It's Cubs Picnic Day at HoHoKam
With most all of the Cubs front office personnel, Scouting Department, and Player Development staff watching from the picnic area high above the third-base dugout, Michael Brenly singled twice and scored once, Starlin Castro singled twice (increasing his AFL-leading batting average to .433) and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, and four Cubs pitchers combined to throw seven innings of one-run ball, as the Mesa Solar Sox dropped the Peoria Javelinas 8-1 in Arizona Fall League action at HoHoKam Park in Mesa this afternoon.
The Cubs brain-trust had a bar-b-que at HoHoKam Park today because this week is the annual Cubs "Organizational Meetings" in Mesa (sort of a "Cubs Convention" for club employees). This is the one time every year when all the scouts and coaches and managers and execs all get together in the same place at the same time, drink a lot, and decide that the lineup is "too right-handed." (If you don't think these get-togethers are dangerous, remember it was probably at the Cubs organizational meeting this time last year that the Cubs decided to not offer Kerry Wood arbitration, to trade Mark DeRosa and Michael Wuertz, and to go hard after Kevin Gregg, Milton Bradley, Aaron Heilman, and Aaron Miles),
RHP Andrew Cashner was supposed to have started last Tuesday in Peoria, but his start was pushed back to today, apparently to allow the Cubs brass to get a first-hand look at their prized phenom. That's also probably the reason six of the seven Cubs players assigned to the Solar Sox saw action in today's game. (Only Josh Vitters had the day off).
Cashner worked four shutout innings again this afternoon, on the heels of his last start a week ago yesterday when he tossed four innings of no-run, no-hit ball at the Scottsdale Scorpions. He scattered five harmless singles and hit a batter today, but he didn't walk anybody, and he struck out four (4/4 GO/FO, 49 pitches - 35 strikes).
LHP James Russell followed Cashner to the mound and had a 1-2-3 5th inning, interrupted only by an E-3 on a two-out grounder, but he then retired the side without further incident (2/1 GO/FO, 16 pitches - 10 strikes). He mixed his fastball & change-up very well today..
Hard-throwin' LHP John Gaub worked the 6th, (16 pitches - 11 strikes) and struck out the only lefty batter he faced (the Dodgers' Andrew Lambo) on three pitches, Otherwise, he pitched a shutout inning (two pop-ups in addition to the strikeout and the single).
RHP Blake Parker drew the 7th, and got into immediate difficulty when Mesa CF P. J. Phillips (Angels) lost a pop fly in the sun, allowing Peoria's Jessie Mier (Dodgers) to reach base on a gift double. Parker would later surrender an RBI single to Lorenzo Cain (Brewers),before getting the third out (he threw 18 pitches - 11 strikes), but he should have escaped the inning with no run scoring. NOTE: Phillips probably should be cut some slack as far as losing the pop fly in the sun, because at other points during the game he hit a solo HR, just missed two others (settling for doubles both times), and made a spectacular diving catch in left-center.
On offense, Starlin Castro was the Solar Sox shortstop and hit 2nd, and Michael Brenly (with dad Bob in attendance, sitting just a few feet away from me) got the start at catcher and hit 9th.
Castro grounded a single between the shortstop and third-baseman with a runner on 1st base and no outs in his first AB in the bottom of the 1st inning, but was erased on a DP.
Michael Brenly singled sharply through the box into CF with a runner at 1st base and one out in the bottom of the 2nd, and advanced to 3rd on a throwing error by Peoria CF Lorenzo Cain, before scoring on a one-out F-8 SF hit to medium-deep CF by Castro.
Brenly would later single again, as would Castro,.with Brenly's second hit a line-drive ripped to CF, and Castro's an infield grounder backhanded by Javelina SS Carlos Triunfel (Mariners) deep in the hole with no play at 1st.
Brenly also flied out to deep CF in the 4th (deep enough to allow the runner at 2nd base to advance to 3rd), and grounded out to the third-baseman in the 8th (Peoria 3B Brent Morel making a nice back-handed stop, throwing out Brenly out on a "bang-bang" play at 1st), while Castro popped-out to CF in the 4th and struck out swinging in the 8th.
Castro, Vitters, Parker, and Cashner were named to the AFL "Rising Stars Game" roster earlier this week (the game will be televised "live" on the MLB network Saturday night), but I believe Cashner will be unavailable to pitch in the game since he threw four innings today. If he had pitched last Tuesday in Peoria instead of today in Mesa, he could have thrown in the Rising Stars game on Saturday.
AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.
Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!
Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.
With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.
it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.
It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.
Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.
That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.
I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.
Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...
These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.
No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.
a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...
it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...
Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.
Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.
Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.
soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.
he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that close...one he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.
j.urias optioned back to AAA...guess we wont be seeing him in the LAD series.
so is him actually getting 2 hits in a game (2 doubles!)...first time he's even been on base 2 times in a game since 9 games ago on his 3/4, 1bb day.
im ready for him to at least look like a 2-slot hitter since he's gonna be slotted there no matter what he does.
That Heyward move to avoid Bryant's ball hit at him was a thing of beauty too.
9 pitches in and this game already rules.
HR, double...bryant's turn (who came out to a Kris Kross song for some horrible, horrible reason).
...2 run inning...zoobrest hitting streak at 14.