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).


Read the rest of this entry >>

I kid! Great post as usual, Phil.

ed: And now you've added the link. Snark rescinded.

I believe Fox makes the opening day roster in the bullpen.

I was at the game in Tucson today and here just some notes: Dempster wasn't that sharp, he got behind a lot of hitters and wasn't making people miss. He also failed rather badly to get a sac bunt down. Reed Johnson's throws were rockets, throwing out a guy trying to tag up from 2nd on a decently deep fly ball and he threw out Helton at 2nd after he hit a 340 foot rope off the top of the wall. Fontenot started at 3rd and had a nice barehanded play off of a bunt. And Hoffpauir continues to hit the ball hard, even on outs.

nice to hear about the fontenot pick/'s something i've wondered about, esp. with talk of him playing 3rd.

aram's development of being able to barehand and throw while on the move has been awesome...he's gotten really accurate.

C'mon man, Ryan All-Mighty hit a triple today!

And Ha! to you for the summary.

I can't decide whether this makes Gregg more or less likely to be named closer. Only one more sleepless night (on that topic, of course).

what will the Cubs do with David Patton?

here is what the Twins did with their rule 5 pick:

(sent a class A reliever to NY)

Link isn't going thru...

You should post your predictions on

Here are my Cubs predictions.


Bruce Miles concurs with the Muskrat on So over Jo.

According to Miles, The Hoff has made the team. That would make "enough" lefties signifying that the RH "bat" of So would have a shot. And - he's Japanese, which would surely help Fukudome's average climb above the Mendoza line (Fuku is now 1-7 in ST. But man - can he WALK!)

How many World Series rings does So have? Maybe he is a lucky charm.

don't get carried away with the So Taguchi lucky charm thing...

He's been in the world series three times...2004 (Stl), 2006 (Stl) and 2008 (Phil), so he's only lucky on even years and the last time I looked, this isn't an even year.

But - do we need to replace our pitching lucky charm (Marquis),with a 39 y.o. outfielder rabbit's foot?

As much as I don't like Gathright on the team, he at least brings the ability to PR to the table, plus some SBs when he gets an odd start. Taguchi brings neither of those.

I reluctantly agree. I'd rather carry a German or Scales (or in my dreams, Durham or even Grudzie--both still free agents) than Gathright. But carrying So instead of Jo would just be another over-investment in handedness. A five years younger So might make sense, but if his ability to hit for average has dropped off and he's lost a step or two on defense, then he brings very little value to the team.

Does the fact that the Cubs are now at 37-38 on the 40 man roster make it more likely that they're looking towards snagging somebody else's late roster cut (like Reed Johnson last year) for spot 25 over either So or Jo?

Thats weird.
Severe enough to go on the DL and diagnosed from a blood test?
I wonder what that could be.

FWIW, I know somebody who was/is treated for anxiety attacks. Part of the medication package is a thyroid med. Mood changes are part of the symptom package of (?)low thyroid. You find that through a blood test.

Maybe so. I've been wondering why he tailed off so much.

Submitted by Jackstraw on Sun, 03/29/2009 - 10:08am. Does the fact that the Cubs are now at 37-38 on the 40 man roster make it more likely that they're looking towards snagging somebody else's late roster cut (like Reed Johnson last year) for spot 25 over either So or Jo?


JACKSTRAW: Wednesday is the deadline for placing players with non-guaranteed contracts on Release Waivers so that the club owes the released player only 45 days salary (25% of his salary) as termination pay, so several players (like Reed Johnson last year) should suddenly become available this week, and the Cubs certainly have the slots open on their 40-man roster to add such a player.

As I've mentioned before, if the Cubs go with Joey Gathright and Paul Bako on the 25-man roster, they will have five LH bats on the bench (and no RH hitters, unless you include Zambrano hitting RH) on days when Miles starts at 2B and Reed Johnson starts in CF. So although the Cubs wanted to get "more left-handed," they actually probably have gone too far and now they have one too many LH bats.

I think the Cubs would probably prefer to use their final bench slot on a RH or SW hitting utility guy who can play SS and 3B, and is fast enough to PR (maybe not as fast as Gathright, but at least fast enough to make a difference). Whether that type will get released this week is still TBD.

Otherwise, the final slot will probably go to Joey Gathright (if Piniella values a late-inning PR most, but doesn't care about possibly not having a RH PH available in the late innings), or So Taguchi (if Piniella wants a veteran RH PH with just average speed who has the defensive skills to be a late-inning replacement for Soriano in LF), or Esteban German (if Piniella wants a versatile RH hitting utility IF-OF who can back-up Ramirez at 3B and MAYBE play a little SS, too, but who has lost a step and would have little value as a PR).

I wonder if one of the spots will go to Chad Fox.

Submitted by Hagsag on Sun, 03/29/2009 - 10:46am.
I wonder if one of the spots will go to Chad Fox.


HAGSAG: Chad Fox has pitched well enough to make the Opening Day roster, and he showed yesterday that he could maintain the "bite" on his slider and good velocity on his fastball when throwing on back-to-back days.

Of course his arm could fall off at any time (and it probably will), but until it does, he can pitch in the big leagues, if not with the Cubs, then with somebody.

Like a lot of veterans signed to minor league contracts, he probably has the option to request his release if he gets sent down.

Plus, one of the many things I've learned reading AZ Phil and the rest of TCR, it's good to have bodies on the 60-day DL come playoff time.

Fox is kind of like the ultimate team player - gives you a few solid innings in April and May, shuts it down for the year and gives you the option to add an impact bullpen arm for October.

Submitted by John Beasley on Sun, 03/29/2009 - 11:07am.
Plus, one of the many things I've learned reading AZ Phil and the rest of TCR, it's good to have bodies on the 60-day DL come playoff time.

Fox is kind of like the ultimate team player - gives you a few solid innings in April and May, shuts it down for the year and gives you the option to add an impact bullpen arm for October.


JOHN B: You are correct, sir. Even if Chad Fox breaks down two days into the season and has a career-ending amputation and spends the rest of the season on the DL, he would still have value as a post-season roster exemption (presuming the Cubs make it that far) that would permit the Cubs to make a roster adjustment for the NLDS and/or NLCS and/or WS and (for instance) replace a pitcher with an extra bat on the bench (like Jake Fox, maybe).

that couldn't have gone better for the O's, he can go on a nice long DL rehab trip until they need him or someone gets hurt before they're forced to put him on the 25-man roster.

LF Alfonso Soriano
SS Ryan Theriot
1B Derrek Lee
RF Milton Bradley
3B Aramis Ramirez
2B Mike Fontenot
C Geovany Soto
CF Joey Gathright

P Ted Lilly.

CF Grady Sizemore
3B Mark DeRosa
C Victor Martinez
SS Jhonny Peralta
RF Ryan Garko
LF Ben Francisco
2B Jamey Carroll
1B Tony Graffanino

RHP Fausto Carmona

I just got done looking over Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list (again) this morning and noticed that JOSH VITTERS (#51 down from #43 in 2008) has been given an ETA with the major league Cubs of 2010 (UP from 2011 in 2008)--- next year!

Do you think that's even remotely possible? I'd guess it would be something closer to 2012 -- if ever.

It's GREGG not Marmol

Submitted by navigator on Sun, 03/29/2009 - 12:14pm.

I just got done looking over Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list (again) this morning and noticed that JOSH VITTERS (#51 down from #43 in 2008) has been given an ETA with the major league Cubs of 2010 (UP from 2011 in 2008)--- next year!

Do you think that's even remotely possible? I'd guess it would be something closer to 2012 -- if ever.


NAVIGATOR: Assuming he progreses normally, sometime in 2011 seems more like it to me. To avoid becoming eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft, he will need to be added to the 40-man roster no later than 11-20-2011.

Phil, I love the minor league reports! Please keep doing them! It is the one thing that you cannot find on any other sites: info on minor league Spring Training. Do you know where I can find a schedule of the Cubs minor league Spring Training games? Thanks!

Recent comments

Subscribe to Recent comments
The first 600 characters of the last 16 comments, click "View" to see rest of comment.
  • AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.

    Hagsag 2 hours 53 min ago view
  • Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!

    Hagsag 2 hours 54 min ago view
  • Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.

    Eric S 12 hours 35 min ago view
  • 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.

    johann 15 hours 33 min ago view
  • 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.

    crunch 15 hours 45 min ago view
  • 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.

    The E-Man 15 hours 54 min ago view
  • 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.

    The E-Man 15 hours 59 min ago view
  • 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...

    crunch 16 hours 18 min ago view
  • Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.

    johann 16 hours 54 min ago view
  • Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.

    johann 17 hours 12 min ago view
  • Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.

    The E-Man 17 hours 13 min ago view
  • soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.

    he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.

    crunch 17 hours 31 min ago view
  • j.urias optioned back to AAA...guess we wont be seeing him in the LAD series.

    crunch 17 hours 39 min ago view
  • so is him actually getting 2 hits in a game (2 doubles!)...first time he's even been on base 2 times in a game since 9 games ago on his 3/4, 1bb day.

    im ready for him to at least look like a 2-slot hitter since he's gonna be slotted there no matter what he does.

    crunch 18 hours 34 min ago view
  • That Heyward move to avoid Bryant's ball hit at him was a thing of beauty too.

    johann 18 hours 52 min ago view
  • 9 pitches in and this game already rules.

    HR, double...bryant's turn (who came out to a Kris Kross song for some horrible, horrible reason).

    ...2 run inning...zoobrest hitting streak at 14.

    crunch 18 hours 56 min ago view