You Can't Catch It If You Can't See It
Jered Weaver threw five innings of one-hit shutout ball while striking out nine (no walks), and Cubs pitchers were battered to the tune of 16 hits (including one triple, two doubles, and three home runs), as the Los Angeles Angels pounded a Cubs split squad 11-0 in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in sunny Mesa, Arizona, this afternoon.
Carlos Zambrano made his last Spring training start in preparation for Opening Day next Monday in Atlanta, and "Z" did not have his best stuff today.
He pitched four innings (73 pitches - 45 strikes), and actually looked OK in the middle of his outing, even retiring eight of nine hitters at one point.
But it was the beginning and the end that wasn't too good.
Zambrano gave up a lead-off single to Maicer Izturis in the top of the first, but then got some serendipity when, with Izturis on the move (big jump) and Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot running over to cover second base, #2 hitter Mike Ryan lined a shot right at Theriot, who caught the ball at his shoetops and then easily doubled Izturis off 1st base. So two outs, nobody on base. But then Brandon Wood ripped a single, and clean-up hitter Mike Napoli blasted a home run off the scoreboard in LF to give the Angels a 2-0 lead.
Zambrano more-or-less cruised through the next couple of innings, getting the first man he faced in the 4th (Mike Napoli) on strikes (swinging). But then Zambrano walked Robb Quinlan on four pitches, and local lad Peter Bourjos roped a triple into left-center, scoring Quinlan. Terry Evans followed that with an RBI single (Evans had five hits and three RBI today), before getting picked-off 1st base as an alert Geovany Soto made a pinpoint throw to nab Evans as he tried to get back to the bag.
Sean Marshall worked an easy nine-pitch 1-2-3 5th (6-3, F-9, 5-3) in relief of Zambrano, but then Jeff Samardzija got hit hard in the 6th, allowing a two-run HR to Peter Bourjos and two hard-hit singles. The Shark just could not keep his pitches down today, and Cubs Manager Lou Piniella really should be worrying about his bullpen if Samardzija has a featured role in it.
With the Cubs down 6-0, rookie LHP James Russell entered the game in the 7th, and the Angels proceeded to load the bases on three straight singles, although one was an infield hit to short (Ryan Flaherty could knock it down but was unable to field it cleanly) and another was a routine fly ball that Marlon Byrd lost in the sun (by my count the 4th time he has done that this Spring... but I guess if you can't see it, you can't catch it, even though most-other outfielders out here don't have that much trouble doing it).
But Russell actually responded pretty well to his bases-loaded & none out jam, getting the next three hitters on a strikeout (swinging), a ground out, and a fly out, keeping the damage to a minimum (just one run, and it was his first earned run allowed this Spring, too).
Justin Berg got hit like a BP pitcher in the 8th (allowing two runs on two doubles and a single), and Esmailin Caridad gave up a long two-run HR in the 9th to 5-for-5 man Terry Evans, although Caridad did get two punch-outs in his one inning of work (the first and last men he faced in the inning, both swinging).
The Cubs offense was truly offensive today, getting just two hits (a broken-bat single by Xavier Nady with one out in the bottom of the 2nd, and a line-drive single to left with one out in the 9th by AA 1B Russ Canzler, who was up from Minor League Camp for the day).
The Cubs did load the bases in the 8th on walks (actually the Cubs drew four walks in the inning) but failed to score. Nady walked to lead off the inning, then was erased when Alfonso Soriano rolled into a 5-4-3 DP. Then Darwin Barney, Geovany Soto, and PH Brandon Guyer each drew walks, before Ryan Flaherty struck out (looking) to end the inning.
While one Cubs split squad was getting squelched ugly in Mesa, the other one was blowing a 6-4 8th inning lead against the Brewers in Maryvale.
Rookie RHP Jay Jackson started the game for the Cubs, and he would have thrown four shutout innings except for the Prince Fielder 3rd inning grand slam.
The Cubs did come back, though, scoring three in the 5th and then three more in the 7th (the big blow being a Micah Hoffpauir two-run PH double that gave the Cubs the lead). But then Iowa Cubs right-handers Alessandro Maestri and Brian Schlitter imploded in the 8th, as the Brew Crew scored eight runs, giving themselves a big lead they would not surrender.
The Cubs play the Colorado Rockies at HoHoKam Park in Mesa tomorrow.
CHILDERS: RHSP Dylan Cease and LHSP Bryan Hudson are probably the top two SP prospects in the organization right now.
LHSP Jose Paulino has electric stuff (91-94 MPH fastball with sinking action and a mid-80's slider), but he also has trouble commanding it.
RHP Jose Albertos (2015 IFA - Mexico - $1.5M bonus) just turned 17, and his fastbball already sits at 95-96. He also throws a curve and a change-up, and is fairly advanced for a kid his age.
AZBOBBOP: Most of 2016 draft picks will get assigned to either Eugene or AZL Cubs, but the Opening Day Eugune roster will probably be almost 100% from the Extended Spring Training squad roster (pending the arrival of draft picks).
I think I can probably tell you which pitchers and players at EXST are in contention for roster slots at Eugene and which are in contention for slots with the AZL Cubs - AS THINGS STAND RIGHT NOW - (listed alphabetically):
* bats or throws left
# bats both
Eloy Jimenez atop the leader board for minor-league home runs in the Cub system, with seven. Tied with Balaguert and Vogelbach, two 24-year-olds. Jimenez won't be 20 until late November. Leads the Midwest League in SLG and OPS. Maybe he'll get promoted to the Myrtle Beach squad that visits Woodbridge, VA, in June or Frederick, MD, in August.
Watched two Pelican games at Frederick the other week. Was most impressed by Stinnett and Happ. Happ may swing harder than Javier Baez, though more compactly. (Also got to see Brockmeyer hit a bomb.)
E-MAN: Jose Paniagua isn't a string-bean, but I wouldn't say he necessarily bulked-up during the 2015-16 off-season either, He led the DSL Cubs in HR and doubles in 2014, and he showed XBH power when he arrived in Mesa last year, leading the AZL Cubs in HR, doubles, and RBI in 2015. It's just that he has taken his HR power to a new level this year.
Paniagua displayed plus-HR power in Cactus League Minor League Spring Training games in March, and that got him a slot on the South Bend Opening Day roster. But he was sent to EXST after only six MWL games.
More on the Cub Way.
Martinez is one of my least favorite pitchers in baseball. I'd love to see a game like yesterday's against him.
Send Soler down!
Awesome thanks AZ
Great report, Phil! This organization has so many hitters to be excited about.
Ben Zobrist is very enjoyable to watch!!!!!!
given that he seems to only be throwing low 90s these days rather than the 93-96mph he used to throw, along with his wildness issues this year, he may end up passing through.
i dunno if something is wrong with him physically or his past shoulder issues has rendered him what he currently is, but he's been throwing a lot of sliders he can't control well and his fastball isn't as sharp. even when his slider wasn't working in a game he was still throwing a lot of them.
Any scuttlebutt on where Neil Ramirez gets traded?
He seems better than some of the relievers on competitive teams. He ought to bring more than the waiver fee.
My guess? Toronto.
PHIL: It seems as if Paniagua has always played 1B with the Cubs. At 6'2 and 180#, what is his frame like? String bean? Have you seen him bulk up? Where do you project him? Thanks.
Phil, what's your thoughts on which position players are going to Eugene and who is staying in AZL?
Ahhh...way to bring me down BB.
Still - a win tomorrow will be an acheivement regardless.
Don't mean to spoil your mood, but with tonight's win the are 3-5 on the trip with one to play.
While I'm bringing the room down -- Richard comes in to pitch the 9th with a 12-1 lead...and can't finish the game. Woof.
For some reason