Cub Contingent Leads Solar Sox to Victory
Andrew Cashner threw four innings of no run, no hit ball, and Starlin Castro had two hits, drove in a run and scored two more, and made the defensive play of the day, as the Mesa Solar Sox exterminated the Scottsdale Scorpions 12-5 in Arizona Fall League action this afternoon at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.
Pitching on a cool & breezy day with the wind blowing out at 15-20 MPH gusting to 30, the 23-year old Cashner (Cubs #1 draft pick out of TCU in 2008) had no trouble with the Scorpions. He threw just 44 pitches (25 strikes) in his four innings of work, getting ahead of most of the hitters as he mixed a 94-96 MPH fastball with a sharp breaking ball and an occasional change-up. The only glitches were a four-pitch walk to Steve Susdorf (Phillies) leading off the 3rd and a walk to Brandon Allen (Diamondbacks) on a 3-1 pitch with two outs in the 4th. He struck out four (including Phillies top position-player prospect Domonic Brown, swinging), got four outs on ground balls, and another four on fly balls or pop-ups.
Starlin Castro played SS for the Solar Sox and hit 2nd today, and got five plate appearances. He grounded a single sharply through the box into CF off RHP Chaz Roe (Rockies) with one out and nobody on base in the bottom of the 1st inning and later scored on a Josh Vitters RBI single, lined out to right on a hit & run play with a runner on 1st base and no outs in the 2nd off junkballin' RHP Tooru Murata (Tokyo Yomiuri Giants), punched an RBI single to left through a drawn-in infield off RHP Edgar Garcia (Phillies) in the bottom of the 3rd and later scored, struck out swinging on a hard-breakin' slider in the dirt against RHP Andrew Johnston (Rockies) in the 5th, and reached base on an E-4 (short-hopper ricocheted off Scottsdale 2nd baseman Chase D'arnaud's chest).in the 7th.
Castro also turned-in the defensive play of the day, showing off his range and his arm as he made a diving stop behind second base, and then, from his knees, threw out speedy lead-off man Jose Tabata (Pirates). Castro also made a nice turn on a 6-4-3 DP in the 8th. And although Castro was charged with an error on a D'arnaud RBI double in the top of the 5th when his relay throw got past Solar Sox catcher Hank Conger (Angels) allowing D'arnaud to advance from 2nd to 3rd on the play at the plate, the throw really wasn't that bad. Conger just couldn't catch the short-hop.
Josh Vitters (Cubs #1 draft pick in 2007) was the Solar Sox DH and hit 5th. He grounded an RBI single through the box to CF (scoring Castro) off Roe in his first AB in the bottom of the 1st and scored later in the inning, and then he ripped another hit through the box off Murata in the bottom of the second. He flied out to the warning track in CF in the 3rd, bounced into an inning-ending 5-4-3 DP against Johnston in the 5th, and struck out swinging on a 1-2 breaking ball at his shoe top (and looked bad doing it, too) in the 7th against LHP Matt Reynolds (Rockies).
LHP James Russell entered the game in the top of the 8th and pitched a shutout inning (11 pitches - eight strikes). He gave up a lead-off line-drive single to LF to Brandon Crawford (Giants), but then got Buster Posey (Giants) to ground into a 4-6-3 DP (that was the nice turn by Castro) and Susdorf (Phillies) to ground out weakly 3-U to end the inning. Russell had a really good change-up today, and he threw strikes, which is the key for him.
After allowing three runs in his first AFL outing a couple of weeks ago, Russell has thrown five consecutive shutout innings over his last four appearances. The son of one-time MLB closer Jeff Russell, James was the Cubs 14th round selection in the 2007 Rule 4 Draft out of the University of Texas, although he did get "3rd round money" to give up his senior year in college (he was considered to be likely unsignable going into the draft, which is why he fell to the 14th round). He should be a strong candidate for a back-of-the-rotation starter gig at Iowa in 2010.
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.
Considering how players reacted it seemed pretty accurate high and wide (to righties), but not so accurate low and in. I thought the strike zone by the ump was awful, but it was consistent and the Cubs never adjusted.
Rizzo and Bryant need to have good at bats. They are really looking outclassed in these two games.
that game sounds fun as hell.