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.
Meanwhile on the SouthSide
For sure! Russell and Baez are the first infielders in a while to make me think of star defensive players in football or basketball--it's almost like they force turnovers, and they definitely play the field with a degree of athletic aggression I'd expect from a linebacker.
[Edit: Was meant to be a response to JB above.]
tebow hit a HR in the 1st pitch he sees in instructs..lulz.
I don't think his issue(s) will have anything to do with it. He hasn't hit since he's been back. Coghlan has the hot hand.
I'm not a denier but definitely a skeptic on Strop and Grimm, who struggle with fastball control. Strop doesn't go near the ninth inning, and note how Grimm couldn't close the deal even with a 5-run lead. So Felix Pena comes in and gets the 3-pitch game-ending strikeout like it was nothing.
And how about Almora missing that very catchable ball? That was unexpected after all the hype about his glove.
When Trea Turner misses balls like that--which he does--I draw conclusions from it. It seems to be the one chink in his armor. But I'll give Almora another chance.
Assuming Soler is good to go, I think it comes down to 3 of the following 4: Coghlan, TLS, Sczcur, Almora. Of the 4, TLS seems to be the hardest to justify, particularly given his behavioral issues.
I'm wondering if both Coghlan and LaStella make it. With Javy being able to play all the infield spots and Joe maybe wanting late-inning D when Soler plays (assuming he plays), hence either Szczur or Almora, I think LaStella might be the odd guy out.
Hendricks needs the win, anyway, plus a couple more.
My hunch is that Hendricks wins the Cy Young . . . for Lester. That is, without Hendricks tipping the scale toward the Cubs, Scherzer tops Lester.
Old Cub fans remember when Ken Hubbs died at 22 in the crash of a small plane he was piloting in a storm in Utah in 1964. But Hubbs was not an elite power pitcher like Score and Fernandez. Score lived a long time after the accident but it was (effectively) career-ending.
HAGSAG: Since I've only seen them throw in one game and in one "live" BP session, all I can do is provide initial first impressions.
Brailyn Marquez is listed at 6'4 but is probably more like 6'5 or 6'6. I would describe him as a younger version of Bryan Hudson, throwing a ton of ground balls but not getting a lot of swings & misses (yet). Because of his size he could eventually grow into more velocity, but right now he's mostly a pitch-to-contact guy. He generally throws strikes.
Phil, do Marquez and Ocampo look like prospects?
It helps when your defense has declared war against the H in WHIP.
Lackey finishes with a 3.35 ERA. Currently good for 13th in the NL. Not bad for a guy signed to be a #3 starter in a 15-team league.
He is also 6th in WHIP. Pretty amazing: Cubs have the #2, #3, #5 and #6 starters in WHIP.
Completely meaningless game, but Pena striking out Sean the Turd to with the bases loaded was very fun.
Other than one bad game in SD, Pena has been very good. Even with that game, 9.0 IP, 13 K, 0.89 WHIP.
101 wins...most since 1910 (104).
neat. ...or sad. pick one. pick both. 'murica.
Just looked up Grimm's stats -- after a great run, he gave up 2 runs vs. MIL then didn't pitch for 10 days. Don't remember why?