Rich Looks Hardened; Aaron's Miles Away
He doesn't exactly pack 'em in like Wood and Prior used to.
A crowd of about 7,000 gathered last night at Principal Park. Some portion of it was there for the express purpose of watching Rich Harden tune up for his return to the big leagues this weekend.
I watched Harden warm up in the bullpen before he took the mound. From less than 10 feet away he sure doesn't look the 6'1" or the 195 # attributed to him in the media guide.
The other thing I noticed right away was that his pant legs went all the way to his shoetops. The rest of the team tucks 'em below the knee, knickers style. I'm guessing he paid for the fashion privilege with a post-game clubhouse spread before catching the first plane out of town.
He retired the first six batters he faced on only 22 pitches without topping 90 mph. The second inning required only eight.
In the 3rd his velocity rose noticeably and he struggled a bit. I'm not alleging cause & effect there - just reporting.
A sharp leadoff single was followed by a dribbler to short that went for a hit. After his Round Rock counterpart laid down a sacrifice bunt, Reggie Abercrombie singled in the only earned run Harden gave up. Abercrombie hit the first pitch and it looked like a changeup. In the 1st & 5th Harden fanned him with a steady diet of high fastballs. The changeup and splitter were more effective as out pitches once Harden got hitters down in the count. A Round Rock hitter [think his name is Hyperbole] is quoted in the local paper this morning as saying that Harden, "threw me a split-finger...that was probably one of the best pitches I've ever seen." My goodness!
Anyway, after Abercrombie stole 2nd, Harden issued one of his two walks to load the bases before bearing down and getting out of the jam on two weak flyballs to So Taguchi in right. He threw as many pitches in the 3rd as he had in the first two innings combined.
All six of his strikeouts were swinging. I had him for first-pitch strikes to 10 of the 20 hitters he faced. 44 of his 70 pitches were strikes.
Here's an inning-by-inning breakdown:
1. Strikeout swinging [four pitches]
2. Strikeout swinging [five pitches]
3. G3; unassisted [five pitches]
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
4. F7 [two pitches]
5. L9 [one pitch]
6. Strikeout swinging [five pitches]
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
7. Single to right [seven pitches]
8. Infield single [three pitches]
9. Sacrifice bunt [two pitches]
10. Single to left [one pitch]
11. Walk [five pitches]
12. F9 [one pitch]
13. F9 [three pitches]
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
14. Strikeout swinging [five pitches]
15. Walk [four pitches]
16. FC; 1-6 [three pitches - should have been a DP to end inning; SS dropped a perfect throw on the pivot]
17. Strikeout swinging [five pitches]
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
18. E3 [five pitches]
19. Strikeout swinging [three pitches]
20. 5-3 [one pitch; call it a night...]
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Harden was a little slow covering first on the grounder to the right side that began the 5th inning. Luis Rivas ranged wide to field it before throwing it way behind Harden. The whole play was out of sync and it led to the other [unearned] run charged to Harden.
As for the other rehabber in town...
Miles played 3rd last night after two games @ 2B. The good news is that he made a real fine play on a bunt in the 5th that looked like a sure hit.
The bad news is that he went 0-5 with three strikeouts, one of those on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded and nobody out in the 3rd. At least he went down swinging. I don't look for him to fill the clutch-hitting shoes of Aramis Ramirez, but at least the I-Cubs will get one of their better players [Scales or Blanco?] back.
Last & Least: I got a kick out of Jason Dubois lining a screaming single off the wall in right-center [last time I saw him a routine foul pop to left caromed off his melon into the stands]. He ultimately got where he was supposed to be by scampering [?] to 2nd on a blocked WP. Later in the game he also scored from 2nd, hustling all the way on a more garden variety single by Matt Camp...Samardzija throws today against Bud Norris [future NL Central mound opponents] in a noon matinee...MW
K-DUB: I think the Cubs might consider skipping Dylan Cease past South Bend and starting him at Myrtle Beach next season, especially if he gets some time at South Bend this season and pitches well there. As a southern kid with TJS history, pitching at Myrtle Beach in April is probably a lot more attractive than pitching in South Bend, but Cease can't go to Myrtle Beach if he isn't ready for Hi-A.
His story makes him someone I completely root for to succeed but it's interesting that he's not succeeding in the way anyone thought when he was just a prospect. Great defense and contact instead of power. I think failing so glaringly and getting sent back down might have been the best thing for him and his ego.
He still swings at too many balls out of the strike zone but he's making a lot more contact on them which I think is helped by the less violent swing. So we might not get all the HRs we were expecting but I'll gladly take what he's giving.
"KingKongVsGodzilla"? So - was there a winner?
Baez is looking like a pretty special player.
Love checking TCR for your writeups. Quick question - any of these 2015 positional IFAs stand out to you yet? I'm most specifically referring to Kwon, Sierra, Paredes, and Amaya, but I know there's a couple other guys from that class in EXST as well.
bored...looking at stats for the hell of it...
felix pena (26yo) moving to the pen in AAA is looking like an insanely good fit so far in a smallish sample size
13ip 4h 3bb 20K
remembering back to spring training he was regularly hitting mid-90s (though he didn't have a good spring stats-wise). as a starter in the minors he usually worked low-90s.
this could be an arm worth keeping an eye on even if he's only a 1-inning guy who was "demoted" to the pen to start the year.
Phil, historically this front office has been patient with their prep pitchers keeping their IP low and moving them one level at a time. I know I'm getting ahead of myself, and you may not be able to formulate an opinion on this, but you've seen a lot of pitchers over the years, so...
also, after tonight's loss, STL is 13-14.
also also, the wsox are 19-8.
Win tomorrow, and the Cubs would have a 6-game lead. On May 4.
Fully agree on Addy -- hope he is our SS for a long time. I'm just surprised he has 4 errors already -- the last 2 on routine plays.
Guess how many Carlos Correa has?
I would still rather have Russell, right now, than any shortstop the team has had in many years. The future is bright enough to wear shades.
EDIT: Gonzo WOULD have been my favorite, 'cepting a certain error of a double-play ball...
Hi Phil, made it home tonight safely. Looks like Cease is getting better each outing. I see Crow did ok today too. I will be reading your write_ups everyday. Great seeing you while there!
tomorrow's game is a 12:35pm EST game for some ungodly stupid reason...then it's back to wrigley field for a night game on the 5th.
The best part of tonight's game was 6 different players with RBIs. Truly a lineup that doesn't give up top to bottom.
excubs [email protected]_NEWS
Jake Arrieta first Cub to go 6-0 in first six starts since Three Finger Brown in 1908.
Russell now with 4 errors -- that's a big (unpleasant) surprise.