Extended Spring Training Bullpen Collapse at Diablo

Sergio Burruel cracked a three-run double, Alvaro Ramirez drilled a two-run triple, and Xavier Batista and Arismendy Alcantara smashed solo home runs, but the Angels took advantage of nine walks to score 11 runs over the last three innings and overcome a four-run deficit in the bottom of the 8th and another four-run deficit in the bottom of the 9th, as the EXST Cubs and EXST Angels played to a 12-12 tie in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action at Diablo Park Field #3 in Tempe this morning. The game was halted by mutual agreement between the two teams with one out in the bottom of the 9th after the Angels tied the game on a 420-ft+ three-run home run off the top of the Batter’s Eye in CF.


The Cubs got off to a quick 4-0 lead in the top of the 1st inning, as Pin-Chieh Chen laid down a bunt on the first pitch of the game and reached base on a throwing error by the Angels pitcher. Brandon May walked with one out, and then Charles Thomas executed the hit & run perfectly, driving a grounder between 1st and 2nd base as May was breaking for 2nd, knocking-in Chen and sending May to 3rd. Xavier Batista walked to load the bases, and then after Arismendy Alcantara struck out, Sergio Burruel–who entered the game hitting .077 (1-13) in EXST play—laced an opposite-field double into the LF corner to plate May, Thomas, and Batista.


20-year old Dominican RHP Luis Liria got the start for the Cubs today and threw three shutout innings, allowing just one hit and facing the minimum nine batters. (The one baserunner who reached was gunned-down at 3rd base trying to take two bases after an errant pick-off throw by Liria at 1st base). Liria struck out three today, giving him a team-leading 14 strikeouts in 12.0 IP.


18-year old Xavier Batista gave the Cubs a 5-0 lead in the top of the 4th, belting a lead-off solo home run over the LF fence. (Batista led all DSL Cubs in HR last season). This was just the second HR hit by the EXST Cubs this season, the only other one being by AA 1B-OF Matt Spencer, who was playing in an EXST game while rehabbing from a broken toe suffered in Minor League Camp.


LHP John Mincone (2009 11th round pick out of Suffolk County CC) threw the middle three innings (Liria and Mincone are on the same throwing schedule, and they take turns starting games) and was almost as good as Liria, also allowing just one hit. Unfortunately the Cubs defense was not very good behind Mincone, and so an unearned run did score on a 6-3 GO in the bottom of the 4th following a Charles Thomas error at 1B earlier in the inning.


Up 5-1, 19-year old 6’6 Taiwanese RHP Tzu-An Wang almost gave it all back in the bottom of the 7th, allowing three runs on a walk, a HBP, an RBI single, and a two-run double, before finally retiring the side.


But the Cubs got the three runs back in the top of the 8th, taking an 8-4 lead on a lead-off HR over the RF fence by Arismendy Alcantara, and a two run triple to right-center by Alvaro Ramirez following a Charles Thomas single and a walk to Xavier Batista.


Protecting a four-run lead, RHP Chris Huseby came into the game in the bottom of the 8th and really had the yips. Appearing in his first EXST game after getting sent down from Daytona ten days ago, Huseby threw 16 pitches—all 16 balls, most all head-high or above, some just narrowly missing Angels hitters—and two wild pitches before he was relieved by RHP Gian Guzman. And although he at least did throw a few strikes, Guzman wasn’t a whole lot better, allowing all three inherited runners to score thanks to a SF, a walk, and a two-run single.


But the Cubs retaliated, scoring four runs of their own in the top of the 9th to take what appeared to be a commanding 12-8 lead. Wes Darvill lined a lead-off single to CF, was advanced to 2nd base on a sacrifice bunt, moved up to third on a PB, and scored on a Pin-Chieh line-drive RBI single to RF. Arismendy Alcantara walked, and then Brandon May ripped a single between 3B and SS into LF that the Angels left-fielder overran for a two-base error, allowing both Chen and Alcantara to score, with May advancing all the way to 3rd. Jesus Morelli followed with an RBI double down the LF line to score May with the Cubs 12th run of the day.


But Guzman (a converted SS who just switched to the mound a year ago) could not hold the lead in the bottom of the 9th, walking two and allowing an RBI single, before surrendering the three-run game-tying homer that put an exclamation point at the end of the game for the Angels, and a question mark for the Cubs.


Chris Huseby is a real mystery. A 2006 10th round pick out or a Florida high school who got “1st round money” to give up his scholarship at Auburn and sign with the Cubs, the 6’7 Huseby showed promise with the AZL Cubs at Mesa in 2006 and at Boise in 2007, before coming down with a bad case of “Steve Blass Disease” (couldn’t throw strikes) two years ago, when he spent the entire 2008 season at Fitch Park trying to find the cure. It got so bad for him that year that at one point he couldn’t even play catch with his teammates because he kept throwing the ball over their heads. But somehow, someway he found a way out of the darkness, and put together a stellar year as the Peoria Chiefs closer last season. And not only did he throw strikes at Peoria, he threw almost nothing but strikes, walking just ten batters in 54 IP while striking out 73, with a 1.83 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP, and 18 Saves. But then the SBD hit him again this year at Daytona, where he walked six batters in just 2.2 IP before getting sent back to Fitch Park and Extended Spring Training.


Here is today’s abridged box score (EXST Cubs players only):


LINEUP
1. Pin-Chieh Chen, DH #1: 1-5 (E-1, F-9, 4-3, 6-U FC, 1B, 2 R, RBI)
2. Arismendy Alcantara, SS: 1-4 (K, 1-3, L-8, HR, BB, 2 R, RBI)
3. Brandon May, 3B: 2-3 (BB, 6-3, 3B, 1B, 2 R)
4a. Charles Thomas, 1B: 2-4 (1B, 5-3, 4-3, 1B, 2 R, RBI, SB)
4b. Jesus Morelli, RF: 1-1 (2B, RBI)
5. Xavier Batista, DH #2: 1-3 (BB, HR, K, BB, F-7, 3 R, RBI)
6. Alvaro Ramirez, CF: 1-4 (K, 3-U, L-7, 3B, 2 RBI)
7. Sergio Burruel, C: 2-4 (2B, 1B, K, 6-2 FC, 3 RBI)
8. Blair Springfield, LF: 1-4 (1B, F-8, P-3, 6-4 FC, SB)
9. Wes Darvill, 2B: 1-4 (P-4, L-8, E-4, 1B, R)
10. Melvin Camarena, RF-1B: 0-2 (K, 4-3, BB, 1-3 SH)


PITCHERS:
1. Luis Liria – 3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K, 1/4 GO/FO, 32 pitches (22 strikes)
2. John Mincone – 3.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R (0 ER), 0 BB, 1 K, 3/5 GO/FO, 36 pitches (24 strikes)
3. Tzu-An Wang – 1.0 IP, 2 H, 3 R (3 ER), 1 BB, 0 K, 1 HBP, 1/2 GO/FO, 15 pitches (8 strikes)
4. Chris Huseby – 0.0 IP, 0 H, 4 R (4 ER), 4 BB, 0 K, 2 WP, 16 pitches (0 strikes)
5. Gian Guzman - 1.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R (4 ER), 4 BB, 0 K, 1 HR, 0/4 GO/FO, 39 pitches (18 strikes)


ERRORS (3):
P Luis Liria E-1 (throwing error on attempted pick-off at 1st base allowed runner to advance to 2nd base, but the runner was thrown out at 3rd base)
1B Charles Thomas E-3 (fumbled grounder allowing batter to reach base safely – eventually scored unearned run)
SS Arismendy Alcantara E-6 (throwing error allowed batter to reach base safely – did not score)


CATCHERS DEFENSE:
Sergio Burruel: 0-1 CS


ATTENDANCE: 5


WEATHER: Partly cloudy and breezy, temperatures in the 80’s

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Comments

AzPhil -

How serious do you view Huseby's problems? Granted, one outing doesn't mean that much I guess, but how bad did it look? You were one of the only ones that I recall being on top of his issues 2 years ago, and your writing makes it sound like it might be that serious.

I might've missed it, or heck, I might've asked before and simply don't recall at the moment, but what is Xavier Bautista's body? Is this a kid that's going to fill out some more? Is the power legit? What's his arm like?

Tzu-An Wang - any general impressions? I know he's raw, only been pitching 3-4 years, IIRC, and with that body, the mechanics might be an issue.

How does Burruel look behind the plate? Able to move up at it?

Oh ... actually can you remind me what Luis Flores was on the suspended list for? Meant to ask it in your other thread.

Thanks for the great stuff.

Submitted by toonsterwu on Wed, 04/28/2010 - 11:35pm.
AzPhil -

How serious do you view Huseby's problems? Granted, one outing doesn't mean that much I guess, but how bad did it look? You were one of the only ones that I recall being on top of his issues 2 years ago, and your writing makes it sound like it might be that serious.

I might've missed it, or heck, I might've asked before and simply don't recall at the moment, but what is Xavier Bautista's body? Is this a kid that's going to fill out some more? Is the power legit? What's his arm like?

Tzu-An Wang - any general impressions? I know he's raw, only been pitching 3-4 years, IIRC, and with that body, the mechanics might be an issue.

How does Burruel look behind the plate? Able to move up at it?

Oh ... actually can you remind me what Luis Flores was on the suspended list for? Meant to ask it in your other thread.

Thanks for the great stuff.

===========================================

TOONSTER: Chris Huseby is really a mess right now. This is just like 2008 all over again. One of the Angels hitters who faced him yesterday said when he batted against him in the MWL last year, Huseby was so precise he could paint the outside or inside corner pitch after pitch after pitch.

The Cubs had one of their pitchers (Mincone) video Huseby while he was pitching, so I would presume they will try and compare his motion, arm angle, release point, et al from yesterday with what they have on file from last year and from 2008.

Unfortunately, Organizational Pitching Coordinator Mark Riggins is not at Fitch Park this week. Each of the five roving coordinators/instructors (Riggins, Hitting Coordinator Dave Keller, Catching Coordinator/Instructor Marty Pevey, Outfield & Baserunning Coordinator/Instructor Bob Dernier, and Infield & Bunting Coordinator/Instructor Franklin Font) spend a week at each affiliate and then move on to another one, and Bob Dernier was here last week, and Franklin Font is here this week, so it's up to Rick Tronerud, Jeff Fassero, and Frank Castillo to try and do what they can to help Huseby until Riggins gets here.

Xavier Batista is 6'3 and really cut, sort of a RH version of Nelson Perez. Batista has plus-power, runs well for a big guy, and he has has a true RF arm. He just has trouble making contact. But he's only 18.

Tzu-An Wang is a 6'6 RHP who throws his breaking ball and change-up in fastball counts. He tries to be very precise with his fastball, using it to set-up his other pitches. Unfortunately, his other pitches aren't that good yet. He's actually a lot like Chris Huseby, but without the extreme yips. I would decribe Wang as a long-term project who is far more projection than reality right now.

Sergio Burruel looks OK behind the plate. He has good reciving skills. Not great (Jose Guevara and Carlos Romero are more skilled), but certainly better than Jae-Hoon Ha (for example) who is totally clueless. Burruel wears a pressure sleeve on his right elbow, and the Angels players were saying it looks like he has a sore arm because his throws lack the zip you usually see from a catcher.

Burruel received the ire of Angels coaches yesterday when he appeared to intentionally put a bat in the 3rd base line to hinder an Angels runner trying to score. The Angels coaches yelled "That's bullshit, catcher" over and over again. Burruel didn't seem to care. He just laughed. Of course, Sergio is from a really tough Phoenix neighborhood, so he's probably heard a lot worse.

As for Luis Flores, I am not saying why he was suspended, but I can tell you usually when the Cubs put a minor league player on the Suspended List (especially if it's a player who is at Fitch Park) it's because the player violated a team rule, like possession of alcohol at the team motel, or chronic tardiness, or going AWOL. BTW, the alcohol rule applies even to players age 21+ because there are so many underaged players staying at the motel, and they go in and out of each other's rooms a lot. But a player can get suspended for other reasons, too, like for an incident on the field, or flagrant insubordination (like telling a coach to "go get f**ked" in front of the other players), or by getting arrested for DUI, DV, or possession of drugs.

The thing is, players at Fitch Park get suspended for a day or two (but aren't placed on the Suspended List) all the time for violating a team rule, like an alcohol violation, or for being tardy, or for fighting, or for staying out all night without permission. And occasionally a player will just get released, which is why sometimes the Cubs release a minor league player and it doesn't seem to make sense, or a player will get sent back to Fitch Park even though he's doing OK at Peoria or Daytona. So Flores should probably be happy he didn't just get released.

At both the MLB and minor league level, the Suspended List is used mostly for on-field incidents where a player gets suspended by the MLB Commissioner or by a Minor League President for actions on the field (like a pitcher intentionally throwing at a hitter, or fighting, or excessive arguing with an umpire, etc). But that's not what happened with Flores.

It's unusual when a player is placed on the Suspended List for something not related to an on-field incident. When a Cubs minor leaguer is placed on the Suspended List, it usually means he was sent home for 30 days. The next step is release. So in Flores case, it had to be either a repeated violation of the same team rule, or he went AWOL, or a more serious thing like flagrant insubordination, or an off-field arrest.

BTW, players who are placed on the Suspended List don't get paid while they are on the list, but they do count against the team's roster, so the Cubs are more likely to place a minor leaguer on the Suspended List if it's a player who is already on the DL, or a player who is at Extended Spring Training (where the roster limit is 70), or if it's a player on the 30-man Boise roster or 35-man AZL Cubs (Mesa) roster, where losing a player doesn't really impact the team.

MLB players don't get put on the Suspended List for in-house stuff, though, because MLB teams can't afford to play a man short, and an MLB player who is placed on the Suspended List is certain to file a grievance. But minor league players don't have a union, so they just have to take it.

This response may have been longer than the original article. Great stuff.

I don't get how it's the catcher's responsibility about the bat, did he actually pick it up and place it on the line?

Submitted by The Real Neal on Thu, 04/29/2010 - 9:09am.
This response may have been longer than the original article. Great stuff.

I don't get how it's the catcher's responsibility about the bat, did he actually pick it up and place it on the line?

====================================

NEAL: Yes.

7 IP, 8 K's last night for AA
Flaherty goes 0/3 in AA as DH. Castro 1/4 with a BB.

K. Burke and Vitters still not doing much in Hi-A (0/8 combined), but B. Jackson at least went 2/4. C. Archer 3.1 IP, 4 BB, 4 K, 2 ER.

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