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.