9th Inning PH HR Drives Cubs to Victory
Richard Jones slammed a pinch-hit tie-breaking home run over the RF fence with one out in the top of the 9th, and the Cubs held-on to defeat the Angels 2-1 in AZ Instructional League action at Diablo Park Field #3 in Tempe this morning.
Jones, the Cubs 2009 9th round selection out of The Citadel, was drafted as a catcher, but his #1 attribute is raw power. In fact, after signing with the Cubs in June, Jones hit seven HR in just twelve games for the AZL Cubs (Mesa), before moving up to Boise. (Jones ended up tied for 3rd in the AZL in HR, while playing there only two weeks!). And remember, he did all that while playing in the AZL's huge minor league complex ball parks with 25-ft high fences, where it's almost easier to hit a triple than it is to hit a HR.
While Jones was a catcher in college, he appears more comfortable at 1B (or DH) But if he can remain a catcher, his value will be greatly increased, since power-hitting catchers who bat left-handed are always in demand.
Besides working on his defense behind the plate, Jones is also at Instructs to try and learn to make better contact at bat (56 K in 174 PA at Mesa and Boise combined in 2009).
Today's game was scoreless through five innings, before the Angels broke-through with a run off RHP Nick Struck (Cubs 2009 39th round pick out of Mt. Hood CC) in the 6th, on a walk, a sac-bunt, and an RBI double. (Struck dropped to the 39th round only because he was considered a virtual "lock" to transfer to the University of Hawaii, but the Cubs came up with some additional money and were able to sign him just before the August deadline).
The Cubs came back to tie the score in the top of the 7th with two outs, when Brandon Guyer (yesterday's hero) lined a single to left (his second hit of the game), and scored on a near-HR RBI triple smashed high off the RF fence by Ryan Flaherty.
23-year old polished college LHP Chris Rusin (2009 4th round pick out of U. of Kentucky) got the start for the Cubs today, and he hardly broke a sweat, allowing just a lead-off bunt single in the 1st (and then he immediately picked the runner off), throwing just 15 pitches (12 strikes) combined over two innings of work. He was on the field maybe seven minutes.
RHP Chris Archer followed Rusin with three shutout innings, allowing two hits and a walk on 43 pitches (26 strikes). while retiring the last five men he faced.
One of three pitchers the Cubs acquired from Cleveland for Mark DeRosa last off- season, Archer throws a 92-94 MPH fastball, a curve, and a change-up, and was 4th among Cubs minor leaguers in strikeouts in 2009 (trailing only Jay Jackson, Mitch Atkins, and Chris Carpenter). But he is at Instructs to work on his command & control (he led the Cubs minor leagues in walks in '09), and he has indeed shown some progress with his strike-throwing in his last two outings, allowing just one walk over six innings. Of course he also has only one strikeout in those six innings, but he's not down here to rack up the punch-outs. The Cubs already know he can do that. He's down here to improve his control and cut-down the number of pitches he throws per inning.
Today's game also featured three really nice defensive players by the Cubs, including a sliding catch of a pop up in short CF by 2009 #1 draft pick Brett Jackson in the 4th, a full-speed running shoestring catch by 17-year old Korean LF Kyung-Min Na on a pop up in short left-center in the 8th, and a probable game-saving running catch in RF foul territory (and then a flawless a spin & throw to 3rd to keep the base-runner at 2nd base) by 2009 2nd round pick D. J. LeMahieu with no outs in the bottom of the 9th.
LeMahieu played SS at LSU, but I think it's fairly obvious that the Cubs think that the athletic LeMahieu's future is at 2B. He has spent many hours at Instructs working with minor league infield instructor Franklin Font on his DP footwork from the second-baseman's side of the bag (which requires different footwork and an altered rhythm than is the case when turning the DP from shortstop), and hopefully he will take what he has learned at Instructs into the 2010 season, where he will probably begin the year at Daytona.
Here is today's abridged box score (Cubs players only):
1a. Logan Watkins, DH #1: 1-3 (1B, L-9, L-1 DP)
1b. Richard Jones, PH: 1-1 (HR), R, RBI
2. D. J. LeMahieu, 2B: 1-4 (4-6-3 DP, 1B, F-9, L-8)
3. Brett Jackson, CF: 0-4 (F-8, F-8, F-8, F-7)
4. Brandon Guyer, RF: 2-3 (1B, F-8, 1B), R, CS
5. Ryan Flaherty, SS: 1-3 (F-7, 4-3, 3B), RBI
6. Michael Brenly, C-DH: 0-3 (P-3, P-6, P-8)
7. Jovan Rosa, DH-C: 0-3 (K, 6-3, K)
8. Matt Cerda, 3B: 1-3 (P-2, 1B, 4-3)
9. Justin Bour, 1B: 2-3 (1B, 1B, 4-3)
10. Kyung-Min Na, LF: 0-3 (F-9, K, L-6)
1. Chris Rusin - 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 PO, 2/1 GO/FO, 15 pitches (12 strikes)
2. Chris Archer - 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K, 4/5 GO/FO, 43 pitches (26 strikes)
3. Nick Struck - 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HBP, 1 BALK, 2/2 GO/FO, 30 pitches (19 strikes)
4. Jose Rosario - 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GO/FO, 15 pitches (7 strikes)
5. Steve Grife - 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HBP, 2/1 GO/FO, 18 pitches (9 strikes)
Michael Brenly - 0-1 CS
Jovan Rosa - 1 PB
WEATHER: 70's & overcast first-pitch, then mostly sunny by noon