Cubs Relievers Get Extra Work with I-Cubs
Cubs Manager Lou Pniella generally prefers to delegate pitching matters to his pitching coach (that would be Larry Rothschild), but one aspect of the pitching staff Uncle Lou believes he understands is how to get his bullpen ready for Opening Day.
And a big part of this preparation is Piniella's belief that each of his relievers need to throw on back-to-back days once or twice during the last ten days of Spring Training, and each reliever needs to throw two innings one time, too.
That's where Minor League Spring Training games can really come in handy.
While Ryan Dempster, Jeff Samardzija, Randy Wells, and Kevin Hart made the two-hour bus trip to Tucson to pitch against the Colorado Rockies at Hi Corbett Field, Kevin Gregg, Chad Fox, and Luis Vizcaino took the 20-minute van ride to the Papago Park Baseball Complex in Phoenix (a former WWII POW Camp) to get their work in versus the Oakland A's AAA squad in a minor league game.
Gregg got the start and was able to throw two full innings, and Fox and Vizcaino got to throw for the second day in a row (they both pitched at Ho Ho Kam Park yesterday).
Gregg had an excellent and efficient 1st inning (three up - three down - F-8, F-7, F-9), but really looked like a different pitcher as he struggled with his command (17 pitches, only eight strikes) in his second inning of work. And then after he finished, I could see him limping around with an ice-pack wrapped around his left knee. Given the history of tendinitis in his knee, that may be par for the course, but he did not look like he would be ready or able to pitch again tomorrow (for instance) if that were necessary. So I would think Gregg might be a one inning-only pitcher (strictly enforced).
Chad Fox had a really fine outing pitching back-to-back in a game for the first time this year, needing just 13 pitches to get an infield pop up and two punch-outs (both batters looking) in his 1-2-3 inning (P-3, Kc, Kc). His slider looked very good today, and he had some life on his fastball, too.
Luis Vizcaino also looked OK pitching in back-to-back games. He did allow two one-out ground singles to the outfield, but otherwise he threw strikes and didn't appear to be laboring at all through his one inning of work (P-6, 1B, 1B, P-4, 3-1)
Mike Stanton and Angel Guzman also threw in the game at Ho Ho Kam Park yesterday, but neither pitcher made the trrip to Phoenix with Gregg, Fox, and Vizcaino. Whether that is significant, I don't know...
Assistant Pitching Coach Lester Strode also made the trip to Papapo Park with the three Cubs pitchers, and he could be seen intensely monitoring them from various angles and vantage points as they threw. All four of the guys left together (I'm not sure who was driving), with Strode probably riding along to make sure they didn't get into any trouble (bar fight, road rage, or drive-by shooting) while heading back to Mesa.
But the Iowa Cubs didn't get to leave early.
They had to stay for the entire game...
Sam Fuld was on base four times and scored three runs, Doug Deeds had four hits (two singles, a double, and a two-run homer) and drove in four runs, and Jake Fox belted a solo HR, but the Sacramento River Cats (Oakland A's AAA affiliate) rallied to defeat the Iowa Cubs 8-7 with a run in the bottom of the 9th, when the Cubs were unable to turn a potential inning-ending DP that would have left the game tied. .
I-Cubs reliever Rocky Roquet had a very bad outing this afternoon, allowing five runs (four earned) in the bottom of the 7th, when the River Cats rallied from four runs down to take a 7-6 lead
And shortstop Matt Camp had a very bad day in the field, making one bad throw to first, one bobble on an easy grounder, and allowing another grounder to go right through the wickets.
And Bobby Scales had a bad day at the plate, grounding out 5-3 with a runner on 2nd and no outs in the top of the 1st inning (runner could not advance), striking out with runners on 1st & 3rd with nobody out in the 3rd, flying out (F-7) with a runner on second and no outs in the 4th (runner could not advance), and striking out with runners on 1st & 2nd in the top of the 6th.
And Nate Spears just had a bad day (period), getting hit on the left hand with a pitch, and it didn't look too good, either, He had to leave the game, as Luis Rivas was permitted to re-enter the game to play 3B in the bottom of the last inning (Minor League Spring Training games are a lot less-formal than MLB-type Cactus League tilts). .
On a more positive note, Sam Fuld laid-down a beautiful drag bunt and beat it out (easily) for base hit, Shawn McGill showed plus speed (at least for a catcher) when he stretched a single into a hustle-double, and Jake Fox blasted his HR so far over the LF fence that it soared past Walter Haas Drive and landed on one of the softball fields located north of the A's minor league complex.
Here is today's abridged box score (Iowa Cubs players only), Note that 18-year old Korean OF Jae-Hoon Ha (signed by Cubs Chief Asian Scout Steve Wilson last September) and Venezuelan INF George Matheus (he played at AZL Cubs last Summer) were loaned to the Iowa squad from the Boise-Mesa group (soon to be the Extended Spring Training squad) at Fitch Park, and made the trip with the I-Cubs to Papago Park. Ha has an annoying habit of double-clutching every time he has to make a throw from the outfield (and it is no laughing matter, folks). .
1a. Sam Fuld, CF: 2-2 (2B, 1B, BB, BB, 3 R)
1b. Jae-Hoon Ha, CF: 0-1 (4-3)
2. Bobby Scales, 1B: 1-5 (5-3, Ks, F-7, Kc, 1B, 1 R)
3. Doug Deeds, RF: 4-5 (2B, 1B, HR, 1-3, 1B, 1 R, 4 RBI)
4. Jake Fox, LF: 2-4 (Ks, 1B, 6-3, HR, BB, 1 R, 1 RBI)
5, Jason Dubois, DH: 1-3 (Ks, F-8 SF, 1B, BB, Kc, 1 RBI)
6a. Kyle Reynolds, 3B: 1-3 (Ks, 1B, F-7)
6b. George Matheus, 2B: 0-2 (FC, Kc)
7a. Luis Rivas, 2B-3B: 1-4 (F9, L-6, 3-1, 1B)
7b. Nate Spears, 3B: 0-0 (HBP - left game with left hand injury)
8. Matt Camp, SS: 0-5 (F-9, F-9, F-7, Ks, F-9)
9a. Chris Robinson, C: 1-3 (2B, Ks, FC, 1 R)
9b. Shawn McGill, C: 1-2 (2B, 6-3)
1. Kevin Gregg - 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R (0 ER), 0 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 32 pitches -17 strikes, 0/4 GO/FO
2. Chad Fox - 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 13 pitches - 8 strikes, 0/1 GO/FO
3. Luis Vizcaino - 1.0 IP, 2 H. 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K, 16 pitches - 11 strikes, 1/2 GO/FO)
4. Jose Ascanio - 2.0 IP, 1 H,. 1 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 33 pitches - 22 strikes, 2/2 GO/FO
5. Rocky Roquet - 1.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R (4 ER), 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP, 37 pitches - 26 strikes, 0/2 GO/FO
6. Matt Smith -1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 0 K, 25 pitches - 15 strikes, 0/4 GO/FO
Shawn McGill - 0-3 CS
SS Matt Camp (3) - one bad throw to first, one bobble, and one ground ball went right between his legs
LF Jake Fox (1) - over-ran ball in LF allowing batter to advance to 2nd base on a single to the outfield.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs were playing the Colorado Rockies in Tucson in Cactus League action, and while I was not there, I can see by the box score that Micah Hoffpauir hit a three-run HR, Aaron Miles had three hits, one RBI, and scored two runs, Geovany Soto had two hits (including a double), and Kosuke Fukudome went 0-3 with two walks.
Also, Reed Johnson had two OF assists (and Joey Gathright had one, plus a stolen base), and Ryan Dempster started and went six innings, allowing four runs on six hits (including two doubles and a Garret Atkins solo HR), three walks, and a WP, while striking out four, with a 4/6 GO/FO. (Dempster also tripled and scored a run).
And finally RHP Randy Wells allowed five runs in the bottom of the 8th (including a three-run HR to Chris Iannetta), turning a 6-4 Cubs lead into a 10-6 Cubs deficit, while quite clearly punching his ticket to Des Moines (if it wasn't punched already).
2nd in defensive WAR, NL.
6th in NL in RBI
Go complain about something else, like, "they never play good against the good teams", or some other shit.
Addy really has trouble breaking through .250 BA -- after his hot streak got him to .251, he has gone 1-for-17.
Thank goodness for Jansen's 2 WP on Friday -- otherwise this would have been a sweep.
There seems to be a direct correlation with overconfidence in the Cubs offense against mediocre/young pitchers and really poor offense against mediocre/young pitchers. So, let's fear the Pirate pitchers!
Rizzo due for a power surge -- one HR in August so far. He truly does hit them in bunches.
Sometimes I'm not as supportive of Cahill as maybe I should be. There, I said it.
Rough 8th inning all around -- HBP, Cahill error, Javy's poor decision.
Oh well - given that the Cubs didn't look like they were going to score, it's better to lose in 9 innings, save the bullpen and get changed for the PJ trip home.
Baez still learning
heyward with his 3rd multi-hit game since the all-star break (all in august)...2nd in the past 3 games during his 7 game hitting streak.
he's gone from flirting with a sub-.300 ob% to nearing .310 ob% in 3 games (1 game was just a 1 for 1 pinch hit appearance). all 5 hits in the past 3 games have come in a row...neat.
stewart with 7Ks through 3ip...of course.
that 10-13 mph difference in his fastball/change is working today...and they're swinging at his crappy slider.
brock stewart...steven brault...fun times for the cubs hitters vs allegedly competitive teams...maybe.
Maddon would have started three lefties against the Dodgers, Montgomery, Zastryzny and Lester, except that he doesn't have the juice to do that. No manager does. Maddon has a boss, Epstein (and probably Hoyer, too), who gave him a starting rotation of five guys including Hammel. Maddon was asked yesterday about the starting group for next year and basically said, Not my call, that's why I drive away in my RV in the summer and occasionally check in, etc.
video of Maddon.
always nice that he actually tries to honestly answer questions. Does mention that he wanted to give Zastr? a chance in a meaningful spot rather than a mop-up role.
#Cubs Maddon: "I'm not going to make up an excuse for why I did what I did. It has nothing to do with lack of confidence" ... "It was the right thing to do today based on what I saw, what their lineup looked like and Rob Z.'s availability." #Cubs
Hammel not particularly understanding of getting pulled out...as he should. Be curious what Maddon had to say. All I can think of is is keeping arms fresh and maybe wanting to see if Zastr? is worth considering for the playoffs and how he'd do against the Dodgers.
Heyward, Russell, Baez, Bryant, Ross in particular...although Bryant's a bit hard to judge with all the positions.
Fowler and Rizzo in the top half of the NL for their positions as well (per fangraphs)...Zobrist right at the halfway cutoff for 2b in the NL.
I'm sure some luck is involved too, but the Cubs and Maddon knew what they were doing.