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This is the time of the year when MLB clubs begin to rearrange the deck-chairs, as contenders look to solidify their post-season rosters with a last minute waiver deal or two prior to the August 31st post-season roster eligibility deadline, and clubs that are out of contention bring up players from the minors to get a look at guys who might (or might not) have a future with the club.   

Cubs possible September call-ups and roster additions: 

The 2013 Arizona Fall League (AFL) schedule has been released, and rosters should be announced later this month


There are three AFL games scheduled every day Monday through Saturday (there are no games on Sunday), beginning with AFL Opening Day on Tuesday October 8th and extending up through Thursday November 14th. The AFL Rising Stars Game will take place at Surprise Stadium Saturday night November 2nd (there are no league games scheduled that day), and the AFL Championship game will be played at Scottsdale Stadium on Saturday November 16th.


The Cubs usually assign some of their better prospects to the AFL. Depending on what positions the Cubs are asked to fill on the Mesa squad, I would not be surprised to see some combination of position players like SS Javier Baez (who played in the AFL last year), RF Jorge Soler (if healthy), 2B Arismendy Alcantara (if he doesn't play in the Dominican Winter League), 3B Kris Bryant, Mike Olt (if Bryant isn't assigned to the AFL), or Christian Villanueva (if he doesn't play in the Mexican Pacific League and if Bryant or Olt aren't assigned to the AFL), CF Matt Szczur, Jae-Hoon Ha, or Albert Almora (Szczur played in the AFL last year), 1B Dustin Geiger or Dan Vogelbach, and/or Rafael Lopez (if the Cubs are asked to supply a catcher), and (if they have not exceeded their max proscribed IP) a AA starting pitcher like LHP Eric Jokisch or RHP Matt Loosen, and relievers like LHP Zac Rosscup and Kyler Burke and RHP Trey McNutt, and Tony Zych (McNutt and Zych have pitched in the AFL before).


Alcantara is a lock to get added to the Cubs MLB 40-man roster post-2013, but Rosscup, Ha, Loosen, and Burke might have to prove themselves in the AFL first. (Rosscup, Ha, and Loosen are Rule 5 eligible post-2013, and Burke can be a minor league FA if he isn't added to the 40-man roster by the 5th day following the conclusion of the World Series).    


They have changed a bit over the years, but here are the current AFL eligibility rules:


Carrie Muskat reports that the Cubs have claimed 25-year old RH hitting LF-RF-1B Thomas Neal off waivers from the New York Yankees. Neal had been Designated for Assignment by the Yankees last Friday to make room on their 40-man roster for OF Curtis Granderson, who was reinstated from the 60-day DL.


The deadline for "non-waiver" (unrestricted) trades is 4 PM (Eastern) on July 31st. No trades can be made between 4:00 and 5:00 (Eastern), and then beginning at 5 PM (Eastern) on July 31st and extending through to the conclusion of the MLB regular season, Trade Assignment Waivers must be secured before players on MLB 40-man rosters can be traded. (Waivers are never required to trade players on minor league reserve lists).

A look ahead at the Cubs 40-man roster over the next six months:

Five pitchers combined to throw a six-hit shutout with 17 strikeouts, as the AZL Cubs blanked the AZL Giants 1-0 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training post-season action this morning at Indian School Park Field #4 in Scottsdale, AZ.  

The Cubs have acquired 26-year old Venezuelan flame-throwing RHRP Henry Rodriguez from the Washington Nationals for minor league RHP Ian Dickson.

Dickson was the Cubs 35th round draft pick out of Lafayette College in 2011, and was used as both a starter and a reliever at Kane County this season, posting an ugly 6.88 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 35.1 IP and 11 Games (3 GS). He was a candidate to get demoted to Boise (and probably released post-2013) if he hadn't been traded. 

Rodriguez was Designated for Assignment by the Nats on June 4th to make room on their 40-man roster for LHP Ian Kroll, so they had until Friday (6/14) to either trade him, release him, or send him outright to the minors. However, because it takes two days to get a player through waivers, Washington really only had until 2 PM (EDT) Wednesday (today) to trade him. (He was NOT placed on waivers, otherwise he could not have been traded).

Jesse Hodges reached base four times on a double, two singles, and a walk, drove-in three runs, and scored another, and Jose Morales also reached base four times on a double, two singles, and a walk, leading the AZL Cubs to a 7-2 victory over the Boise Hawks this morning at Fitch Park Field #4 in Mesa, AZ.  

Kevin Encarnacion went 4-4 with three singles and a double for Boise.

Cubs 2012 2nd round draft pick RHP Duane Underwood got the start for Boise and hurled 3.1 IP. He struggled to command his fastball (82 pitches - only 40 strikes), allowing two runs on four hits and five walks and two WP. He also struck out four.

RHP Jorge Diaz pitched for Boise although he is assigned to the AZL Cubs.  

The game was a seven-inning contest.  

The Hawks arrived by bus at 6 AM for the 7:30 AM game, and departed for Sky Harbor Airport after the conclusion of the game. They are due to arrive in Boise at 5:30 PM (local time). They will travel by bus from Boise to Eugene on Thursday, and will play their first 2013 NWL game Friday night.  

There was a lot of loud joking around by the Boise players (like giving Shawon Dunston Jr a rash of shit about his tweets), but the AZL Cubs were fairly quiet. Players spend ten weeks at Extended Spring Training trying to make the Boise roster (if not Kane County or Daytona), and failing to do so can be a bit of a let-down. For AZL Cubs players like RF Jeffrey Baez (323/400/554 in 75 PA - 24 EXST Cactus League), 3B Jesse Hodges (275/342/449 in EXST Cactus League play  - with 321/387/571 over his last ten games), and 1B-OF Xavier Batista (387/441/935 with four HR over his last ten EXST Cactus League games, plus another HR in yesterday's intrasquad game), there had to be a feeling of vindication in soundly beating the team that will be leaving without them. All three deserve to be in Boise (and Batista probably should be at Kane County), but justice is usually not a factor when it comes to assigning players to a particular minor league affiliate.

AA Tennessee OF Jae-Hoon Ha continued his rehab, playing CF for five inings for the AZL Cubs and batting seven times in the game (once each inning). Ha went 1-6 with two fly outs, two ground outs, a line-drive-out, an RBI double, and a HBP, with two runs scored. He also stole two bases (including third base, and then he scored on an E-2 overthrow), and he also won the bat toss by heaving his bat over the grandstand fence and into the bleachers after being hit in the ribs by an Ethan Elias pitch. Ha looks like he's very close to being ready to return to Tennessee.

AA Tennessee 1B Justin Bour (broken wrist rehab) saw his first game action since April 19th, playing 1B for four innings with the Boise squad and batting five times. He went 1-4 with a sharp ground single through the 3.5 hole and a walk. a 3-1 GO, and two strike outs (both swinging). Bour left the game temporarily during the 5th & 6th innings and went over to Field #1 and took about four dozen ground balls around first base. One thing about Bour is that he is a tireless worker.    

Beefy 3B-1B Mark Malave was pressed into service at 2B for the AZL Cubs today. That's because INF Brad Zapenas was absent from Fitch Park, possibly en route to join the Kane County Cougars to replace INF David Bote, who has been assigned to Boise. (Bote will join his Hawks teammates in Boise). Zapenas hit 382/446/564 in 22 EXST Cactus League games (65 PA) while rehabbing from 2012 season-ending shoulder surgery.  

RHP Mike Hamann was (somewhat surprisingly) not on the Boise roster posted yesterday, but that might be because be could be going to KC instead. (Hamann was the Cubs #1 closer at Extended Spring Training). Or he may not be 100%.

2009 South Korean bonus baby ($550K) OF Dong-Yub Kim has disappeared from Fitch Park and may heve been released (can't be confirmed). Kim sufferered a torn labrum in his right shoulder at AZ Instructs post-2009, and eventually learned to throw left-handed. But even then he has a below-average arm (even for a LF), and so he had to hit a ton to remain a prospect. And while he still has plus bat speed and runs well for a big guy, it probably isn't enough (245/328/396 with three doubles, one triple, one home run, and eight RBI, in 27 EXST Cactus League games - 61 PA). 
 
Here is the box score from today's game:

Kevin Encarnacion belted a bases-loaded three-run triple and a double and scored three runs, Yasiel Balaguert singled three times, drove-in two runs, and scored another, and Xavier Batista collected three hits including a solo home run and an RBI single, helping one squad of Cubs defeat another squad of Cubs 12-6 in an Extended Spring Training intrasquad game played this morning at Fitch Park Field #4 in Mesa, AZ. 

Squad "B" pitchers retired 19 of the last 20 men they faced, as Squad "B" rallied from an early 6-1 deficit to win the game.  

The game was pre-planned as a ten-inning contest so that more pitchers could get work. 

The players had three days off during the First-Year Player Draft, and the team reconvened in Mesa yesterday. The players came into today's intrasquad game unaware of who would be going to Boise and who will be staying in Mesa. The Boise roster was to be announced by Hawks Manager Gary Van Tol at a team meeting at 2:00 (MST) this afternoon at the Fitch Park clubhouse, and supposedly one or two of the roster slots were still up for grabs going into the game.   

Boise's first game is this Friday night at Eugene (first home game is next Monday night), and the AZL Cubs will begin league play on June 20th. All AZL Cubs home games will be night games played at HoHoKam Park (Dwight Patterson Field).

Not related to the battle for Boise roster slots, AA Tennessee OF Jae-Hoon Ha (lower back strain rehab) played CF for five innings and batted five times in the game, going 1-5 with two strikeouts (one swinging & one looking), a FC, a F-9 fly out, and a line-drive opposite-field single. He also stole a base. Ha suffered the back strain during batting practice prior to a Smokies game on May 3rd, and this was his first game action since suffering the injury.   

Also, Iowa Cubs RHP Carlos Gutierrez (2012 shoulder surgery rehab) threw one inning and allowed the solo HR to Batista, and switch-hitting ex-Minnesota Twins C-1B-3B Jose Morales (strained hamstring rehab) was the starting catcher for Squad "A" and was behind the dish for seven innings.     

The Cubs claimed Gutierrez off waivers from Minnesota last October, and then outrighted him to Iowa in November. He was assigned to the Iowa squad at Minor League Camp, but was left behind at Extended Spring Training to continue his rehab. He got into one Cactus League Extended Spring Training game on April 10th, and then was shut-down for about six weeks. He has been pitching in "sim" games for the past couple of weeks.

Gutierrez was a former Twins 1st round draft pick out of the University of Miami, where he was the Hurricanes closer. He was throwing mostly cutters & sinkers today, topping out at 92 MPH.   

The Cubs signed Morales to a minor league contract in April, and he suffered the hamstring injury in his very first Cactus League EXST game on April 19th. He returned to game action on May 30th, and should be about ready to move up to Iowa. 

Here is the box score from today's intrasquad game:

Players selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft (MLB Rule 4 Draft) are placed on a club's Negotiation List.

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