Redbirds Put Cork in I-Cubs' Party Plans
What a strange day at the ballpark. I arrived about 11:30 A.M. in time to see the Iowa Cubs' GM unloading champagne out of the back of his SUV. Special shampoo for the clubhouse showers. I had to leave five hours later for a wedding reception with the potential pennant-clincher still unresolved after 10 innings. Turns out I'd only seen two thirds of the game.
On my way into the ballpark a team official in a championship frame of mind mentioned to me that 18 of the players had been to the clubhouse chapel service that morning. It wasn't clear if he thought that somehow boded well for the game ahead. I asked him if Jeff Samardzija, the appointed starting pitcher, had been there. No, apparently he has neither a prayer nor a clue. What would Touchdown Jesus think?
I watched him closely while he warmed up, something I've not done before so who knows if this time was different than others. But his body language didn't seem to fit the occasion. Granted, pitching for a division title in the PCL pales compared to shaking down the thunder in South Bend, but still. He never worked his way up to throwing hard. A good portion of his pitches were thrown from the stretch. He even took a break for several minutes in the middle before he started throwing from a full windup. He appeared almost indifferent. Then the bell rang and he came undone, as if he were suddenly nervous about what was at stake.
The first pitch of the game was an out. The second batter homered. The third lined a single to left and the fourth blooped one there. The fifth scorched a two-run double down the line whereupon Iowa's false starter uncorked a wild pitch and Memphis had a stunningly quick 4-0 lead. In five or so minutes the Redbirds got as many hits as they would manage in the next few hours. Let's see; on the heels of a five inning, 11 run start earlier in the week in Albuquerque, Samardzija had now been bludgeoned for 15 runs in six innings of work during his team's drive to the finish line.
The unexpected start got even stranger in the bottom of the 1st after Jim Adduci led off with a walk. The wind was blowing briskly toward left but not enough to get Adduci to second safely on his attempted steal. His manager hustled right over to disagree with the umpire's assessment of the situation, but things seemed to quickly defuse and everyone returned to their posts. But Triple A has three man umpiring crews and the managers man the 3rd base coaching box when their team hits. These facts combined to put Sandberg and his new friend in close proximity; too close. After Marquez Smith struck out on the game's next pitch, the two resumed their conversation about Adduci's arrest and the newly crowned manager of the year was excused from further participation. He was accorded a kind of nervous and tepid ovation as he made his way down the leftfield line to the doorway in the wall that leads to the clubhouse.
After his teammates cut their deficit in half thanks to the generosity of Oneli Perez's ill-advised walks and Matt Camp's bases loaded double, Samardzija re-dug their hole even deeper by giving up three more runs in the 3rd. Full disclosure dictates that it be noted his last three innings of work were scoreless ones enabling the I-Cubs to eventually catch up.
Jason Dubois had run-scoring singles in the 3rd and 5th. Bryan LaHair cracked a two-run homer, his 25th, and Brad Snyder's single scored Adduci, who'd stolen 2nd, to finally tie the game in the bottom of the 6th. It was in the midst of this sequence that Memphis skipper Chris Maloney was also tossed by the other base ump for arguing an appeal of a checked swing by Smith. Whereas Sandberg looks like he's still in playing trim, Maloney waddles about as though afflicted with George Brett's disease.
With no managers involved the game settled into a bullpen stalemate until Memphis broke through against Jeff Gray in the 15th. By then Iowa had been reduced to using two pitchers, Mitch Atkins and Jay Jackson, as pinch hitters in the extra innings. Jackson will start today and try to clean up Samradzija's mess. By late afternoon that champagne should be well-iced and ready for popping. Hopefully it won't have to be re-gifted to the Memphis clubhouse.
Jake Arrieta gives up first inning run
For the first time in a year, 33 starts.
Old news, sorry if it's 3/44-
J-Hey being classy by repaying an old teammate:
With Paredes moving to 3B, how do you see playing time shaking out between him and Galindo? Do you think Galindo gets starts at 1B? Galindo is more of a prospect than Paniagua, right?
Phil, your knowledge of the Cubs Minor League system is unbelievable.
This kid would be a key piece in a trade for a pitcher, imo.
This might be old news but Hammel was on ESPN 1000 and said that he changed his diet and workout routine over the off season and tweaked his delivery so it'd be more repeatable so he'd have a better second half. So...some cause for optimism anyway.
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 in November, and his fastball 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!!!!!!