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Well, he passes the eyeball test with flying colors. Entering the ballpark in the top of the first you know something new has been added to the home team as soon as you fix on the leggy right fielder. Clear from the mezzanine behind home plate you can’t help but notice that pair of long, thick Cuban stogies as he lopes under the game’s first out.

 

So I packed a PB&J and an apple this morning and planned to take my lunch break at the ballpark. Beautiful day here in Des Moines. It took forever to weave through pregame traffic and get into the lot where I park right next to the main gate. Just in time for the first pitch I slid into a spot and enjoyed the sandwich while I listened to the game on the radio.

 

Having waited half a season, I thought as the deluge pounded the car in the Principal Park lot, what’s another hour or so?

When the rain relented and while the grounds crew did its pregame thing I went to check for Superman capes and the like in the Backstop Store. No, the notice of Kris Bryant’s arrival in town had been too short to allow for restocking. Nevertheless, I expect there will be a hastily arranged bobblehead night added to the promo slate ASAP.

Thursday night I invited myself to the Triple A debut of Kyle Hendricks. He was neither exciting nor disappointing. He is a pair of blue jeans, not a tuxedo. He is a home cooked meal, not a night on the town. He is someone we could get used to.

For the first time this season the best farm system in organized baseball comes to town as the suddenly first place Iowa Cubs scoot home from Omaha for a three-game set with the Memphis Redbirds that culminates with a pyrotechnic exclamation of patriotism on Independence Day Eve.

Here’s a grab bag from recent days in the Iowa bush leagues:

 

*Junior Lake looks like a ballplayer but needs polish. He’s been getting on base a lot but his hits have included a swinging bunt here, a deflected ball there, a well-placed bloop, etc. With the glove his best game was in right field where he made multiple good plays. At 3B he’s made some diving and leaping stops but the arm’s erratic to the tune of five errors in less than a week. Still, he looks the part of a prospect.

Matt Garza looked all tuned up and ready to go tonight at Principal Park as he tossed six scoreless innings that required only 75 pitches by my count. Maybe it was the balls. More on those later. He also fielded his one chance with the glove flawlessly.

So, yeah, Garza looked good today; free and easy. Anyone who cares what they were has probably already seen the raw numbers. Two of the hits he surrendered were a swinging bunt and a deliberate one. Nobody hit anything very hard. He was hitting 94 consistently out of his windup; 92 from the stretch. One of his strikeouts was a nice hard slider that broke down and in on Brett Wallace and got him swinging. Whatever sort of fastball he throws that tails away from lefties was also sharp. He threw a few mid-70’s curveballs. Has he always had that pitch? It was used sparingly. The only 1-2-3 inning was the first.

Just by taking the field today the Iowa Cubs snapped their three-game skid at the hands of Mother Nature. Then they proceeded to hand Oklahoma City its first loss in a week by whipping the Redhawks 5-2 in the first game of a twinbill at Principal Park with a little help from rehabbing Kyuji Fujikawa.

Crafty Chris Rusin worked seven strong innings under the weather, you might say, in pitching the Iowa Cubs to their second straight win over the Albuquerque Isotopes this afternoon at Principal Park. He wasn't sick. He just kept the ball down (to the tune of 11 ground outs) and out of the southerly jet stream blowing toward the fences as the I-Cubs notched consecutive W's for the first time in 2013.

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