A's Scratch Zych for Winning Run in 9th
Yordy Cabrera hit Tony Zych’s first pitch over the LF fence for what turned-out to be the game-winning run, as the Oakland A’s rallied from a five-run deficit to edge the Cubs 8-7 in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in warm & cloudy Mesa, AZ, this afternoon.
Ryan Dempster got the start for the Cubs and threw two innings (34 pitches – 23 strikes), allowing one run on two hits (a single and a triple), no walks and two strikeouts, and 2/2 GO/FO.
Trailing veteran RHP Bartolo Colon 1-0 going into the bottom of the 2nd, the Cubs took the lead on a Blake DeWitt two-out three-run HR over the RF fence following singles by Jeff Baker and Steve Clevenger.
DeWitt was outrighted to AAA last month after the Cubs claimed IF-OF Adrian Cardenas off waivers from Oakland, and (interestingly enough) DeWitt is battling Cardenas for what is probably one roster spot (LH hitting utility INF). Cardenas is younger and more athletic, but DeWitt is the more-experienced hitter, and he has been absolutely raking since he arrived in Mesa a couple of weeks ago. It looks as though he might have taken the outright assignment (and not getting claimed off waivers) as a personal affront, that he has chosen to address by battering opposition pitchers.
Leading 3-1, the Cubs scored three more times in the 4th against A’s RH reliever Jordan Norberto.
Jeff Baker led-off with a double into the RF corner, and Reed Johnson reached base on an error (a bobble by first-baseman Brandon Allen), moving Baker to 3rd. Steve Clevenger hit a sac fly to left-center to score Baker, and then after Blake DeWitt walked, Josh Vitters rifled an RBI double into the left-center gap to score Johnson, with DeWitt stopping at 3rd and the slow-footed Vitters barely beating the throw to 2nd. Tony Campana worked a walk to load the bases, and then Darwin Barney blooped an RBI single in front of A’s RF Josh Reddick, scoring DeWitt, and leaving the bases loaded, with the #3 and #4 hitters due up. But both Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair fanned (swinging), as the Cubs left the bases loaded.
Meanwhile, LHP Scott Maine (battling Trever Miller, John Gaub, and Jeff Beliveau for the #2 lefty reliever gig) threw a scoreless 3rd (albeit allowing hits to two left-handed hitters), and Blake Parker and Casey Weathers (both vying for the RH middle reliever job) had clean & easy 1-2-3 innings in the 4th and 5th.
But then the A’s began to chip away at the Cubs lead, scoring four times in the 6th on three hits (two singles and a Landon Powell two-run RBI double) and two walks off NRI RHP Marco Carrillo.
A likely rotation starter or closer for Team Mexico in next year’s World Baseball Classic, the 25-year old Carrillo has spent seven seasons in the Cubs organization (2012 is his 8th year), but has yet to establish himself at the AAA Level. He was a Rule 55 Minor League Free-Agent (6YFA) post-2011, but opted to re-sign with the Cubs, getting an NRI to Spring Training as part of the deal. Should he ever make it to the big leagues (which is doubtful), he would profile as a “12th man”-type, a versatile long-reliever/spot starter. The A’s battered him pretty good today. Even the outs were hard hit balls.
With Carrillo getting knocked-out before he could retire the side, veteran RHRP (and one-time Rockies closer) Manny Corpas got the call, striking out Josh Horton to end the inning.
Corpas seemed to be throwing free & easy, but his command was off, and he was constantly changing his arm angle, going back & forth between 3/4 and sidearm. It wasn’t as deceptive as he probably hoped it would be, because Corpas got himself into trouble in the 7th, allowing hard-hit doubles to Eric Sogard and Brandon Moss, and an RBI single to A’s top position-player prospect Michael Choice.
Corpas spent last season rehabbing from post-2010 Tommy John Surgery, but he managed to score a major league contract from the Cubs this past December. He was subsequently outrighted to the minors when his roster slot was needed in January, but he got an NRI to Spring Training anyway.
Now down 7-6, the Cubs came back to tie the score at seven in the bottom of the 7th against A's RHP Fabio Castro.
With two outs, Joe Mather grounded a single to left and stole a base, and after Matt Szczur walked, veteran minor leaguer Blake Lalli (invited to big league camp as one of the extra catchers) lined an RBI single into left-center to score Mather with the tying run.
Signed in May 2006 as a Non-Drafted Free-Agent (NDFA) 5th year college senior out of Gardner-Webb, the 28-year old Lalli is your basic “Crash” Davis. He spent the last four seasons as a back-up C-1B at AA Tennessee, and he very well could end up there again this season. He is a career .303 hitter, but he also has below-average power and below-average speed, and he is a below-average defensive catcher, too. Eligible to be a Rule 55 Minor League free-agent (6YFA) post-2012, Lalli could be a candidate to serve as a player-coach at Tennessee in 2012, since he doesn’t really profile as a big league prospect. (The Cubs like to have one or two veteran player-coaches posted at each of their minor league affiliates each season, mentoring the younger players, learning the coaching side of the game, and being available to be activated for short periods when a position player is placed on the 7-day DL).
RHP Kevin Rhoderick (called up from Minor League Camp at Fitch Park for the day) threw a 1-2-3 8th, fanning one (swinging) and inducing a couple of routine fly outs. Rhoderick was the Cubs 9th round draft pick out of Oregon State in 2010 where he was one of the top closers in the PAC-12, and he made his official pro debut last season (he pitched “unofficially” at Instructs post-2010), finishing the 2011 campaign at AA Tennessee. He is only 5’11, and he has a violent delivery that gives one the impression that he is over-throwing, but with his plus-slider & 94-MPH fastball combo, he is an effective one-inning pitcher, and is considered a definite big league relief prospect. He will probably be the closer at Tennessee in 2012.
The other Cubs MLB relief prospect up from Minor League Camp (2011 4th round pick RHP Tony Zych) got the ball in the 9th, and gave up the aforementioned game-winning HR on his very first pitch, which actually was his first pro pitch (if you don't count his work at Instructs post-2011). The 21-year old Chicago Area-native (he attended St. Rita HS) was the closer at the U. of Louisville 2009-11, and while he throws harder (95-97 MPH) than either Kevin Rhoderick or Aaron Kurcz (the third of the Cubs RH relief prospect triumvirate), he doesn’t have the breaking ball to go with the heat (yet). Zych will likely start the 2012 as the closer at either Daytona or Peoria (TBD).
The top Cub defensive gem of the day was turned-in by SS Starlin Castro, who went deep into the hole to backhand a bouncer, and then with a Nijinsky-like leap (a la Don Kessinger), threw a rainbow right on the money to 1st to retire the batter. (Of course it helped that the batter-runner was “Two-Ton” Landon Powell, who makes Dan Vogelbach look like an anorexic).
The Cubs take on the Colorado Rockies at HoHoKam Park tomorrow afternoon. Matt Garza is supposed to get the start for the Cubs.