AZL Giants Best AZL Cubs in Arizona League Opener
Leonardo Ochoa singled three times, walked, scored two runs, and drove-in another, leading the AZL Giants to an 8-5 victory over the AZL Cubs in Arizona League Opening Night action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa this evening.
Eduardo Gonzalez and Dustin Geiger provided much of the AZL Cubs offense, with E. Gonzalez ripping three singles, and Dustin Geiger stroking a triple off the right-centerfield fence to lead off the bottom of the second and a ground-rule double that bounced over the left-centerfield fence with one out in the 4th. Geiger also flied out to the warning track in CF in the 7th. The 19-year old Geiger hit 244/312/358 with just one HR but with a team-leading nine doubles for the AZL Cubs last year after signing out of HS, but he started to show some improved HR power in the latter stages of Extended Spring Training last month, hitting a walk-off three-run HR in one game, and a grand slam in another.
20-year old 6'4 Dominican RHP Starling Peralta got the start for the AZL Cubs and gave up three runs in the top of the 1st inning after allowing three straight hits (a triple and two singles) to open the game, but then settled-down and retired seven of the next nine men he faced (including five strikeouts). He gave up another run in the top of the 4th after allowing a lead-off walk and two consecutive singles with no outs, but overall he pitched better than his final line might indicate, striking out seven in just four innings of work (58 pitches - 44 strikes, 3/0 GO/FO).
Knuckleballer Joe Zeller was supposed to "piggyback" with Peralta and throw multiple innings, but he lasted only 1.2 IP, allowing four runs on three hits and a walk. Only one of the runs was earned, however, thanks to a couple of passed balls (catcher Johan DeJesus had all kinds of trouble trying to snatch Zeller's knuckler) and a key two-out throwing error by first-baseman Brian Inoa (overthrew Zeller covering 1st base) that opened the floodgates and eventually led to three runs scoring.
The pitching highlight for the AZL Cubs was probably Cubs 2011 18th round draft pick James Pugliese (Mercer CC), who was making his pro debut. And the 18 year old 6'3 Pugliese had an eye-popping intro to pro ball, too, throwing two innings (30 pitches - 20 strikes), and allowing no runs, hits, or walks, while striking out four. Pugliese throws with a max effort over-the-top overhand style similar to Diamondbacks rookie RHP Josh Collmenter, pumping his two-seam fastball up into the 92-93 MPH range, with an OK breaking ball (breaks straight down) to complement it.
3B Garrett Buechele (SF 2011 14th round draft pick - U. of Oklahoma and the son of ex-Cub 3B Steve Buechele) made his pro debut for the AZL Giants, getting two hits, including a double.
The AZL Cubs are playing their AZL home games at HoHoKam Park through July 24th with a 7 PM local start time, and then will play the balance of their home games beginning on July 26th at Fitch Park with an 11 AM start time.
Although they are playing the first half of their home games at HoHoKam Park, the team is actually based at Fitch Park, and takes pre-game BP and fielding practice at Fitch. The boys are then driven by shuttle vans up Center Street to HoHoKam Park for the game. Last year, the team played all of their AZL home games at HoHoKam Park, and was actually physically based there, too, with meals catered by Boston Market. It seemed to work well, and the players enjoyed the big league locker room environment and playing all of their home games at a major league Spring Training stadium, and it's a bit puzzling as to why it was changed this year.
The Cubs have signed catcher Rafael Lopez (Florida State), and Lopez was in uniform tonight with the AZL Cubs, although he did not play in the game. The 23-year old Lopez was a 5th year college senior, and with the Seminoles having been eliminated by Texas A&M in their Super Regional last Monday, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Lopez would sign a pro contract, and soon (which he did). The Cubs have now signed 12 of their 50 picks from this month's Rule 4 Draft, and Lopez (their 16th round selection) is the highest one they have signed so far.
LHP Hunter Ackerman (Cubs 2010 4th round draft pick) is scheduled to start for the AZL Cubs Tuesday night versus the AZL Athletics at the Papago Park Sports Complex in Phoenix. Ackerman has struggled with his control throughout his short pro career, and was (somewhat surprisingly) left behind in Mesa when the Boise Hawks left for the Pacific Northwest last Tuesday.
Everytime I recall Szcur's bne marrow donation to a stranger, it makes me smile:
If Matt is out will Kawasaki get the call-up? Or "Shane"?
"Matt Szczur will undergo an MRI on his right hamstring on Tuesday."
One of the reasons I think Maddon is a great manager -- he has changed the conversation on Baez from HR & strikeouts to great defense, versatility and an all-around good ballplayer. He rarely talks about his offense, which is the only thing anybody used to talk about with Javy. He took a lot of pressure off the kid, and he seems to have responded.
Good pitching and some nifty D tonight -- nice win.
In case you didn't see it -- it was the Little League play where the guy on first gets caught in a rundown on purpose and the guy on third tries to score. It worked.
Gotta love the Pirates pitcher intentionally hitting Zobrist, then allowing Zobrist to score on a 2-out wild pitch.
Also, glad to see Zobrist coming around with RISP after my remarks last week. Heh!
ESPN reporting heyward day-to-day with an injured wrist
ESPN game tonight, btw.
Cardinal way #48
"negligent transmission of STDs"
Heyward getting the night off.
Grand Slammin' Sczcur in RF - La Stella batting 2nd
Twitterverse reporting that Heyward is dealing with a sore right wrist
Cardinal way #47
See ya on parrot chat
In what was probably the last start for RHSP Jeremy Null at EXST...
Intrasquad game this morning on Field #5 at Riverview Baseball Complex:
4.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R (3 ER), 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 2 WP, 1 GIDP, 5/4 GO/AO, 75 pitches (50 strikes)
Next stop is likely either South Bend or Myrtle Beach (TBD)
There does seem to be something funky about closers pitching in non-save situations -- they never seem to be as effective. But, to your point, there could not have been a save situation in that game, so why not use your best reliever?
Your thought: don't pitch Rondon at all, since a save can't happen in extra innings at home.
Maddon's thought: might as well pitch him now, because there's no later.