The Hill at Fitch Park
Starting for the AZL Cubs versus he AZL Angels at Fitch Park Field #3 this morning, Rich Hill worked five shutout innings (68 pitches, 47 strikes, 8/0 GO/FO), allowing three hits (all three singles) and a walk, with five strikeouts. He really had his roundhouse curve and efficient two-seamer working today, as he went to a three ball count on only two of the 17 Angels hitters he faced.
Hill was supposed to start yesterday's game versus the AZL Rangers, but the game was canceled due to wet grounds (a severe monsoon storm hit the Phoenix area Thursday night and Fitch Park was still flooded Friday morning).
If he doesn't get promoted to Iowa this coming week, his next AZL start should be Thursday at Fitch Park versus the AZL Padres. If he does stay in Arizona for one more start, it's possible that Hill will rejoin the Iowa Cubs when the I-Cubs play at Tucson the week of July 21st (the same week the Cubs play the Diamondbacks in Phoenix).
Coupled with his previous outing last Sunday when he worked four innings of one hit ball with six K, Hill has now gone 9 IP, 4 H, 1 R (1 ER), 2 BB and 11 K over his last two outings since modifying his delivery under the auspices of Cubs Minor League Pitching Coordinator Mark Riggins and AZL Cubs Pitching Coach Rick Tronerud.
Hill almost certainly could have gone longer today, but there is a limit of five innings or 75 pitches (whichever comes first) for AZL pitchers, including rehabbers.
Hill left with a 3-0 lead after five innings, and the AZL Cubs managed to just barely hang-on for a 6-5 victory.
2008 20th round draft pick LF Jericho Jones (Louisiana Tech) had three more hits (he's now hitting 452/500/690) before leaving the game with cramps. (Jones is a slow runner, but he sure can hit). Matt Cerda (4th round pick out of Oceanside HS) reached base three times on two singles and a walk and scored three runs, and Nelson Perez hit a monster solo HR over the right-centerfield fence.
Cerda, who hasn't been a full-time catcher since his Little League days, has made great strides behind the plate since arriving at Fitch Park last month, working daily with player-coach (mentor) Danny Fatheree, who was Kerry Wood's catcher in HS.
At the plate, Cerda is an advanced hitter with an eagle eye at the plate, especially for a kid one month removed from high school. He reminds me of a young left-handed hitting version of Craig Biggio.
Ryan Acosta, Toby Matchulat, Carlos Rojas, and Luke Sommer followed Rich Hill to the mound, but only Sommer (who was an outfielder as recently as two months ago) was effective, earning the save with 1-1/3 innings of shutout relief. Acosta allowed three runs in the 6th and left the game with one out in the top of the 7th with an injury (exact nature unknown).
In AZL roster news, the Cubs have signed their fourth Non-Drafted Free-Agent (NDFA) and first NDFA position player of 2008, IF-OF-C Pat Mahoney (University of Connecticut).
A 22-year old right-handed hitter from Des Moines, Mahoney is the younger brother of ex-Cubs and ex-Iowa catcher Mike Mahoney. The younger Mahoney was originally an infielder, but was converted to catcher in his senior year at UConn, and I would expect him to serve as a "super-sub" utility player for the AZL Cubs. He supposedly can play just about anywhere.
listening on ESPN 1000, caller says Bill Welke will be the home plate ump today. Supposedly his reputation is for having an even bigger strike zone than last night's Phil Cuzzi. Some of the issues with bad umpiring come from an inconsistent strike zone. Hoping at least for consistency. Last night's called strike on David Ross was outright embarrassing for Cuzzi.
That might work out in favor of Kyle Hendricks, who benefits much from a large strike zone.
it's kind of mesmerizing to watch
should Theo add some Ted Abernathy videos for minor league pitching coordinator's use?
sadly, Ted passed away in 2004 from complications of Alzheimers. I always loved the Cub bullpen trio of Phil Regan, Ted Abernathy and Hank Aguirre. As a kid, I even worked on both Phil Regan (very quirky delivery) and Ted Abernathy (extreme submarine) imitations when throwing a rubber ball against a wall. It wasn't a good imitation unless I could scrape my knuckles off the ground. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for submariners.
HAGSAG: Chris Pieters was sent to instructs to develop his hitting, bunting, and outfield play (he is already a decent first-baseman).
Pieters is tall and rangy , a "long-strider" in the same mold as Trey Martin and Rashad Crawford. He is a very patient hitter (unusual for a hitter with his lack of experience) and has an outstanding (almost uncanny) eye at the plate, and he is a fast runner with unusually good baserunning instincts, and he is a good basestealer, too.
I doubt we will see Pedro in any more "high leverage" situations this series. With Hendricks and the pen today, we need Bryant-Rizzo-Castro to get going ASAP.
One funny thing to see before the game was the two submariner pitchers (David Berg and Corbin Hoffner) playing catch with each other. Both pitchers throw "submarine" even when they play catch, and it's kind of mesmerizing to watch, even for the other players.
CUBSTER: One of the points of emphasis at "basic" Instructs this year was teaching the position players the art of baserunning and base-stealing, like getting a good primary and seconday lead, reading the pitcher, cutting bases sharply, and different ways to slide to maximize the baserunner's chance to arrive safely.
Brooksbaseball.net has some interesting stats/graphs on pitch and strike zones and you can dial up individual games/pitchers. I'd love to see some comments from readers who can interpret this better than I can. I thought the Ump was really inconsistent with a very wide zone. Does this info seem to match up with my eyeball perception? Also, looking at the graphs, Lackey was not throwing as many pitches below the K-zone (certainly more above) while Lester was clearly getting his pitches down and not many above.
As I was fearing in my post yesterday, Maddon keeps trotting Strop out against the Redbirds and he constantly fails. I understand the psychology behind this, but in a series where there is a finite lock on who moves on, why does he keep riding the wrong horse?
AZ Phil: Agree, this must have been a really fun game to watch. There was a lot of base stealing going on. Are the pitchers not holding runners or is the catching still a work in progress?
Cuzzi has long been known as having the biggest strike zone among all umpires.
AZ Phil, give me a scouting report on Chris Pieters since he has become a 1B/OF.
I think it's probably hard to adjust to an ump's zone mid-game, as least for hitters. Pitchers can locate to an ump's zone, but hitters have minimal time to react.
But, whatever. Umps are going to miss calls. Let's beat up on the non-Lackey starters.
Watched a little of Mets-Dodgers.
Jason deGrom -- oh, my.
Cubs 3-4-5 hitters are 0-21 so far in the post-season.
Let's change that in a big effin' way tomorrow, boys.
Considering how players reacted it seemed pretty accurate high and wide (to righties), but not so accurate low and in. I thought the strike zone by the ump was awful, but it was consistent and the Cubs never adjusted.
Rizzo and Bryant need to have good at bats. They are really looking outclassed in these two games.
that game sounds fun as hell.