Cubs Shake Their Bote to Victory at HoHoKam
David Bote reached base four times on two RBI doubles, a single, and a walk, and Shawon Dunston Jr tripled, singled, scored two runs, and drove-in another, leading the AZL Cubs to a 5-2 victory over the AZL Dodgers in Arizona League action tonight at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.
Cubs 1st round draft pick Albert Almora and Cuban mega-defector Jorge Soler went a combined 1-8, although Almora did collect an RBI on a ground ball single that ticked-off the glove of the shortstop.
Soler struck out twice (once swinging and once looking), and flied out twice.
The Dodgers have a high-profile Cuban defector playing for their AZL team, too, one Yasiel Puig.
Puig played RF tonight and reached base three times (two singles and a walk), but he also dropped a routine fly ball for a two-base error that allowed Almora to reach 2nd base safely in the bottom of the 1st.
Puig is hitting a rather robust 407/500/1.000 and is already tied for 9th in the AZL in HR (with four), despite having played in only eight games.
Dodgers GM Ned Colletti was at tonight's game, and so he got a chance to watch his $42M investment up close & personal.
RHP Paul Blackburn (Cubs 2012 Supplemental 1st round pick) got the start for the Cubs and labored through a two-inning 40-pitch outing, allowing two runs (both unearned) on four hits (all four singles) and a walk, with two strikeouts.
The most-impressive performance by a Cub pitcher tonight was the one turned-in by 20-year old RHP Dillon Maples, who (finally) displayed the velocity and command not seen previously, including three outings at AZ Instructs last fall (4.91 ERA, 1.91 WHIP, .231 OppBA, 3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 1 HBP), or over the course of his two previous appearances in the AZL this season (3.38 ERA, 1.88 WHIP, .111 OppBA, 2.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 2 HBP, 2 WP).
But he was much better tonight, throwing two shutout innings (31 pitches - 20 strikes), allowing two singles and a HBP, while striking out three (two swinging). The big difference tonight was that he threw strikes (especially "strike one") and worked fast.
When he's right, Maples throws a 93 MPH fastball (with movement) and a hard-breaking nearly-unhittable curve, and he displayed both pitches tonight. If he can command his electric stuff (as he did tonight) and maybe develop a change-up, he could be a potential MLB "Top-of-the-Rotation" guy down the road.
Maples was a 14th round draft pick of the Cubs in June 2011 out of Pinecrest HS in Southern Pines, NC (he dropped to the 14th round only because of "signability" concerns), and he was signed by the Cubs right off the campus of the University of North Carolina last August (a top-notch place-kicker, Maples had signed an NLI with UNC to play both baseball and football, and he was attending the Tar Heels pre-season football camp when he made his decision to turn pro and sign with the Cubs).
The ace of the Under-18 Team USA squad while in HS, Maples received a $2.5M signing bonus (equivalent to "1st round money") from the Cubs.
After being shut-down with a sore arm midway through Instructs last year and not pitching at Minor League Camp or at Extended Spring Training this season while dealing with elbow/forearm issues, Maples finally appears to be moving forward.
The Defensive Gem of the Game was the very last play of the game.
With the Cubs up 5-2 with one out in the top of the 9th and with Dodger runners at 2nd and 3rd and the tying run at the plate, CF Albert Almora made a brilliant Willie Mays style catch, racing full-speed with his back to the infield and catching a towering fly ball basket-style just as he hit the CF Batter's Eye, before turning around 180 degrees and (without having time to measure the throw) firing a strike to 2nd base that doubled Alex Santana off base for the final out of the game.
A truly amazing play by the Cubs 2012 #1 draft pick.
There also was another roster gaffe by an AZL manager in tonight's game, this time by Cubs manager Bobby Mitchell.
Each AZL team has a 35-man roster, but only 30 players can be designated "active" for each game.
Unfortunately, one of the five AZL Cubs "inactive" guys (RHP Daniel Adrian) was brought into the game in the top of the 3rd, only to be waived off the field by the home plate umpire after he finished his warm-up tosses.
After a discussion around home plate between the umpires and the two managers, RHP Chad Martin was hurriedly brought into the game.
To his credit, AZL Dodgers manager Matt Martin agreed to let Chad Martin have as much time as he needed to get loose. The rival manager was within his rights to insist that the new pitcher be allowed just the maximum eight warm-up tosses, but I could hear him say that he didn't want anybody to get hurt just because of a technicality.
AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.
Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!
Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.
With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.
it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.
It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.
Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.
That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.
I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.
Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...
These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.
No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.
a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...
it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...
Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.
Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.
Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.
soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.
he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that close...one he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.
j.urias optioned back to AAA...guess we wont be seeing him in the LAD series.
so is him actually getting 2 hits in a game (2 doubles!)...first time he's even been on base 2 times in a game since 9 games ago on his 3/4, 1bb day.
im ready for him to at least look like a 2-slot hitter since he's gonna be slotted there no matter what he does.
That Heyward move to avoid Bryant's ball hit at him was a thing of beauty too.
9 pitches in and this game already rules.
HR, double...bryant's turn (who came out to a Kris Kross song for some horrible, horrible reason).
...2 run inning...zoobrest hitting streak at 14.