Mighty Casey Has Struck Out 7 & Walked but 2
Welington Castillo was penciled in at DH today for the I-Cubs but he got his catching in before the game by lunging about to stop all the ceremonial first pitches from pint-sized birthday boys and lame-armed luminaries. The only one that got past him was flung by a mascot creature from some non-profit.org.
From atop the left-field wall beckoned the giant glove that homers sometimes land in, wiggling against its moorings in the breeze that slightly relieved the generally welcome heat of summer. The thing's almost as big as the one sported by Tony Campana.
The game began and Casey Coleman got ahead of the first hitter 0-2. Seven pitches later, he'd walked him. Here, I thought, we go again. But I was wrong. Coleman proceeded to retire the next 15 in a row, seven of them on strikes, including the side in a dazzling 5th. Ranging from the high 70's to the low 90's he mixed up his pitches and the erstwhile Omaha Royals, now saddled with the too contemporary nickname of Storm Chasers [sporting teams needn't be tagged with both a first and a last name in addition to their locale ID].
This was a performance to make one believe that Coleman may yet become a solid big league starter, especially given that he was facing the first place team in the division, the top farm club in the organization that many have rated as being stocked with the best minor league talent in the game, in a league not known for its enhanced pitching conditions and stats.
He was staked to a 1-0 lead almost immediately in the bottom of the 1st after Fernando Perez bunted the first pitch leading off and wound up with a little league triple when the lunging pitcher shoveled the ball into the Omaha bullpen.
Coleman's opposite number was Jeff Suppan, reduced now to the role of Triple A innings eater. Suppan threw up on himself in a couple of early frames as the I-Cubs built a seemingly insurmountable lead behind Coleman. The spell was broken when #8 hitter Lance Zawadski [what, a Polish playboy?] blooped a double just fair down the left-field line leading off the 6th. This being the minor leagues, Coleman wasn't even accorded a symapthetic ovation to soothe the loss of his no-no. People were generally oblivious. Perhaps disappointed, Coleman walked the next hitter and eventually was touched for a pair of runs, only one of them earned, in his last inning of work. Zawadski's well-aimed badminton serve was the only hit marring Coleman's line for the day.
Meanwhile Suppan kept eating and got in a groove, retiring nine straight after Bryan LaHair, who's amassing Hoffpauiresque numbers, belted a three-run homer to max out the Iowa lead at 8-0.
Jeff [Dead Man Walking] Stevens coughed up a four-spot in the 7th in first relief of Coleman and big Kila Ka'aihue tied it up with a two-run homer in the 8th off of John Gaub in a lefty/lefty match-up before the I-Cubs walked off with the win an inning later on Matt Camp's run-scoring single.
But back to Coleman's opposition. Eric Hosmer, he of the anagrammatic headlines, has already swapped spots on the organizational flow chart with Ka'aihue and waits now at the major league level for the arrival of his playmates from the farm. The first one to join him may be third baseman Mike Moustakas whom the Royals tabbed one spot ahead of the Cubs' Josh Vitters in the '07 draft. It's fair to say that Moustakas is on a faster track than Vitters. His personal highlight today was a sparkling dive to his left from a drawn-in position to turn Perez's second at-bat into a fielder's choice at 2nd. Check out his solid offensive numbers if you care to. The kid's a player.
Omaha second baseman Johnny Giavotella is probably Kansas City bound as well. Right fielder Jarrod Dyson swiped a pair of bases and reminds of both Delino Deshields and Willie McGee. And Ka'aihue is big and agile around the bag at first. He draws a lot of walks at the plate but has blown his chance in Kansas City. Surely he could be had and is worth another look from a different team. When Omaha leaves town Round Rock and Chris Davis will arrive. He's another corner infielder who could conceivably draw some Cub interest come the latter part of July.
The Royals, er, Chasers, also fielded DH Clint Robinson who won the triple crown in the Texas League last year and Lorenzo Cain in CF who's only in Omaha so he can play daily. On the pitching side ex-Chaser Danny Duffy is one of eight, at last count, rookies already on the KC roster and Mike Montgomery too is considered can't miss.
I wonder how many of the guys I saw today will be seen again when I chug three hours south to see the C-Cubs in Kansas City in a couple of weeks.
By the way, how'd they do today? I heard they were leading into the 9th...