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.