DJ Spins the Biggest Hit
Up from Minor League Camp (Fitch Park) to provide some back-up insurance on the bench, D. J. Lemahieu slugged a pinch-hit two-run homer in the bottom of the 10th to give a Cubs split squad a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in warm & sunny Mesa, AZ, this afternoon.
box score (Mesa)
The Cubs 2nd round pick in 2009 out of College World Series Champion LSU, Lemahieu comes into the 2011 season looking like a body-builder, having added about 25 pounds (mostly muscle) to his 6'4 frame at the Cubs off-season strength & conditioning program at Fitch Park (AKA "Camp Colvin"). He is regarded by most scouts and other observers as the Cubs best hitting prospect, but he has been doing it with an arm-locked opposite-field line-drive stroke that did not produce home runs. He worked extensively with Cubs minor league hitting coach Barbaro Garbey at AZ Instructs post-2009 on learning how to elevate his swing a bit and "turn on the ball," but he was mostly unable to replicate the training at Daytona in 2010, hitting 314/346/386 but with only two HR in 600 PA. (Somehow he managed 73 RBI, though).
Lemahieu has played 2B-SS-3B in his short pro career (2010 was his first full season), and while he looks most-comfortable at SS, he has also almost-certainly outgrown the position. Scouts projected him long-term as a 2B or (even more-likely) a 3B in pro ball, but questioned if he could develop the HR power expected of a third-baseman. Granted today is just one game (and a Spring Training game to boot), but the HR Lemahieu hit today was probably not something you would have seen last year or anytime previous in his career.
Ryan Dempster got the start for the Cubs today, and pitched very well, going four innings (46 pitches - 31 strikes, 4/4 GO/FO), allowing just one run on three hits and no walks. Manager Mike Quade has already named Dempster as the Cubs Opening Day starting pitcher, and he is obviously the most-advanced of the Cubs starters so far. He probably could easily have pitched a fifth inning today. Dempster's only bump in the road was an Aaron Miles lead-off triple to CF in the 3rd, with Miles eventually scoring on a ground out.
The Cubs got on the board first in the bottom of the 1st inning against Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley, as lead-off man Kosuke Fukudome reached second base on a double-error by SS Justin Sellers, and then scored on an RBI double by Marlon Byrd (Sellers was acquired by the Cubs from OAK in the Michael Wuertz deal, only to be dealt to the Dodgers at the end of Minor League Camp in 2009 before ever having a chance to play in a regular season game in the Cubs system).
The Cubs took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 4th, as Byrd doubled again (his 4th double in two days), and scored on a Jeff Baker two-out line-drive RBI single that knocked Billingsley out of the game.
Carlos Marmol threw a shutout 5th (striking out the side), but the Dodgers tied it up in the 6th against Thomas Diamond, as Gabe Kapler ripped a lead-off double, and scored one out later on a Dioner Navarro SF.
The Cubs came back to take the lead again in the bottom of the 7th, as Steve Clevenger raked an opposite-field PH double over the left-fielder's head, and scored a moment later on a Fukudome line-drive RBI single to right-center.
But then the Dodgers tied it up (again) in the 8th against Jeff Stevens, as the right-hander labored through his one inning of work, allowing a walk, a single, and a Marcus Thames game-tying RBI double along the way.
Marcos Mateo pitched a 1-2-3 9th and Esmailin Caridad threw a 1-2-3 10th (and both looked very good), setting things up for some home team heroics.
Lou Montanez worked a lead-off walk in the 10th, and then (with the Dodgers expecting a bunt) Lemahieu put an exclamation point on the day's festivities, turning a Luis Vasquez offering into crowd-pleasing walk-off dinger.
Meanwhile, the other squad of Cubs was getting royally blanked in Goodyear by a Reds split squad, losing 10-0 on a combined two-hit shutout.
box score (Goodyear)
I wasn't at this game, but from the box score it's fairly obvious that Casey Coleman had a poor outing (allowing three runs on four hits in 2.0 IP), and top pitching prospect Trey McNutt--making his Cactus League debut--allowed three walks, a double, and a home run (and a WP), getting only two outs (both strikeouts) before being relieved.
Starting pitcher Todd Wellemeyer didn't pitch much better than Coleman, but he only allowed one run in his two innings, apparently thanks in part to a CS.
The Cubs play only one game tomorrow, facing the Angels in Mesa.