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.


Pedro only throwing 85 mph apparently...(Rotoworld)

Pujols called his shot....

Sony changed their mind on Moneyball the movie, not liking Soderbergh's script revisions...

As always, thanks Arizona Phil (especially since's box scores in the AZL can be unreliable).

Do you know what the status is of Dae-Eun Rhee's rehab?

AZ Phil,

Is Kemp on a rehab assignment for Boise or was he optioned down to the AZL?

Didn't realize we were even in on him ... it'd be nice to get a big time Latin American signing.

Kiley McDaniel (Baseball Prospectus) had the Cubs as the dark horse for Mateo with the main competition coming from San Francisco, LA and St. Louis.

A few people including McDaniel have said the Cubs are one of about 10 teams with a legitimate chance at Miguel Angel Sano (though, it sure sounds like teams like the Pirates and Twins are the leaders for his services).

McDaniel also linked the Cubs to Nicaraguan 3B Chesler Cuthbert, Dominican RHP Chris Cabrera and Cuban defector SS Jose Iglesias (age 19). All 3 are looking at $500,000 - $1 million bonuses. BA had us at one time linked to Venezuelan LHP Juan Urbina (Ugueth's son) but it looks like the Mets have him wrapped up.

The Cubs have already signed OF Dong-Yub Kim (South Korea, $550,000 bonus) and RHP Yao-Lin Wang (Taiwan, $250,000 bonus) and Arizona Phil mentioned both of them will be heading to the MLB Academy in Queensland, Australia.

Yeah, I remember the brief Sano stuff, but I've gotta think it's the Pirates to lose on that one, as they've been in on him and are rumored to be willing to go higher than anyone.

Does anyone truly believe that Wagner Mateo is ACTUALLY 16 years old? Given the comments about how he looks very filled-out for a 16 year old, I don't know how there could not be questions about how much he is lying about his age...

Theriot ss
Fukudome cf
Fox lf
Lee 1b
Hoffpauir rf
Soto c
Fontenot 3b
Blanco 2b
Dempster p

Witty says tarp on the field...forecast is scattered T-storms.

Had a feeling that would happen given the weather viotility of the region and the fact we are making a 1 one day trip in the opposite direction of where tomorrow's game is. If it is rained out the only common day off we have left is 8/24.

FOXPAUIR! What could go wrong? Nothing I say!

I like that lineup. For reals.

I like the lineup, too, but I hope Fukodome has got a pair of lawn-enabled roller blades.

I think you mean, "this lineup sucks"

radar looks like Atlanta area rain will end shortly

hour by hour says it will be cloudy and upper 80's by game time, precipitation chance 20-25%

but then again, I thought they would have had a window for last tuesdays game vs WSux and thought the Wed afternoon game would be rained out

Wow! Ten hits and zero runs!! What timely hitting!!

Shame to waste Demp's best start.

Oh well. Feast or famine: our 2009 Cubs!

Recent comments

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  • To be fair to Emery and Trestman the foreshadowing of last year started happening well before them with the failure or mismanaging of multiple draft classes forcing the team to overspend in a free agency market that is even worse than baseball. Kyle Long seems like a good pick but they traded away another good one in Olson because of Martz's stupidity and inability to change his offense to fit the team talent.

  • HAGSAG: I think Domonic Brown does fit the criteria of a reclamation project, but unless he is willing to accept a minor league contract with an NRI to Spring Training, I don't think the Cubs would be interested given where the Cubs are right now. A couple of years ago? Yes. But probably not now.

    Brown would be better-off going to a club that is rebuilding and re-establish his value there, like Chris Coghlan did with the Cubs. And if he can re-establish his value, he could get traded to a contender at the trade deadline and take it from there.  

  • "they just fade away"

    (Except in the cases of no-fade lefties like Moyer, Orosco and Rich Hill.)

  • Amazing to me how quickly it fell apart under Trestman. Year 1, they were a Chris Conte brain fart away from making the playoffs. Year 2 -- coach, staff and GM all fired.

  • I am sure Jonathon Mota will be signed next.

  • AZ Phil, what is your thoughts on Domonic Brown as a reclamation project?

  • He also played LF in deference to Curtis Granderson.

    Meh... other moves to make...hope to see a move or two soon.

  • I haven't seen much Bears football this year - difficult to watch the games out here, but the game I saw the week before I was watching in shock as I saw them actually make tackles. And Cutler has looked really good, too.

    I guess people can quibble about play calling, but the team I saw is way more than 50% better coached (my only very minor disagreement with your comment).

    Under Trestman, the team didn't do anything right. This team played like a well coached team when I saw them play the Rams.

  • "What is sometimes overlooked about Vogelbach because of his "bad body" and because he has struggled so much defensively is that he is a hard worker, has a great attitude, loves to play the game, and is very well-liked by his teammates, and while that may not seem important, teams do actually value stuff like that. "

    As well they should. Replace a word here and there and you are describing any worker someone would hire.

  • Hak-Ju Lee signs a minor league contract with SF Giants.

    Some closure on the 6 degrees of Separation for Matt Garza/Chris Archer

  • Hahahahaha

  • -0.3 WAR in 7.1ip last year...

    -3 WAR projected over the course of a season.

    the cubs just added an all-star reliever's worth of work by losing b.schlitter.


  • Rockies sign Brian Schlitter to a minor league contract. Good luck in Coors Field. Enough said.

  • i'll take him over frandy since it's unlikely he'll progress as a SS (and 2nd isn't looking much better).

    i hope patton's delivery deception skills play well in the bigs over time. cubs need pitching options that are MLB-ready and dude fits the bill for a MLB/AAA mix...both needed.

  • I'm not saying he's great, but can we agree on the word "decent"? Became a pro at 23, called up at 26; nothing wrong with that trajectory, he hasn't been knocking around. Even in the majors his SO9 is 9.7. In the minors it's 12.2, so he's always missed bats, and without being a wild man: his walks are low. He cost the Cubs an unheralded A-ball middle infielder and a roster spot.

  • he's a righty (a 27 year old one that's going to be 28 before spring training starts) that throws low 90s with a low-80s slider. that's as ordinary as it gets for a righty reliever.