Soler Attacks Scoreboard with Laser at HoHoKam Park
Jorge Soler drove-in three runs with an infield single and a two-run home run, Ben Carhart blasted a three-run homer, and Shawon Dunston Jr doubled, tripled, and walked, and scored three runs, leading the AZL Cubs to a 9-2 thrashing of the AZL Indians in Arizona League action this evening at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.
Soler played RF and hit clean-up tonight, and went 2-4, hitting a high-chopper to SS in his first AB that should have been a 6-4 FC but was misplayed into an error (Soler would later score on Carhart's HR), before reaching base on an RBI infield single (still another high chopper to SS) that drove-in Dunston from 3rd with two outs in the bottom of the 2nd, as Soler beat the shortstop's throw to first.
Then with two outs and a runner on 1st base in the bottom of the 4th, Soler hit a laser-shot line-drive two-run HR off the iron fence ("clank!") at the base of the scoreboard (beyond the LF wall and over the berm) off Tribe RHP Dillon Howard (CLE 2011 2nd round draft pick), giving the Cubs a 9-2 lead. He struck out swinging (checked swing on a 1-2 pitch) in his final AB in the 6th.
Cubs 1st round pick Albert Almora played CF and hit third in the order, and was hitless in five AB, but he reached base three times on errors (the Indians infield made a total of six errors in the game) and drove-in two runs and scored two more in the process. He hit one ball hard, a liner that bounced off the pitcher's leg and caromed directly to the Tribe 2nd baseman, who promptly fumbled the ball for an error.
Almora also made one of two outstanding defensive plays by the Cubs tonight, a run-saving back-handed sliding catch in left-center with one out in the 6th. Almoira's catch immediately followed a sliding catch by 1B Ben Carhart in foul territory in front of the 1st base dugout.
Carhart (normally a 3rd baseman) got the stert at 1B tonight, what with Dan Vogelbach having been promoted to Boise after last night's game. Prior to his promotion, Vogelbach was leading the AZL in doubles and RBI, and was second in HR.
Cubs 3rd round draft pick RHP Ryan McNeil (Nipomo HS - Nipomo, CA) made his pro debut in tonight's game, getting the start and working one inning. He labored throughout the frame and had difficulty throwing strikes (29 pitches - 16 strikes), allowing one run on a lead-off single and a two-out RBI double. He also walked one batter, but then he also struck out two.
McNeil is a big, raw kid (6'3 215 with a HS basketball background), and he looks fairly athletic on the mound. He received a $425K bonus when he signed with the Cubs, giving up a chance to play college ball at Long Beach State.
LHP Brian Smith made his first game appearance in almost a month (he is on the Boise DL, although he never actually left Mesa), throwing one inning (22 pitches - 14 strikes) and allowing one run. He surrendered a lead-off single and an RBI double to the first two men he faced, before striking out the side (one batter looking and two swinging) and stranding a runner at 3rd. Smith is a breaking-ball pitcher who uses his fastball as a "show-me" pitch to set-up his curve, and he got all three strikeouts with a "strike three" bender.
Supplemental 1st round pick RHP Paul Blackburn (Heritage HS - Brentwood, CA) followed McNeil and Smith to the mound and threw two shutout innings (and he needed just 15 pitches to do it), allowing a lead-off double in his second inning of work (but then the batter was thrown out trying to stretch the double into a triple). The 18-year old Blackburn is a sinkerball pitcher, and he got four outs on grounders. Blackburn gave up an opportunity to play college ball at Arizona State when he signed with the Cubs last month ($900K+ bonus), and he is considered more-polished than the typical HS senior.
Cubs RHP Justin Amlung (Cubs 2012 12th round pick) worked the 5th and 6th innings (33 pitches - 22 strikes), throwing shutout ball while allowing a two-out single in the 5th and a lead-off walk in the 6th. He struck out the side in his first inning, and benefitted from the Carhart and Almora catches in his second inning of work.
Amlung was drafted by the Cubs as a college senior (he was the #1 starter at the U. of Louisville and a one-time teammate of AA Tennessee RHRP Tony Zych), and looks ready to move-up to Boise right now. He is a short-armer who throws a mid-90's four-seam fastball in short bursts, so he probably profiles as a reliever in pro ball. (He was throwing gas in his first inning tonight when he struck out the side, but then not as hard in his second inning when Indians hitters started to tag him a bit).