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.
I know he's struggles against lefties but Schwarber seems zoned in - hope he starts tonight.
Awesome stuff, Phil.
listening on ESPN 1000, caller says Bill Welke will be the home plate ump today. Supposedly his reputation is for having an even bigger strike zone than last night's Phil Cuzzi. Some of the issues with bad umpiring come from an inconsistent strike zone. Hoping at least for consistency. Last night's called strike on David Ross was outright embarrassing for Cuzzi.
That might work out in favor of Kyle Hendricks, who benefits much from a large strike zone.
it's kind of mesmerizing to watch
should Theo add some Ted Abernathy videos for minor league pitching coordinator's use?
sadly, Ted passed away in 2004 from complications of Alzheimers. I always loved the Cub bullpen trio of Phil Regan, Ted Abernathy and Hank Aguirre. As a kid, I even worked on both Phil Regan (very quirky delivery) and Ted Abernathy (extreme submarine) imitations when throwing a rubber ball against a wall. It wasn't a good imitation unless I could scrape my knuckles off the ground. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for submariners.
HAGSAG: Chris Pieters was sent to instructs to develop his hitting, bunting, and outfield play (he is already a decent first-baseman).
Pieters is tall and rangy , a "long-strider" in the same mold as Trey Martin and Rashad Crawford. He is a very patient hitter (unusual for a hitter with his lack of experience) and has an outstanding (almost uncanny) eye at the plate, and he is a fast runner with unusually good baserunning instincts, and he is a good basestealer, too.
I doubt we will see Pedro in any more "high leverage" situations this series. With Hendricks and the pen today, we need Bryant-Rizzo-Castro to get going ASAP.
One funny thing to see before the game was the two submariner pitchers (David Berg and Corbin Hoffner) playing catch with each other. Both pitchers throw "submarine" even when they play catch, and it's kind of mesmerizing to watch, even for the other players.
CUBSTER: One of the points of emphasis at "basic" Instructs this year was teaching the position players the art of baserunning and base-stealing, like getting a good primary and seconday lead, reading the pitcher, cutting bases sharply, and different ways to slide to maximize the baserunner's chance to arrive safely.
Brooksbaseball.net has some interesting stats/graphs on pitch and strike zones and you can dial up individual games/pitchers. I'd love to see some comments from readers who can interpret this better than I can. I thought the Ump was really inconsistent with a very wide zone. Does this info seem to match up with my eyeball perception? Also, looking at the graphs, Lackey was not throwing as many pitches below the K-zone (certainly more above) while Lester was clearly getting his pitches down and not many above.
As I was fearing in my post yesterday, Maddon keeps trotting Strop out against the Redbirds and he constantly fails. I understand the psychology behind this, but in a series where there is a finite lock on who moves on, why does he keep riding the wrong horse?
AZ Phil: Agree, this must have been a really fun game to watch. There was a lot of base stealing going on. Are the pitchers not holding runners or is the catching still a work in progress?
Cuzzi has long been known as having the biggest strike zone among all umpires.
AZ Phil, give me a scouting report on Chris Pieters since he has become a 1B/OF.
I think it's probably hard to adjust to an ump's zone mid-game, as least for hitters. Pitchers can locate to an ump's zone, but hitters have minimal time to react.
But, whatever. Umps are going to miss calls. Let's beat up on the non-Lackey starters.
Watched a little of Mets-Dodgers.
Jason deGrom -- oh, my.
Cubs 3-4-5 hitters are 0-21 so far in the post-season.
Let's change that in a big effin' way tomorrow, boys.