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Micah Hoffpauir was activated a week ago and the Iowa Cubs haven't lost since. In the last two games alone he's driven in more runs than the pesky redhead has in 23. Yesterday he manned a post in right-field, possibly as a Plan B in the event of a failed Jim Edmonds experiment.

Meanwhile Kevin Hart was 'stretched out' from 67 pitches in his previous start all the way to 68 yesterday; from 3.2 innings all the way to four.

Expecting to see the enigmatic Rich Hill make a not so triumphant return to the scene of some of his finest professional work, I headed to the ballpark last night planning to call it a night whenever he did.

He only lasted five innings but I stayed for a sixth when it was assigned to Scott Eyre.

The battery in the starting lineup was Hill squared, and after three innings it was hard to say whose arm was more impressive, the left of Rich or the right of Koyie. At that point Rich had fanned three but Koyie had thrown out a man stealing and picked another off of second.

For the record, Rich Hill allowed seven hits and two runs while walking one and striking out five on the night. I had him for 47 strikes among his 78 pitches, but left with other less quantifiable impressions of his work.

Hill's misses weren't close. The 'balls' he threw were so flagrant that the batter was rarely tempted by them.

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I delayed my end-of-homestand post for a day so I could see how Sean Gallagher followed up on his brilliant outing from last week.

The results? Mixed.

Gallagher retired the first ten Fresno hitters he faced. He entered the sixth having surrendered only one run and retired the first two routinely before an infield single dripped from the faucet. A stolen base followed, then an intentional walk, then an accidental walk and Gallagher called it a night, leaving the bases loaded and the water running for Carmen Pignatiello.

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The season here in Des Moines has had a hard time getting started this year. Bad weather, bad team and bad schedule; you're out!

Yesterday was an exception.

Sean Gallagher served up a tasty lunch in a nooner matinee at Principal Park on one of the very few days so far when the elements didn't cross-up the schedule makers.

After seven innings Gallagher had thrown 86 pitches, allowing one run on three hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. All 12 K's were swinging, most of them on a nasty breaking ball.

His pitch counts by inning were as follows: 11, 13,13, 14, 16, 9 and 10.

They trotted him back out for the eighth, the only frame when he failed to fan anybody. He walked the leadoff man, erased him on a DP grounder, gave up a base hit and called it a day after 101 mostly carveaceous, to coin a word, pitches.


...350 miles west of Chicago on I-80, Mike Wellman keeps tabs on the Iowa Cubs in the PCL...


Living here in Des Moines I've always gotten a kick out of the local team playing in the Pacific Coast League. I guess that makes the portion of the 'road to Wrigley' that runs through here the Pacific Coast Highway. Here's my dispatch after the season's first homestand.

Of the eight games scheduled four were lost to opponents, three were lost to Mother Nature [one of which was reclaimed as the front end of a day/night doubleheader] and two went into the win column.

The team now heads to Nashville for a four-game set with the [micro] Brewers as the I-Cubs and Sounds resume their subsidiary version of the growing rivalry between Chicago and Milwaukee.

It's hard to glean much from the limited six-game sample, very little of which was played in conditions conducive to baseball, but here are some early trends that will bear watching as the season unfolds:

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Sean Marshall was supposed to start for the Iowa Cubs tonight against Albuquerque in Des Moines. Instead he's on his way to Pittsburgh, exchanging roster spots with Carmen Pignatiello. Apparently Lou Piniella huffed and puffed and blew 'Piggy' back to the minors after the southpaw showed his appreciation for making the big club by walking both hitters he faced in Monday's 10-8 torture tilt.

Four games into their season-opening eight game homestand the Iowa Cubs are off to a sputtering 1-3 start.

THE GOOD NEWS: Both Seans [Marshall and Gallagher], Neal Cotts, Eric Patterson and Matt Murton.

THE BAD NEWS: Micah Hoffpauir, Sam Fuld and Matt Murton.

Marshall started the opener and retired all nine batters he faced, six of them on strikes, as he pitch-counts his way back from an ill-advised audition for a spot in the Chicago bullpen.

The next night Gallagher tossed five economical innings, allowing only two hits and a run with one walk and five strikeouts.

Cotts went two perfect innings and fanned three in his only appearance so far.

In Saturday's day-night doubleheader you might say that Patterson rode a tandem cycle. After notching a single and a double in the matinee, he spanked a triple down the left-field line and pulled a homer over the scoreboard in right in the nightcap. He's been playing at second base.

Murton makes both lists because he's hit safely in every game and drawn a couple of walks to open at a .357/.471 clip, but all five hits are singles. He's scored once without driving in a run.

Hoffpauir tweaked an oblique in an exhibition tilt versus the University of Iowa and headed straight back to Arizona. He's expected back in another week or so.

Fuld is on the active roster but has played in only one of the first four games, going 1-4 when he patrolled CF in the opener of Saturday's DH. Probably not coincidentally, the weather Saturday afternoon offered easily the best playing conditions of the week.

Mark Holliman starts tonight in the opener of a four-game set with Albuquerque.

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