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.
Lineup: Fowler, Soler, KB, Rizzo, AJackson, Montero, Castro, Hendricks, Russell
I know he's struggles against lefties but Schwarber seems zoned in - hope he starts tonight.
Awesome stuff, Phil.
listening on ESPN 1000, caller says Bill Welke will be the home plate ump today. Supposedly his reputation is for having an even bigger strike zone than last night's Phil Cuzzi. Some of the issues with bad umpiring come from an inconsistent strike zone. Hoping at least for consistency. Last night's called strike on David Ross was outright embarrassing for Cuzzi.
That might work out in favor of Kyle Hendricks, who benefits much from a large strike zone.
it's kind of mesmerizing to watch
should Theo add some Ted Abernathy videos for minor league pitching coordinator's use?
sadly, Ted passed away in 2004 from complications of Alzheimers. I always loved the Cub bullpen trio of Phil Regan, Ted Abernathy and Hank Aguirre. As a kid, I even worked on both Phil Regan (very quirky delivery) and Ted Abernathy (extreme submarine) imitations when throwing a rubber ball against a wall. It wasn't a good imitation unless I could scrape my knuckles off the ground. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for submariners.
HAGSAG: Chris Pieters was sent to instructs to develop his hitting, bunting, and outfield play (he is already a decent first-baseman).
Pieters is tall and rangy , a "long-strider" in the same mold as Trey Martin and Rashad Crawford. He is a very patient hitter (unusual for a hitter with his lack of experience) and has an outstanding (almost uncanny) eye at the plate, and he is a fast runner with unusually good baserunning instincts, and he is a good basestealer, too.
I doubt we will see Pedro in any more "high leverage" situations this series. With Hendricks and the pen today, we need Bryant-Rizzo-Castro to get going ASAP.
One funny thing to see before the game was the two submariner pitchers (David Berg and Corbin Hoffner) playing catch with each other. Both pitchers throw "submarine" even when they play catch, and it's kind of mesmerizing to watch, even for the other players.
CUBSTER: One of the points of emphasis at "basic" Instructs this year was teaching the position players the art of baserunning and base-stealing, like getting a good primary and seconday lead, reading the pitcher, cutting bases sharply, and different ways to slide to maximize the baserunner's chance to arrive safely.
Brooksbaseball.net has some interesting stats/graphs on pitch and strike zones and you can dial up individual games/pitchers. I'd love to see some comments from readers who can interpret this better than I can. I thought the Ump was really inconsistent with a very wide zone. Does this info seem to match up with my eyeball perception? Also, looking at the graphs, Lackey was not throwing as many pitches below the K-zone (certainly more above) while Lester was clearly getting his pitches down and not many above.
As I was fearing in my post yesterday, Maddon keeps trotting Strop out against the Redbirds and he constantly fails. I understand the psychology behind this, but in a series where there is a finite lock on who moves on, why does he keep riding the wrong horse?
AZ Phil: Agree, this must have been a really fun game to watch. There was a lot of base stealing going on. Are the pitchers not holding runners or is the catching still a work in progress?
Cuzzi has long been known as having the biggest strike zone among all umpires.
AZ Phil, give me a scouting report on Chris Pieters since he has become a 1B/OF.
I think it's probably hard to adjust to an ump's zone mid-game, as least for hitters. Pitchers can locate to an ump's zone, but hitters have minimal time to react.
But, whatever. Umps are going to miss calls. Let's beat up on the non-Lackey starters.
Watched a little of Mets-Dodgers.
Jason deGrom -- oh, my.