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The VSL Cubs begin their 68-game 2014 season tomorrow morning with a game against the VSL Phillies.

Jeffrey Baez led-off the game with a home run and then laced an RBI single and stole a base in his next AB, Jesse Hodges belted an RBI triple and scored a run, Gleyber Torres singled twice, knocked-in two runs, and scored another, and Tyler Ihrig fired four innings of shutout ball with five strikeouts and combined with three relievers to help the Cubs whitewash the Giants 6-0 on Field #2, and Craig Massoni drove-in three runs with a two-run double and a sacrifice fly and Carlos Valdez hammered a solo home run, leading the Giants to a 6-1 victory on Field #1, in Cactus League Extended Spring Training split-squad doubleheader action this morning at Indian School Park in Scottsdale, AZ.  

Slick-fielding AA Tennessee shortstop Elliot Soto (at Extended Spring Training while serving a 50-game Drug of Abuse suspension) reached base four times (three singles and a walk) and stole a base in a losing cause on Field #1. 

OF Casper Wells (on AAA Iowa Cubs 7-day DL - back spasms) continued his EXST rehab, playing RF for six innings and getting three Plate Appearances (he was in the clean-up slot in the batting order on Field #2 and he batted only when his spot in the order was due to hit). Wells walked twice and grounded out 6-3.

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

Raul Linares rifled a single through the box to drive-in the tying run from 3rd base with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, as the Angels rallied for two runs in their final AB to tie the Cubs 3-3 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning at Diablo Park Field #7 in Tempe, AZ.

Eloy Jimenez singled twice and collected an RBI and Varonex Cuevas ripped an RBI triple and scored a run for the Cubs.

Casper Wells (Iowa 7-day DL - back spasms) continued his EXST rehab, playing RF for five innings and batting once in each of the first five innings. He went 0-5, getting called out on strikes in both the 1st and 2nd innings (in both cases strike three was a knee-buckling curve thrown by Angels 2013 3rd round draft pick RHP Keynan Middleton), before grounding out 5-3 in the 3rd, and flying out in the 4th and 5th innings. 

After LHP Michael Heesch (Daytona 7-day DL) made his 2014 game debut with a 1-2-3 five-pitch bottom of the 1st inning (6-3, F-9, P-4), veteran MLB RHP Joel Pineiro took the hill and threw the next six innings (77 pitches) for the Cubs, allowing one run on six hits (four singles and two doubles) and a walk, with five strikeouts. Pineiro also induced three inning-ending double plays, as he really had the sinker working today (12/2 GO/FO).   

There was a somewhat larger crowd than normal at today's game, although some of the fans were clearly there to watch Angels OF Josh Hamilton (15-day DL - torn ligament in thumb) run the bases and field fly balls and grounders on an adjacent field. 

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

Christhian Perez tossed four innings of one-hit shutout ball in relief, Robert Martinez hammered an RBI triple and a double and scored a run, Chris Wolfe drilled two RBI singles, and Brett Vertigan smacked a solo home run, leading the Athletics to a 5-2 victory over the Cubs in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning on Field #6 at the Under Armour Performance Center at Riverview Park in Mesa, AZ. 

Rashad Crawford belted an RBI triple and a single, stole a base, and scored a run for the Cubs in a losing cause.

RHPs Trevor Graham and Erick Leal "piggy-backed" for the Cubs and threw a combined 7.2 IP, allowing all five runs (four earned), 10 hits (including two doubles, two triples, and a home run), and two walks, with nine strikeouts. 

The way things are playing out so far at EXST, it appears very likely that Graham and Leal will form 2/5 of the Boise starting rotation when the NWL season commences next month, with LHP Tyler Ihrig and RHPs Trevor Clifton and Zak Hermans being other 3/5 (at least until one or two of the better college pitchers selected by the Cubs in next month's First-Year Player Draft get stretched-out to start). 

The Cubs have now lost six straight Cactus League EXST games, and after thirty games (halfway through the Cactus League Extended Spring Training schedule), the Cubs record stands at 11-18-1. 

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

Emerson Jimenez (2012 NDFA - Dominican Republic - $275K bonus) stroked a two-run single and David Bergin and Miguel Dilone followed with RBI triples to highlight a four-run 3rd inning, Hamlet Marte belted an RBI triple in the 6th and doubled and scored in the 8th, Marcos Derkes collected three hits, stole a base, scored a run, and drove-in another, and Ryan Garvey blasted a two-run home run, leading the Rockies to a 9-6 victory over the Cubs in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action thiis morning on Dust Storm Field at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Resort east of Scottsdale, AZ.  

Kevin Brown (a double and three walks) and Zak Blair (two singles and two walks) reached base four times a piece for the Cubs in a losing cause. (The Cubs left 11 men on base and had three runners thrown out on the bases).

The two teams combined to commit nine errors, including six by the Cubs and three by the Rockies.

Casper Wells (back spasms) continued his EXST rehab, serving as a DH and batting five times (once in each of the first five innings). He drew a two-out walk in the 1st inning, reached base on an HBP in the 2nd, lined out to 2nd base in the 3rd, ripped a two-run double down the LF line in the 4th and then later scored on a Ricardo Marcano RBI single, and struck out (swinging) on a 1-2 slider (from a LHP) in the 5th. 

In EXST roster news, OF Jorge Soler (hamstring) has completed his rehab assignment at Extended Spring Training and will be rejoining AA Tennessee. In seven EXST Cactus League games (34 Plate Appearances), Soler hit 179/265/214 with five hits (four singles and a double), one walk, three HBP, five strikeouts, two sacrifice flies, five RBI, and one stolen base. 

Also, RHP Michael Wagner has been moved up to Kane County from Extended Spring Training. The 22-year old 6'4 200 Wagner was the Cubs 15th round pick in last June's MLB First-Year Player Draft out of the University of San Diego, where he was the USD closer, second-team All-American, and a teammate of Cubs mega-prospect Kris Bryant. 

THE PITCHING LINES FROM MICHAEL WAGNER'S FIVE 2014 CACTUS LEAGUE EXST OUTINGS
4/14 - 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K, 0/4 GO/FO, 24 pitches (15 strikes)
4/18 - 1.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R (2 ER), 0 BB, 0 K, 2/2 GO/FO, 23 pitches (15 strikes) 
4/21 - 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 3/1 GO/FO, 38 pitches (20 strikes)
4/26 - INTRASQUAD GAME
4/29 - 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K, 1/2 GO/FO, 17 pitches (12 strikes)  
5/2   - 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 HBP, 1/1 GO/FO, 31 pitches (20 strikes)
TOTAL: 9.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R (2 ER), 4 BB, 10 K, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 7/10 GO/FO, 62% strikes, 1.92 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, .222 OppBA

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

Gabriel Sanchez belted a bases-clearing three-run double to cap a four-run 7th inning, and Justin Higley singled twice, stole two bases, scored two runs, and drove-in another, as the Athletics rallied to defeat the Cubs 5-2 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning on Field #6 at the Under Armour Performance Center at Riverview Park in Mesa, AZ.

Jeffrey Baez had three hits and Varonex Cuevas smacked a triple and an RBI single for the Cubs in a losing cause.

Jorge Soler (hamstring rehab) is still at Extended Spring Training, and (just like yesterday) he played RF for all nine innings in today's game. He had four Plate Appearances in the game, hitting a check-swing dribbler back to the pitcher on a 3-0 pitch in his first AB in the bottom of the 1st inning, walked on four pitches in the 4th, grounded out 5-3 in the 7th, and (representing the tying run) lined-out to right with runners on 1st & 2nd and out out in the 9th.  

Veteran MLB OF Casper Wells (AAA Iowa 7-day DL) returned to game action today after missing about six weeks with knee and back issues. He batted five times in the game--once in each of the first five innings, going 1-4 with two infield pop outs, two fly outs (one of which was a run-producing sacrifice fly), and a line-drive single. For a player who has missed as much time as he has, he showed plus bat-speed and really nailed the ball with authority in three of his five AB, and showed good speed on the bases, too.

Wells was an NRI outfielder at Cubs MLB Spring Training, and probably would have been the Opening Day RF at Iowa if he hadn't started the season on the DL. He also probably would have been the logical candidate to replace Justin Ruggiano when Ruggiano went on the DL with his hamstring injury last month, because Ruggiano and Wells are very similar-type players. 

RHRP Kyuji Fujikawa (2013 TJS rehab) and RHP Jesus Castillo (one of two pitchers acquired from Arizona in the Tony Campana deal) were scheduled to throw "live" BP on Field #5 prior to the game on Field #6. Both pitchers warmed up in the Field #5 bullpen, and while Castillo did throw his two "innings" (40 pitches total - 20 pitches in each inning), Fujikawa returned to the clubhouse after completing his warm-ups and did not throw BP.   

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

Chad Thompson and three relievers combined to toss a four-hitter with 11 strikeouts and Tucker Neuhaus singled, walked twice, scored a run, and drove-in another, as the Brewers celebrated "Cinco de Mayo" with a 6-2 victory over the Cubs in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning at Maryvale Baseball Park Field #7 (AKA "Paul Molitor Field") in Phoenix, AZ.

Jorge Soler drove-in both Cub runs with a 1st inning F-8 sacrifice fly to the warning track in CF and a 3rd inning two-out RBI ground-single through the box, and Rashad Crawford reached base three times (two BB and an HBP), stole two bases, and scored both Cub runs. 

Soler also struck out (swinging) on a 2-2 breaking ball in the 5th and grounded out 6-3 in the 8th.

In 30 Plate Appearances over six Cactus League EXST games, Soler is hitting 200/267/240 with five hits (four singles and a double), five RBI, two sacrifice flies, no walks, three HBP, six strikeouts, and one stolen base.   

Julio Pena smacked a three-run home run off Joel Pineiro and RHP Chris Johnson threw four innings of one-run ball and struck out six (including Jorge Soler twice), leading the Giants to a 6-2 victory over the Cubs on Field #6, and Will Callaway, Brad Moss, and Fernando Pujadas stroked RBI doubles as the Giants edged the Cubs 6-5 on Field #5, in Cactus League Extended Spring Training split-squad doubleheader action this morning at the Under Armour Performance Center at Riverview Park in Mesa, AZ.  

Jeffrey Baez laced an RBI triple and a double and scored a run and RHP Trevor Clifton threw 2.2 IP of shutout relief with five strikeouts in a losing cause for the Cubs on Field #5, and Mark Malave accounted for both Cub runs on Field #6 with an RBI double and an RBI single.

Jorge Soler (hamstring rehab) played RF for seven innings on Field #6 and batted six times, once in each of the first six innings, He struck out (swinging) on a 1-2 pitch in the bottom of the 1st, was called out on strikes on a 1-2 pitch in the 2nd, bounced-out 6-3 in the 3rd, roped a line-drive single to left (and then stole 2nd base!) in the 4th, reached base on an HBP (he was hit on the right inner elbow) in the 5th (his 3rd HBP in five EXST games this week), and then he struck out (swinging) on a pitch over his head in his final AB in the 6th.

While he is still a bit rusty at the plate (he is hitting only 182/269/227 with no walks, five strikeouts, three HBP, and four hits--three singles and a double--in 26 EXST PA), he is running and playing outfield defense without any apparent difficulty, and so today could very well be the end of his EXST rehab. So don't be surprised if he is back with AA Tennessee by Monday. 

35-year old veteran MLB RHP Joel Pineiro was the starting pitcher for the Cubs on Field #6, his fifth EXST outing since signing with the Cubs on March 30th. Pineiro worked five innings (62 pitches), allowing three runs (all earned) on five hits (three singles, a double, and the Pena three-run HR), and two walks. He struck out only one, but had a 10/4 GO/FO.

THE PITCHING LINES FROM JOEL PINEIRO'S FIVE 2014 EXST OUTINGS
4/12 - 4.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R (2 ER), 0 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 8/0 GO/FO, 64 pitches (48 strikes)
4/17 - 4.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R (2 ER), 2 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 1 PO, 7/2 GO/FO, 66 pitches (43 strikes)
4/22 - 4.2 IP, 9 H, 7 R (7 ER), 2 BB, 3 K, 3/3 GO/FO, 76 pitches (51 strikes)
4/28 - 5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R (2 ER), 0 BB, 7 K, 1 WP, 4/4 GO/FO, 60 pitches (45 strikes) 
5/3   - 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R (3 ER), 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HR, 2 GIDP, 10/4 GO/FO, 62 pitches (42 strikes)  
TOTAL: 22.2 IP, 27 H, 18 R (16 ER), 6 BB, 17 K, 1 HR, 3 WP, 2 GIDP, 32/13 GO/FO, 70% strikes, 6.35 ERA, 1.46 WHIP

Both games were stopped by mutual-agreement after 7-1/2 innings.

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

Shilo McCall lined a walk-off two-run double into the left-centerfield alley with two outs in the bottom of the 9th to cap a three-run rally as the Giants edged the Cubs 4-3 on Field #1, and Arnaldo Calero looped an RBI single over the second-baseman's head into short right field to tie the game in the top of the 8th and Tyler Alamo shot a sharp grounder through the box into CF for what turned out to be the game-winning RBI single in the top of the 9th, as the Cubs derailed the Giants 2-1 on Field #2, in a Cactus League Extended Spring Training split-squad doubleheader played this morning at Indian School Park in Scottsdale, AZ. 

RHPs Erick Leal and Trevor Graham were the starting pitchers for the Cubs, and both threw three innings of shutout ball. Leal had the more-impressive outing of the two because he had to pitch around two errors, striking out four and inducing two timely DP grounders to get out of trouble. RHP Luis Hernandez "piggybacked" with Leal and also threw three innings (the three middle innings) on Field #1, although he did surrender a run, two hits, and three walks.  

Jorge Soler continued his EXST rehab assignment with Squad "A" on Field #2, playing RF for five innings and getting a total of five Plate Appearances (one in each of the first five innings). He went hitless in the game, although he did reach base once. Specifically he grounded out 6-3 in the 1st inning, was called out on strikes (a three-pitch AB) in the 2nd, reached base after being hit by a pitch (left shoulder) in the 3rd, grounded out 6-3 again the 4th, and flied out to the warning track in front of the Batter's Eye in CF (400+ feet from home plate) in the 5th.

In four EXST games this week, Soler has totaled 20 Plate Appearances. He is 3-17 with an RBI double (line drive into the LF corner) and two singles (both ground singles, one of which drove-in a run), two fly outs (one of which was an RBI sacrifice fly), ten ground outs (all ten being one or two-hop choppers hit to the left-side of the infield), and he reached base on an E-1. He has struck out twice (once swinging and once looking), and he has reached base twice on an HBP (he was hit in the lower back and on the left shoulder). He has yet to draw a walk  He has played RF twice (both times for five innings), and he does not appear to be favoring his right leg while running, although he has been just jogging to 1st base on the ground outs. 

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

Nataniel Delgado belted an RBI triple and a double and scored a run, Brandon Bayardi stroked two RBI singles, and veteran MLB LHP Sean Burnett (2013 elbow surgery rehab) and five relievers combined to toss a three-hitter with ten strikeouts, as the Angels defeated the Cubs 4-2 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning on Field #6 at the Under Armour Performance Center at Riverview Park in Mesa, AZ.

Jorge Soler (hamstring injury rehab) played RF for five innings (first time he has played in the outfield in about a month) and batted once in each of the first five innings, going 0-5 with five ground outs.

RHP Dallas Beeler continued his EXST rehab assignment, throwing 6.1 IP (60 pitches - 44 strikes) and allowing three runs (all earned) on six hits (five singles and a triple) and a walk, while striking out two and (once again) getting a ton of ground balls (12/3 GO/FO, plus another grounder that turned into an error). 

THE PITCHING LINES FROM DALLAS BEELER'S FOUR EXST OUTINGS
4/14 - 2.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R (2 ER), 0 BB, 4 K, 2/1 GO/FO, 41 pitches (31 strikes) 
4/19 - 4.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 4 K, 7/1 GO/FO, 63 pitches (44 strikes)
4/25 - 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R (3 ER), 1 BB, 1 K, 1 PO, 9/2 GO/FO, 68 pitches (45 strikes)  
4/30 - 6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R (3 ER), 1 BB, 2 K, 12/3 GO/FO, 60 pitches (44 strikes) 
TOTAL: 18.0 IP, 21 H, 9 R (9 ER), 4 BB, 11 K, 1 PO, 30/6 GO/FO, 71% strikes, 4.50 ERA, 1.39 WHIP

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