Giant Gaffe and Cub Smoke Combine to Produce Opening Night Victory
Four AZL Cubs pitchers combined to throw a six-hitter with 16 strikeouts, and the Cubs took advantage of a gaffe by the AZL Giants manager to push across two runs in the bottom of the seventh, en route to a 3-1 Arizona League Opening Night victory at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, AZ.
There is a 35-man roster limit in the AZL, but only 30 of the players (of which at least ten must be pitchers) can be designated as "active" for each game. However, AZL Giants manager Derin McMains apparently failed to list one of his pitchers as "active" before tonight's game, and then he called that pitcher into the game.
RHP Jake Shadle entered the contest in the bottom of the 7th entrusted to protect a 1-0 Giant lead, but after he completed his warm-up pitches, home plate umpire Reid Gibbs called McMains out onto the field and told him that Shadle was not listed on the official Giants game roster submitted by McMains prior to the game, and so Shadle could not pitch in the game. As a result, LHP Randall Zeigler (who had been sitting quietly in the bullpen) was brought into the game "cold" (albeit only figuratively, since it was 109 degrees on the field), but because Shadle did not leave with an injury, Zeigler was permitted only eight warm-up tosses. And it showed
Zeigler labored through his 2/3 of an inning of work, allowing two runs (both unearned) on two hits and a walk, but he really gave up the ship (and was immediately pulled from the game) because he failed to cover 1st base on a two-out bases-loaded grounder down the 1st base line by Trevor Gretzky, where 1st baseman Leonardo Fuentes bobbled the ball and then did not have enough time to beat Gretzky to the bag after he recovered (although Gretzky would have been out if Zeigler had covered the bag and had been available to receive the throw from Fuentes).
The four Cub pitchers who worked in the game were really sharp tonight, although three of them (Zach Cates, Zac Rosscup, and Shane Lindsey) were rehab guys from higher classifications. Rosscup (biceps tendinitis) was especially impressive, striking out four in 1.2 IP (19 pitches - 16 strikes) with 94 MPH gas. I've never seen Rosscup throw that hard before (he usually sits 89-91), but he was unhittable tonight. (Rosscup was one of the "other" players acquired by the Cubs from Tampa Bay in the Matt Garza deal). Rosscup was at Extended Spring Training, but had only thrown in "sim" games prior to tonight.
6'5 RHP David Henrie (2011 NDFA - Trinidad State JC) made his "official" pro debut tonight and threw three shutout innings (7-8-9) for the victory, although to say it was the big right-hander's pro debut is only technically true, because he saw action in 12 games (21.2 IP) combined between AZ Instructs last fall and Extended Spring Training earlier this season.