4. Jericho Jones, 1B:  2-3  (1B, HBP, 1B, F-9 - 1 R, 1 RBI)
5. Juan Medina, DH-C:  1-4  (1-3, F-7, 1B, F-7 - 1 R)
6. Jose Valdez, LF: 1-4  (4-3, 5-3, 1B, 3-1 - 1 R, 1 RBI)
7. Hak-Ju Lee, SS-DH:  2-4  (K, 1B, HR, F-7 - 1 R, 3 RBI, 1 SB)
8. Sean Hoorelbeke, DH #2:  0-4  (K, F-8, 6-3, 5-3)
9. Jesus Morelli, RF:  1-3  (1B, HBP, 5-3, K - 1 CS)
10. Jose Made, 3B-2B:  1-4  (K, 2-3, K, 1B - 1 SB)

PITCHERS:
1. Jeffry Antigua - 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K, 2/1 GO/FO
2. Larry Suarez - 3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K, 2/2 GO/FO
3. Josh Lansford - 2.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, (2 ER), 1 BB, 1 K, 1 GIDP, 3/2 GO/FO
4. Cedric Redmond - 2.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R (1 ER), 0 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 1/1 GO/FO

ERRORS: (2)
1. 2B Jose Made dropped ball (E-4) while attempting to tag baserunner on run-down play between 2nd and 3rd, allowing runner to get back safely to 2nd base.
2. SS Logan Watkins bobbled potential DP ground ball (E-6), allowing batter to reach base safely, eventually leading to two unearned runs scoring (including the tying run).  

CATCHERS DEFENSE:
Juan Medina - 0-3 CS

WEATHER: Hot & sunny, temperature in the 90's.

ATTENDANCE: 33 people, three dogs, and a couple of dozen pigeons.

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Comments

Phil, have the Cubs had any possible draftees in for workouts? Thanks.

Hey Phil - I'm doing something with catchers in the Cubs organization. Any way you can rank the five that are in EST (John Contreras, Matt Cerda, Jose Guevara, Alvara Sosa, and Juan Medina) in regards to defense, offense, and overall potential? Also, any hunches on where they will end up when EST ends? Thanks in advance.

P.S. Are you sure you weren't counting some people twice? 33 in attendance! Wow!

You wouldn't know it from his reports, but I suspect Phil had a few too many at this game and he was seeing double. That could also explain the 3 way traffic jam at home plate.

at least the offense woke up...

har har...sigh.

Neal Cotts, our secret weapon of Suck.

heres lous chance to get tossed he was out at thnird

common lou get tossed

they found a use for patton.

he caught mr. t's pre-game toss. awesome.

batting reed johnson 4th is awesome as hell, too.

patton pitching! gives up a single...awesome.

AZ PHIL: You were so RIGHT about this being a "long season". I am so bummed. ROB G said this is 2004 redux - good team on paper. I'm thinking 2006, with a good pitching staff.

If Neal Cotts is not sent to the minors after tonight, Jim and Lou are bigger dumb bells then I already think they are.

eman i totally agree it is time to designate cotts for
reassignment time for hendry and pinella to make a statement

Well, it appears as if they're gonna reach the below .500 mark BEFORE the end of this coming weekend. Which is seven days prior to my prediction. Good job guys!

pathetic.

Well that went well.

its one thing to lose, its another to just be boring to watch.

That game was boring?

I thought it was ugly, but I definitely didn't think it was a boring game.

Back to the Az game, are the Aussies going to stay in the states this season or go down under once again?

Thanks for your continued reporting, AZ PHIL!

As for tonight's Cubs game, I am choosing to be optimistic about it. I didn't watch the game, but a few positive and/or non-neutral things I will take from it:

1. FINALLY FUCKING SCORED RUNS. If tonight's game means Milton Bradley starts hitting, then fucking Hallelujah. Also, Theriot's three hits hopefully means he's out of his own slump.

2. SEVEN Bases on Balls. This is the most number of walks in a game since....uh...?

3. Dempster will not always pitch this poorly-- especially on a night when apparently Bob Davidson was squeezin' the zone.

4. Neil Cotts blew that game and we already ALL knew that he sucks and will likely not be around much longer.

5. Patterson pitched two scoreless innings!

We WILL beat Ian Snell on Tuesday. Mark it down.

I guess I'm disappointed, but not that much. Admittedly, it's a horrible bad streak that we are on. That said, it's not like the competition in the division was a shock out of LF. The Cardinals and Brewers both looked real solid if certain things fell their way. The Cardinals main issue was to sort out their pitching, otherwise known as keeping Chris Carpenter healthy. I thought Gallardo would be a rock, but didn't really expect Dave Bush's solid start. The Reds had been hyped up as a sleeper all offseason (although I still have my doubts about their youth/veteran mix being a good mix for this year). All three teams have systems that will allow them to make moves, if they so desire (although with Mozeliak, seeing is believing, and with the Brewers, they might have to get creative).

As for the Cubs, I can't say the areas that have struggled are all that stunning. The bullpen was somewhat iffy entering the year. The known warts were there. The rotation was a little overhyped, as regression from a guy like Dempster should've been expected. Offensive inconsistency is a hallmark of this squad due to the way it's been constructed at the top. Add in the injuries, some individual struggles, and playing .500ish ball - well, I'm not that down yet. I'm cautiously optimistic in some ways. I think the BP will sort itself out/is in the process of it, as Jose Ascanio/Angel Guzman could add the options late. This could help lessen the workload of Marmol and prevent a Samardzija call up that doesn't have Shark pitching in critical innings (I'm not against callinig Shark up for late inning pen duties, but mop up stuff or random stuff, I'd be annoyed with.) I think we saw signs of Lee snapping out of it a little bit, and Bradley's too talented to stay this bad. Aramis will be back at some point, and I think the addition of Freel makes our bench more versatile. I think the rotation will get better as it gets healthy. Our system is looking a bit better, IMO, particularly with arms that look to be developing.

Still ... this is a team that should be shopping at midseason, assuming Crane Kenney was honest when he said we had budgetary room (Al Yellon had an interview with Crane that suggested that, IIRC). The ideal scenario is the next to impossible dream - finding a leadoff option to bump Soriano down to reshape things. I wouldn't haphazardly drop Soriano down, but if a solid guy was there, that'd be the dream, but I'm also not sure that Lou would definitely drop Soriano down. I'm actually not against Fukudome moving to leadoff if he maintains his performance.

The other warts that could use a midseason look, as of right now, are all fairly clear. If Fontenot doesn't turn it around, a middle infielder could be looked at. I like DeRosa, and I'm sure there will be clamoring for him if he's shopped, but I wouldn't go too hard. At the right price, sure, but with Freel in place as a versatile option, the need isn't as heavy for DeRosa's versatility. If a shortstop popped on the market, the idea of Theriot to 2nd could be pondered, but that's a bit unlikely. I doubt anyone in the system would be pondered (really, the only option would be Tony Thomas, but he probably needs the full year in the minors, and should probably start 2010 in the minors). If we do pursue a 2nd baseman, I would like a guy that could hit in the 2 hole. Fukudome's fine at the top, but if can stay a solid hitter, I wouldn't mind sliding him down to the 6th spot to give the 5th hitter some protection (I imagine that Lou will have Aramis there in his return, but who knows). Of course, if Fontenot can be the player that some Cubs fans envisioned based off last year, then we'd be alright. Or, we could pursue a 2nd baseman that can be a solid 6th option that protects the middle of the order. I'm no sabrmetrician, but it looks like some bad luck has befallen Fontenot, but also that he's hammering the ball into the ground a lot more. A lefty pen arm is certainly a need, as Cotts, nothing personal to him, is atrocious. Even if Marshall moves to the pen, I wouldn't mind adding another lefty. The only two system options that seem possible right now would be Lambert and Gaub.

Getting back to Fukudome - I can't help to be a bit concerned. He's taken a dip in production of late, and after last year, little things tend to get the attention. I think it's just a slump, which had to happen after his insane start. Here's hoping, at least.

To be honest, I don't love the construction of the bench. Hoff/Freel/Hill are fine. I like Johnson and Miles, but ideally, I'd like to see a better pinch runner off the bench and a righty bat with some pop off the bench. That's me, but I think those two assets would balance out a solid pen. I understand having Reed Johnson around, as he's the righty bat to Fukudome and he's a capable enough offensive player. With Freel here, I don't see the point of Miles to be honest.

I'm not against pursuing a SP upgrade if Harden and Z are back and dealing, but I think it has to be at the right price.

Holy wall of text, Robin!

thanks for the novel toons. duly noted.

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