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.
Meh. He only got one hit today. Maybe give him a rest?
Good thing the Cubs have five left-handed batters in the lineup. Velasquez is just tearing thru the righties [edit - doesn't seem to faze Bryant!]
ben zobrist gets to ride up front tonight cause he's a good guy at sports.
cubs with a 5 run lead and a lackey shutout through 3ip \m/
HAGSAG: I have not seen Joe Nathan out on the field, but he is supposedly at the UAPC.
ERIC S: Best outing I've ever seen from Manny Rondon, and I've seen most of his outings since the Cubs got him from the Angels.
M. Rondon is competing with six others (Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, Jose Paulino, Pedro Silverio, Jesus Castillo, and Erling Moreno) for a starting slot at Eugene, and (as you can probably tell from the EXST box scores) the competition has gotten fierce over the last couple of weeks, With the exception of Moreno, the Eugene SP candidates have upped their game lately, and M. Rondon's outing yesterday was especially impressive/dominating.
E-MAN: Pierce Johnsion was mixing a 92-94 MPH fastball with a plus-change-up AND curve, and he threw strike-after-strike-after-strike with all three of his pitches. I believe that was the best command and pitch-efficiency I've ever seen from Johnson, who often pitches from behind in the count and issues too many walks.
Of course now he has to avoid a recurrence of the lat strain (whch he has had previously in his career) as well as all of the other miscellaneous physical problems he's had over the last three years (hamstring, quad, back, etc).
PHIL: Any movement on P. Johnsons pitches? What was his "out" pitch? I know he was working on a 4th pitch, so wondering what he is looking like these days. Thanks.
AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.
Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!
Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.
With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.
it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.
It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.
Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.
That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.
I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.
Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...
These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.
No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.
a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...
it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...