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.
I don't think his issue(s) will have anything to do with it. He hasn't hit since he's been back. Coghlan has the hot hand.
I'm not a denier but definitely a skeptic on Strop and Grimm, who struggle with fastball control. Strop doesn't go near the ninth inning, and note how Grimm couldn't close the deal even with a 5-run lead. So Felix Pena comes in and gets the 3-pitch game-ending strikeout like it was nothing.
And how about Almora missing that very catchable ball? That was unexpected after all the hype about his glove.
When Trea Turner misses balls like that--which he does--I draw conclusions from it. It seems to be the one chink in his armor. But I'll give Almora another chance.
Assuming Soler is good to go, I think it comes down to 3 of the following 4: Coghlan, TLS, Sczcur, Almora. Of the 4, TLS seems to be the hardest to justify, particularly given his behavioral issues.
I'm wondering if both Coghlan and LaStella make it. With Javy being able to play all the infield spots and Joe maybe wanting late-inning D when Soler plays (assuming he plays), hence either Szczur or Almora, I think LaStella might be the odd guy out.
Hendricks needs the win, anyway, plus a couple more.
My hunch is that Hendricks wins the Cy Young . . . for Lester. That is, without Hendricks tipping the scale toward the Cubs, Scherzer tops Lester.
Old Cub fans remember when Ken Hubbs died at 22 in the crash of a small plane he was piloting in a storm in Utah in 1964. But Hubbs was not an elite power pitcher like Score and Fernandez. Score lived a long time after the accident but it was (effectively) career-ending.
HAGSAG: Since I've only seen them throw in one game and in one "live" BP session, all I can do is provide initial first impressions.
Brailyn Marquez is listed at 6'4 but is probably more like 6'5 or 6'6. I would describe him as a younger version of Bryan Hudson, throwing a ton of ground balls but not getting a lot of swings & misses (yet). Because of his size he could eventually grow into more velocity, but right now he's mostly a pitch-to-contact guy. He generally throws strikes.
Phil, do Marquez and Ocampo look like prospects?
It helps when your defense has declared war against the H in WHIP.
Lackey finishes with a 3.35 ERA. Currently good for 13th in the NL. Not bad for a guy signed to be a #3 starter in a 15-team league.
He is also 6th in WHIP. Pretty amazing: Cubs have the #2, #3, #5 and #6 starters in WHIP.
Completely meaningless game, but Pena striking out Sean the Turd to with the bases loaded was very fun.
Other than one bad game in SD, Pena has been very good. Even with that game, 9.0 IP, 13 K, 0.89 WHIP.
101 wins...most since 1910 (104).
neat. ...or sad. pick one. pick both. 'murica.
Just looked up Grimm's stats -- after a great run, he gave up 2 runs vs. MIL then didn't pitch for 10 days. Don't remember why?
Sean Rodriguez's helmet looks like it's taking a dump
Grimm not doing himself any favors lately re: making the playoff squad. Seems to have lost the feel for his curveball.
j.grimm is literally worse than hitler.
felix pena, your turn.