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Dustin Houle and Jalen Harris smacked back-to-back RBI doubles in a two run 4th, Francisco Castillo collected three singles (including a run-scoring hit in the 9th), and RHP Zach Quintana tossed five innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts, as the Brewers defeated the Cubs 3-1 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa, AZ.

The Cubs scored their one run in the bottom of the 1st inning, when Albert Almora ripped a two-out triple into the left-centerfield gap, and then scored on a Xavier Batista line-drive double into the LF corner. 

Almora was 2-4 for the day, including the 1st inning triple, an L-7 line-out in the 3rd. a strikeout (swinging) in the 6th, and a two-out single in the 8th. In five Cactus League Extended Spring Training games (22 PA), Almora is hitting 273/273/500 with three singles, a double and two triples, no walks, and four strikeouts.     

While the Cubs and Brewers were playing their game on Field #3, RHPs Chang-Yong Lim and Daury Torrez and LHPs Angel Mejias and David Villegas faced-off in a "sim" game on Field #2. Among the position players participating was Steve Clevenger, who was seeing his first game action of any kind since being placed on the Cubs MLB 60-day DL with a strained oblique on April 14th.    

Clevenger hit a couple of squared-up rocket line-drives, including one that almost took Daury Torrez's head off. He certainly didn't show any ill effects from the injury, and I would think he will likely get some ABs as a DH in Cactus League Extended Spring Training games beginning sometime next week, before going out on a rehab assignment at either Tennessee or Iowa. (He isn't eligible to be reinstated from the DL until June 13th).  

Here is the abridged box score from today's Cactus League Extended Spring Training game (Cubs players only):   

Luis Baez stroked two run-scoring doubles (one to tie the game in th 6th and another to put the A's ahead in the 9th) and knocked-in three runs, helping to rally the Athletics to a 6-4 victory over the Cubs in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning at Papago Park Field #2 (AKA "Connie Mack Field") in Phoenix, AZ.

Jesse Hodges smacked an RBI double and a solo HR, Albert Almora singled, doubled, and scored a run, and Paul Blackburn hurled three shutout innings for the Cubs in a losing cause.

The game was pre-planned as a ten-inning affair, so when the A's scored three runs in the bottom of the 9th to take a 6-4 lead, the Cubs still had a chance to mount a comeback. But they left the bases loaded in the top of the 10th.  

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

Reggie Golden drilled a two-run single, an RBI double, and a triple, Mark Malave singled, doubled, walked, and scored two runs, Jeffrey Baez singled twice, walked, stole a base, and scored a run, and James Pugliese hurled four innings of shutout baseball, leading the Cubs to a 6-4 victory over the Rockies in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning at Dust Storm Field at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Resort, east of Scottsdale, AZ. 

After beginning the Cactus League Extended Spring Training schedule mired in a 1-22 slump (045/276/091 in 29 PA over the course of 11 EXST games), Cubs 2010 2nd round draft pick Reggie Golden has been on fire, hitting 423/483/692 over his last nine games (29 PA), bringing his season slash-line up to a more-respectable 250/438/479. Golden suffered two torn ligaments in his left knee a year ago while running the bases as a member of the Peoria Chiefs, and missed the rest of the 2012 season. He is just now rounding back into playing shape.        

James Pugliese has been pitching "lights out" over his last four Cactus League EXST appearances (two GS), allowing no runs on four hits and four walks with 11 strikeouts in 10.1 IP. With Josh Conway out for the season and Dillon Maples having been promoted to Kane County, Pugliese is putting in a claim on one of the open starting rotation slots at Boise.    

Wilfredo Petit returned to action today, catching for six innings and getting three AB. Petit suffered a bruise on the back of his left hand last week after being struck by a bat on a Catcher's Interference error, and although it initially appeared to be a serious injury, x-rays were negative. 

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

17-year old Panamanian LHP Anfernee Benitez tossed four innings of no run/no hit ball with eight strikeouts, 16-year old Dominican SS Sergio Alcantara singled twice, tripled, and scored two runs, and Tyler Linton cracked a two-run double to cap a four run 8th inning rally, as the Diamondbacks outlasted the Cubs 8-6 on Field #4, and Wagner Mateo belted an RBI double to put the D'backs on the board in the top of the 1st, and Andrew Velasquez laced an RBI triple to plate the Diamondbacks final run in the top of the 4th, as the D'backs withstood a Cub rally in the bottom of the 9th (Cubs scored twice and left the bases loaded) and defeated the Cubs 5-3 on Field #2, sweeping a Cactus League Extended Spring Training doubleheader played this morning at Fitch Park in Mesa, AZ.    

Jose Rosario got the start for the Cubs on Field #4 and had a rough 1st inning, surrendering four runs on four hits (three singles and a double) and a walk. But then he found his rhythm and retired 12 of the last 13 men he faced (five on strikes) before reaching his pre-planned pitch limit (67). 

Rony Rodriguez whacked a two-run HR in the bottom of the 5th and Justin Marra followed an inning later with a two-run double to help the Cubs tie the game on Field #4, and then the Cubs took a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the 7th, before the D'backs erupted  for four runs off reliever Chad Martin (capped by the Tyler Linton two-run two-bagger) in the top of the 8th. Martin had a really poor outing, allowing four runs on six hits (three singles, two doubles, and a triple) in just two innngs of work 

Albert Almora was in the lineup on Field #4 and played CF for six innings, getting four AB and going 1-4. He struck out (swinging) twice against Anfernee Benitez, then he broke up the no-hitter by rifling a single off RHRP Bobby Hillier and past the D'backs third-baseman leading off the bottom of the 5th (before scoring on the Rony Rodriguez HR), and popped up to the second-baseman in short RF in his final PA (also versus Hillier).

Prior to the doubleheader, RHP Chang-Yong Lim (July 2012 TJS rehab) threw a 25-pitch "live" BP inning on Field #1, facing Jose Morales (strained hamstring rehab), Lance Rymel, and Justin Marra. The 36-year old side-armin' Korean and one-time closer for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows (NPB) was signed by the Cubs post-2012, and has been rehabbing at Fitch Park for the past couple of months. Barring a medical setback, I would think he will probably see some EXST game action soon. (Fellow South Korean Dong-Yub Kim bowed to Lim in "we are not worthy" style as he passed behind the batting cage on Field #1 on his way to Field #4).   

In EXST Cubs roster news, INF Bryant Flete has been moved down to the VSL Cubs. Flete had an interesting weekend, playing in the EXST game at Talking Stick last Friday, flying to Venezuela on Saturday, and then playing in the VSL Cubs inaugural yesterday morning (Flete hit lead-off and played SS for the VSL Cubs).  

Here are the abridged box scores from today's games (Cubs players only):   

Jeffey Baez belted an inside-the-park HR off the CF "Batter's Eye," drilled an RBI single, and walked, Justin Marra hammered a three-run triple, singled, walked, and scored a run, Kevin Encarnacion laced a bases-loaded three-run double, and Yasiel Balaguert blasted a solo HR, as the Cubs swept a Cactus League Extended Spring Training doubleheader from the Giants by scores of 6-3 and 10-7 this morning at Fitch Park in Mesa, AZ.   

Joey Rapp (on an EXST rehab) walloped a two-run HR for the Giants in a losing cause.

In 16 Cactus League Extended Spring Training games (43 PA), Jeffrey Baez is hitting 342/419/684 with a team-leading four HR. The 19-year old right-handed hitting Venezuelan OF signed with the Cubs for a reported $350K bonus in July 2010 as a 16-year old, at the beginning of the 2010 International Signing Period. Baez went hitless in seven PA at Extended Spring Training last season before breaking his wrist diving for a ball in right field, and then was sent back to the Cubs Dominican Academy where he hit 291/378/448 in 48 games (202 PA) for DSL Cubs #1. 

In two DSL seasons (2011-12), Baez hit a combined 286/363/424, with 8 HR & 64 RBI, 22 doubles, 60 SB (19 CS), 97 runs scored, and 17 outfield assists (playing all three OF slots, but mainly CF) in 116 games (497 PA). He had a brief six-game trial with the AZL Cubs after the conclusion of the DSL season last August, and was likely ticketed for the AZL Cubs this season. But don't be surprised if the "other" Baez skips the AZL, joining fellow Venezuelan teenaged hot-shot Carlos Penalver on what should be a very interesting Boise Hawks team.  

Here are the abridged box scores from the two games (Cubs players only):

Yasiel Balaguert mashed a two-run home run to key a three-run 3rd, Jeffrey Baez belted a solo HR, Trevor Gretzky collected an RBI double and two singles and scored three runs, Carlos Penalver singled, doubled, walked, stole a base, and scored two runs, Reggie Golden singled twice, walked, drove-in a run, and scored two more, and Lance Rymel doubled and walked and drove-in three runs, as one squad of Cubs throttled one squad of Diamondbacks 10-2 on Whirlwind Field, and Ben Eckels and three relievers combined to throw a three-hitter with ten strikeouts and Damion Smith laced a bases-loaded three-run double, as the other squad of D'backs defeated the other squad of Cubs 4-1 on Jackrabbit Field, in a Cactus League Extended Spring Training doubleheader played this morning at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Resort east of Scottsdale, AZ.  

The game on Whirlwind Field was called by mutual agreement in the middle of the 9th inning, and the game on Jackrabbit Field was called by mutual agreement in the middle of the 8th.

The Cubs got outstanding work from their two starting pitchers today. RHP James Pugliese fired three innings of one-hit shutout ball (80% strikes) with five strikeouts on Whirlwind Field, and 19-year old Dominican RHP Alexander Santana tossed three innings of no-run/no-hit ball on Jackrabbit Field, retiring nine of the ten men he faced (the only blemish being an HBP).  

In EXST Cubs roster news, INF David Bote and C-DH Carlos Escobar have been moved up to Kane County.


Bote was hitting 219/324/344 in 12 Cactus League EXST games (37 PA), with two triples, one SB (three CS), and 5/8 BB/K. He has played 2B, SS, and 3B for the EXST Cubs, and this is the second time he has been moved up to a full-season club since the end of Minor League Camp (he was with the Daytona Cubs for about a week last month when Tim Saunders was on the DL). The 20-year old Bote was the Cubs 18th round pick in the 2012 June Draft out of Neosho County CC.     


The Cubs 2012 15th round draft pick out of the U. of Nevada, Escobar was sidelined with an ankle injury during Minor League Camp and for the first three weeks of Extended Spring Training. But he hit 462/462/846 in five Cactus League EXST games (13 PA) since returning to action, and he hammered two home runs over a period of three days last week (one in an intrasquad game at Fitch Park, and then a tape measure shot last Saturday at Maryvale). Escobar had a 25% CS in Cactus League EXST games, and he also picked one runner off base.    


Here are the abridged box scores from the two games (Cubs players only):

The Cubs have moved their second Dominican Summer League (DSL) team to Venezuela (Ciudad Alianza), and so 2013 will see the debut of the VSL Cubs (and no more DSL Cubs #2). 

While the Cubs have signed many Venezuelan players over the years (with Carlos Zambrano, Angel Guzman, Ronny Cedeno, and Geremi Gonzalez being the most-notable ones), they have operated a team in the Venezuelan Summer League (VSL) only once previous, and that was a "co-op" team shared with the Minnesota Twins in 2007.

The VSL has been in operation since 1997 and had at one time as many as a dozen teams. However, in recent years the number of MLB clubs with affiliates in the VSL has dwindled to just four (Mariners, Rays, Tigers, and Phillies in 2012), with the Cubs bucking the contraction trend by actually putting a new team in the league this season. 

It is perhaps a little bit strange that the Cubs have chosen to move one of their DSL teams to Venezuela just as their new state-of-the-art multi-million dollar Dominican Academy goes on-line, but they probably recognize the potential motherload of baseball talent that's just waiting to be discovered in Central & South America (including Brazil), and having a presence in the VSL could help the Cubs get a foothold there.     

While the Dominican Summer League (DSL) does not begin play until June 1st, VSL Opening Day is next Monday (May 13th), and the VSL regular season runs through August 5th. A best two-out-of-three playoff between the 1st and 2nd place teams follows the conclusion of the regular season.     

The VSL roster limit is 35, but at present the Cubs have assigned only 24 players to the VSL Cubs, with 22 of the players from Venezuela, one from Curacao, and one from the Dominican Republic. (Essentially all of the Venezuelan players who had been assigned to DSL Cubs #1 or DSL Cubs #2 were moved to the VSL Cubs). The two Mexican players assigned to the Dominican Academy (RHP Javier Castro and LHP David Villegas) could be assigned to the VSL Cubs, too, as well as any Cuban or other non-Dominican international players (including no more than two players from Puerto Rico) the Cubs may sign in coming months.

There are also 11 Venezuelan players presently assigned to the Cubs Extended Spring Training team (RHP Daniel Adrian, OF Jeffrey Baez, C Erick Castillo, 2B Bryant Flete, RHP Erick Leal, 3B Mark Malave, LHP Angel Mejias, SS Carlos Penalver, C Wilfredo Petit, LHP Carlos Rodriguez, and LHP Luis Villegas) who could be moved down to the VSL Cubs, although most of the Venezuelans at EXST are likely ticketed for the AZL Cubs or Boise.   

2013 VSL CUBS:

Carlos Penalver had four hits (an RBI double and three singles) and scored a run, Reggie Golden singled twice, walked, drove-in a run, and scored two more, Mark Malave belted a two-run double and scored a run, and Duane Underwood and Trey Lang combined to throw six shutout innings, leading the Cubs to a 6-1 victory over the Angels in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning at Fitch Park Field #4 in Mesa, AZ.   

With his four hits today, Penalver is now hitting 381/422/524 with three doubles and a triple and only four strikeouts in 45 Cactus League Extended Spring Training Plate Appearances (17 games). He also leads the EXST Cubs in stolen bases with with four (no CS), and has committed only two errors (his second error coming today). The 18-year old Venezuelan was signed by the Cubs as a 16-year old for a reported $550K bonus on July 2, 2010 (the first day of the 2010 International Signing Period), and he is probably the best defensive shortstop in the organization. 

Matthew Carasiti threw five shutout innings and combined with three relievers to throw a four-hitter, and Raimel Tapia and Dillon Thomas drilled RBI singles, as the Rockies edged the Cubs 2-1 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning at Dust Storm Field at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Resort, east of Scottsdale, AZ. 

Jeffrey Baez belted a solo HR to account for the Cubs lone run.

RHP Dillon Maples got the start for the Cubs and threw four innings (67 pitches), allowing one run on two hits (both singles), three walks, and a HBP. He struck out three and really had the sinker working (8/0 GO/FO). Maples did struggle with his comand throughout the first two innings (a 22-pitch 1st and a 25-pitch 2nd), but then retired six of the last seven men he faced on just 20 pitches. After completing his 67-pitch four inning stint, Maples went out to the bullpen and threw 20 more pitches, so he should be well stretched-out if the Cubs decide to move him up to Kane County before the end of Extended Spring Training. (FWIW, he also threw 78 pitches in an intrasquad game last Thursday). 

LHP Kyler Burke (strained oblique rehab) "piggy-backed" with Maples and also threw four innings (58 pitches), allowing one run (it was unearned) on three hits (all singles) and a walk, with two strikeouts. He looks like he is about ready to leave EXST and join either Kane County, Daytona, or Tennessee (depending upon where a slot is available).    

Jacob Rogers blasted a three-run home run over the right-centerfield fence to put the Cubs on the board in the bottom of the 1st inning, Dong-Yub Kim belted a solo HR over the LF fence and off the roof of a house on the north side of 8th Street, singled, and walked, and Shawon Dunston Jr laced an RBI triple, singled, and scored two runs, leading the Cubs to an 8-1 victory over the Athletics in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning at Fitch Park Field #4 in Mesa, AZ.  


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