Castro Casts Seattle Boat People Adrift
Starlin Castro drilled a three-run double to cap a four-run 7th inning rally, as the Cubs defeated the Seattle Mariners 6-3 in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in sunny & warm Mesa, AZ, this afternoon
Randy Wells got the start for the Cubs, and worked 5.2 IP (91 pitches - 56 strikes), allowing three runs (all earned) on five hits and three walks, while striking out eight. Overall he pitched very well, especially innings two and onward.
Wells did have a tough 26-pitch 1st inning, though, when the Mariners scored twice, as Wells walked Jack Wilson (after getting ahead 0-2) to lead-off the game, threw a Wild Pitch to move Wilson into scoring position, before surrendering an RBI single to Jack Cust to drive-in the first run of the game. Justin Smoak then doubled into the left-center power alley to score the slow-footed Cust from 1st base.
The Mariners scored their third run in the top of the 4th when Smoak ripped his second double of the game to lead off the inning, and, after Wells struck out Ryan Langerhans and retired Luis Rodriguez on a ground out, scored on an Adam Moore two-out line-drive RBI single to left.
Cub pitchers then threw one-hit shutout ball the rest of the way, retiring 16 of the last 19 Mariners. Sean Marshall threw an 11-pitch 1-2-3 7th with two strikeouts and a GO. John Grabow pitched one inning (18 pitches - 11 strikes), allowing a lead-off walk before retiring the next three hitters (K, L-7, and 5-3), and finally Marcos Mateo put the Mariners away with some 9th inning gas (K, K, 5-3) for the Save. Mateo has had an impressive Spring Training, meaning he will probably be sent to Iowa.
With ex-CLE LHP Aaron Laffey working on a 3-0 shutout, the Cubs scored a run in the bottom of the 4th when Aramis Ramirez bounced a lead-off double off the head of Seattle second-baseman Jack Wilson (the ex-Pirate was diving for the ball and it doinked him in the head, before bounding into foul territory behind 1B), advanced to 3rd on a GO, and then scored on an RBI GO by Carlos Pena.
Blake DeWiit celebrated making the Cubs Opening Day 25-man roster in style, absolutely crushing a solo HR off RHRP Tom Wilhelmsen with two outs in the bottom of the 5th far beyond the RF fence to get the Cubs within one run, and then the home team discharged their four-run rally in the bottom of the 7th to take the lead.
Facing LHRP Cesar Jimenez, Tyler Colvin drew a one-out walk, and advanced to 3rd base when PH Josh Vitters (up from Minor League Camp) roped a double down the LF line. Blake DeWitt reached on an infield hit to load the bases, and then Starlin Castro slammed his bases-clearing three-run double into the left-center power alley to give the Cubs the lead. The Cubs scored another run in the inning on a Reed Johnson two-out PH RBI double.
The Cubs should have had even more runs in the 7th, but they suffered a baserunning brain fart with Castro on 2nd and Marlon Byrd on 1st, one out, and Johnson at bat, where Castro was picked off 2nd base when the two runners left early on what was apparently going to be either a double-steal attempt or a hit & run. Byrd was able to move up to 2nd base on the play and scored on the Johnson RBI double.
The defensive highlight of the game for the Cubs (and for me) was probably the final play of the game, when 3B Josh Vitters aggressively charged a slow chopper, and made a strong, accurate, off-balance throw to 1st base to nip Chris Gimenez by a half-step. This was a play Vitters probably does not make in 2010.
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!!!!!!
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.