AZL Cubs Rally for Opening Day Victory
Dwayne Kemp ripped an RBI single to drive-in Robert Bautista with the game-wining run, as the AZL Cubs rallied with three runs in the bottom of the 9th to defeat the AZL Angels 6-5 in Arizona League (AZL) Opening Day action at Fitch Park on Sunday. Kemp also clubbed an RBI triple earlier in the game, and Bautista drove in three runs with a squeeze bunt, a FC grounder, and a single, while also stealing three bases.
20-year old 2B D. J. Fitzgerald had a memoraable pro debut, going 4-4 with two doubles, two runs scored, and a stolen base. The Cubs 22nd round pick in the 2009 Rule 4 Draft (First-Year Player Draft) out of Dyersburg State CC, "DJ Fitz" was a star baseball player at Ocean Lakes HS in Virginia Beach, VA. He signed an NLI with Georgia Southern, but ended up at a Tennessee JC instead.
20-year old RHP Toby Matchulat got the start for the AZL Cubs, and was stellar, throwing four shutout innings (7/1 GO/FO), while allowing just two harmless singles and no walks, with four strikeouts. Matchulat just missed making the Boise Opening Day roster, after having an impressive Extended Spring Training at Fitch Park. An 11th round pick out of Wabash Valley JC in 2008, the lanky 6'5 right-hander struggled big-time with his command in his pro debut last year (29 BB in 18.2 IP), but he has really turned it around this year. Kudos to AZL Cubs Pitching Coach Rick Tronerud and Minor Leagure Pitching Coordinator Mark Riggins for helping Matchulat find a better arm slot and a more consistent release point.
19-year old Australian LHP Cody Hams followed Matchulat to the mound, and had a tough couple of innings. He threw the ball OK, but was adversely affected by his own goof-ups, including two hit batsmen, two balks, two errant pick-off throws, and a walk. Of course, Hams has been pitching for only two years (he was a star cricket player in high school, and he had never even seen a baseball game until he attended the MLB Australian Academy in 2007), so he probably is bound to have a longer learning curve than most of the other youngsters at Fitch Park. The 6'5 Hams has a pitching form very similar to that of a Rich Hill or a Sean Marshall.
While Fitzgerald lit it up in his debut, fellow 2009 draft pick 1B Justin Bour (Cubs 25th round pick out of George Mason) had a game to forget, going 0-4 with three K's. A mountain of a man (6'4 250+), the powerfully-built left-handed hitting Bour would appear to be this year's Rebel Ridling.
In addition to Fitzgerald and Bour, 11 others who signed contracts with the Cubs over the past few days are on the AZL Cubs 34-man Opening Day roster, including RHPs B. J. Dail (Mt. Olive College), Steve Grife (Mercyhurst College), Corey Martin (Western Carolina), Tim Clubb (Missouri State), Jake Schmidt (Concordia U. - St. Paul), and Jesse Ginley (St. Petersburg CC), LHPs John Mincone (Suffolk CC) and Daley Cox (Santa Fe CC), catcher Matt Williams (Duke), 3B Charles Thomas (Edward Waters College), and OF Cody Shields (Auburn U. - Montgomery). Cox and Ginley are the only two who weren't selected in the 2009 draft, as both were signed as Non-Drafted Free-Agents (NDFA) out of Florida junior colleges last week. (Ginley was selected by the Cubs in the 43rd round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, but did not sign).
Also, RHP Robert Whitenack (8th round pick out of SUNY - Old Westbury) and INF Jordan Petraitis (28th round pick out of Miami of Ohio) were moved up to Boise, after initially being assigned to the AZL Cubs when they reported to Fitch Park. (Petraitis switched places with Cody Shields). Whitenack and Petraitis join fellow 2009 draft picks RHP Danny Keefe (U. of Tampa) and 1B Greg Rohan (Kent State) at Boise. Whitenack's stock kept rising prior to the draft, as he displayed a 93 MPH fastball (up 4-5 MPH over what he was throwing last year) to go along with his killer knuckle-curve.
The Cubs have now signed 16 of their 50 selections in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, plus the two NDFA. Note that 5th round pick SS Wes Darvill of Langley, BC, has signed, but he will be touring with the Canadian Junior National Team in the U. S. and Cuba until sometime next month. Then after the tour has been completed, the 17-year old will report to Fitch Park.
The Cubs are scouting a number of their still-unsigned players while they play in summer "wood bat" collegiate leagues (Cape Cod League, Northwoods League, et al) or with touring all-star teams, so it's quite possible that the Cubs will increase their initial offers to some of their draft picks after the scouts have had a chance to evaluate the players more thoroughly.
In addition, RHP Diego Encarnacion has been promoted from DSL Cubs #1 to the AZL Cubs, after he was apparently able to secure an H2B visa. Encarnacion attended the Cubs AZ Instructional League camp at Fitch Park last fall, and made a favorable impression.
And DSL Cubs #1 Hitting Coach Hector Ortega is the new AZL Cubs Hitting Coach. Ortega replaces Ricardo Medina, who is now the Hitting Coach at Boise.
Good thing the Cubs have 4 left-handed batters in the lineup. Velasquez is just tearing thru the righties
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...
Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.
Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.