Brew Crew Catcher a Pain in the Kottaras
George Kotarras drove-in five runs with bases-loaded doubles in consecutive innings, as the Milwaukee Brewers hammered the Cubs 10-2 in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in warm & sunny Mesa, AZ, this afternoon.
Battling for a spot in the Cubs starting rotation, RHP Randy Wells got the start and threw three shutout innings (38 pitches – 26 strikes, 7/2 GO/FO), allowing just two hits. He had no walks or strikeouts.
LHP Travis Wood (also battling for a spot in the starting rotation) piggy-backed with Wells, entering the game in the 4th probably with an opportunity to throw multiple innings and (hopefully) make a good impression. But T. Wood did not even retire the side in his first inning of work before getting yanked out of the game, allowing six runs (five earned) on three hits (two doubles and a single), two walks and an HBP. Wood could not throw strikes (31 pitches – only 15 strikes), and when he did throw strikes, the Brewers hit ropes. The Brewers were also aided in the inning by a Reed Johnson error on a laser line-drive to LF (ball just plain tipped off the top of Johnson’s glove, or it might have gone through his glove, it was hit so hard).
RHP Casey Coleman pitched the 5th & 6th, and had a poor outing, throwing what could best be described as batting practice to the Brew Crew. Milwaukee nailed Coleman for four runs on five hits (including three doubles) and two walks, and even the outs were loud. (Coleman had no strikeouts). There has been talk about Coleman maybe having a chance to win a bullpen job in Chicago coming out of Spring Training, but today’s outing could make Coleman Des Moines-bound sooner rather than later.
The Cubs only runs of the day scored in the 4th, in Milwaukee SP Randy Wolf’s fourth inning of work. Starlin Castro smoked a lead-of double into the right-centerfield alley, and scored when Ian Stewart followed with an opposite-field double off the LF fence. (If Stewart is to get back to where he was a couple of years ago, he will need to use the whole field as he did in that AB). Jeff Baker then laced an RBI single, driving-in Stewart from 2nd.
Otherwise, no Cub hitter had more than one hit, and the offense just generally looked pitiful today.
Rule 5 RHP Lendy Castillo worked two hitless & scoreless innings, although he did struggle with his control, walking two batters in the 9th. The Cubs need to decide by MLB Opening Day (April 4th) whether L. Castillo—a converted shortstop who has only been pitching for two years--can pitch in the big leagues after having never pitched above Full-Season “A” (equivalent to Peoria). So expect to see Castillo get a lot of work in the next couple of weeks as the Cubs decide his immediate future.
If it turns out the Cubs choose not to keep L. Castillo on their 25-man roster because they feel he is just not ready to pitch in the big leagues, he would have to first be placed on Outright Waivers, where any of the other MLB clubs could claim him for $25,000 and assume the Rule 5 obligations, and if he is not claimed, he would next have to be offered back to his former organization (the Philadelphia Phillies), who could re-claim Castillo for half the Rule 5 Draft price ($25,000).
It is at this last point where clubs will sometimes work out a trade, allowing the drafting club to keep the player, with the drafting club sending a different player and/or cash to the player’s former club as compensation. If that were to happen with Lendy Castillo, the Cubs could retain the young right-hander, and send him to the minors (probably Daytona) for further seasoning without any restrictions.
The Cubs have their first “split squad” day tomorrow, with about half of the team remaining in Mesa to play the Arizona Diamondbacks, while the rest of the team travels up the Loop 101 Freeway to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (on the Salt River Pima Indian Reservation east of Scottsdale) to take-on the Colorado Rockies.
Split squad days provide clubs a good opportunity to get pitchers who need work some game action, and it also gives some of the kids from Minor League Camp a chance to show what they can do in an MLB Cactus League game.
Also, tomorrow is the first day Draft-Excluded Players can be sent to the minors, so expect to see young players like Josh Vitters, Junior Lake, and Matt Szczur to be optioned to the minors tomorrow morning (although they can still play in MLB Cactus League games). Several other players (including some on the 40-man roster, as well as some of the non-roster players who are in camp by invitation) will probably get sent to Minor League Camp at the same time, in prepartion for the start of minor league Spring Training games on Friday.