Lieber and Eyre Rehabbin' at Fitch
Jon Lieber and Scott Eyre threw in rehab outings with the AZL Cubs at Fitch Park Field #3 this morning, as Larry Rothschild, Lester Strode, and Carlos Zambrano (who was visiting buddy Angel Guzman) watched from the bench, and a gaggle of Cubs brass watched from the observation tower.
And the AZL Cubs took advantage of having a couple of big leaguers throw shutout ball for the first four innings of the game, as they whitewashed the AZL Mariners 7-0.
Lieber got the start and threw three innings, and it was typical Lieber (33 pitches - 24 strikes, no runs on four hits, no walks, one strikeout, one GIDP, 5/2 GO/FO).
Then Eyre threw one inning (14 pitches - 8 strikes, no runs, no hits, one walk, no strikeouts, and one GIDP), although he did throw an additional 10 or 15 pitches in the bullpen after his one inning of work, possibly to tinker with his slider (otherwise he just could have thrown a second inning).
Neither Lieber (on the DL with a sore foot) nor Eyre (on the DL with a strained groin) showed any outward physical indication of injury, and both appear about ready to return to full-activity and game action.
Lieber looked like Lieber ("pitching to contact" on every hitter), but Eyre was a bit spotty with his control and had trouble commanding his slider, although he did throw with decent velocity. I would think Eyre would benefit from one or two outings at AAA, perhaps with the Iowa Cubs while they are in Tucson (they'll be there starting tonight through Friday night).
There was no sign of Alfonso Soriano at Fitch Park today, meaning he'll either go on a one or two game rehab with the Iowa Cubs in Tucson starting tonight, or I guess it's possible that he could be reactivated for tonight's Cubs-Diamondbacks game at Chase Field (or probably more-likely tomorrow night's game, when lefty Doug Davis gets the start for the D'backs)..
Soriano put on quite a power display in pre-game BP before last night's Cubs-D'backs at Chase Field, attacking the ball with relish, hitting line-drive ropes and towering long flies all over the yard. But his timing looked to be slightly off when he was the DH for the AZL Cubs at Peoria yesterday morning, so he might benefit from a few more minor league ABs at AAA game-speed before he faces an MLB pitcher throwing in anger.
Today's game marked the professional debut of the Cubs 2008 21st round draft pick, 17-year old SS Logan Watkins (Goddard HS - Goddard, KS), and their 37th round pick, 21-year old RHP Erik Hamren.
The left-handed hitting Watkins PH in the bottom of the 8th inning, and proceeded to slam a single into RF. The kid was a star baseball and football player in HS, and and had already accepted a full-ride scholarship to Wichita State when the Cubs drafted him last month. But he somewhat unexpectedly gave up his chance to attend WSU when the Cubs threw "3rd round money" at him (a reported $500K plus another $100K in college tuition).
As for Hamren, he had transferred to Saddleback CC for his sophormore year, after attending the University of the Pacific as a freshman. He was going to enroll at UC - Irvine for his junior year (2008-09 school year), before deciding to sign with the Cubs.
Hamren hasn't pitched much over the last couple of years, so the Cubs did not make an offer until they had a chance to follow his progress with Mankato in the Northwoods League (a summer "wood bat" college league), where he was the MoonDogs closer. I guess the Cubs liked what they saw. And he looked pretty good today at Fitch Park, too, throwing a shutout inning (with one hit allowed and one K) in his pro debut.
The Cubs have now signed 32 of their first 38 picks from this year's Rule 4 Draft, including 26 of their first 27. The "Big Fish" unsigned pick still out there is 10th rounder RHP Alex Wilson (Texas A&M). Wilson had Tommy Johnn surgery after injuring his elbow while pitching in the Cape Cod League (the premiere "wood bat" collegiate summer league) in the Summer of 2007, and he missed the entire 2008 college baseball season. But he is currently back pitching with Falmouth (the same place he was last year when he got hurt), and it's possible that the Cubs will offer him 1st or 2nd round money (that's what it will probably take to sign him) if they feel he's back 100% from the TJS.
Although the Cubs drafted him out of Texas A&M, Wilson last pitched at Winthrop, where he was (pre-TJS) a very highly-regarded prospect, projected as a possible 1st or 2nd round pick.
What the Cubs did with Erik Hamren and are now presently doing with Alex Wilson (and a few other draft picks from the lower rounds) is the new version of "Drafdt & Follow." It used to be that clubs could draft a player in June (especially JC players, or HS players who were going to go to a JC) , and then be able to sign him all the way up until a week before the next year's draft. Such players signed just before the deadline the following year were known as "DNFs" (or Draft & Follows"). Now the "DNF" period lasts only two months, until the new August 15th signing deadline. So following unsigned draft picks while they play in summer collegiate leagues or with post-HS traveling all-star teams has become very important.
BTW, Carlos Zambrano drove one of the Fitch Park golf carts around the place like it was a go-cart. It's lucky he didn't kill somebody (like maybe himself).
And RHP Dae-Eun Rhee has arrived at Fitch Park to begin his long rehab from Tommy John Surgery. So far he's wearing one of those custom TJS splints on his elbow, and a khaki-colored "We're Broke" t-shirt (with the picture of a bear with it's leg in a sling on the back) that the rehab guys receive when they arrive. (I'd like to get me one of those).