Giansanti a Ringer Ding-Dinger for AZL Cubs
Anthony Giansanti slugged a two-run double off the CF Batter's Eye to cap a three-run 1st inning and Ryan McNeil and three relievers combined to throw a shutout, as the AZL Cubs whitewashed the AZL Diamondbacks 3-0 in Game #1, and then Giansanti hammered a lead-off walk-off HR off the base of the scoreboard in the bottom of the 7th that gave the Cubs a 1-0 victory in Game #2, as the Cubs took both ends of a twilight-night doubleheader at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, AZ this evening.
The versatile multi-positional (C-1B-3B-RF-LF) Giansanti is on a rehab assignment from Peoria, after being placed on the Chiefs DL with a sprained ankle last month. He played 3B in Game #1 and 1B in Game #2 tonight, and with the depletion of the AZL Cubs roster in recent days and weeks thanks to call-ups and injuries, having Giansanti in the lineup (even if he is a "ringer") is just what the Cubs need right now.
Two position-players from DSL Cubs #1 have also been called-up this week to provide some much-needed roster depth for the AZL Cubs, although both OF Jeffrey Baez and C Wilfredo Petit were in Mesa previously (Baez at AZ Instructs last year and at Extended Spring Training this year, and Petit at both Minor League Camp and Extended Spring Training this season). Both players were assigned to DSL Cubs #1 when the Dominican Summer League season began play in June (prior to the start of the AZL season) after spending two months at EXST.
Iowa Cubs RHP Rafael Dolis (placed on the I-Cubs 7-day DL in July with a sprained left knee) continued his rehab in Game #1 and threw 1.1 IP (24 pitches) of shutout ball (although he did allow a single and a double), and Peoria RHP Ben Wells (sprained elbow) opted to postpone TJS in the hope that his elbow would heal with rest, and it apparently has paid-off as the prized pitching prospect returned to action tonight after missing almost three months of action. The burly right-hander threw one inning of shutout ball, and while he did walk one and struggled with his command a bit (19 pitches - 11 strikes), he also struck out the side.
18-year old RHP Ryan McNeil (Cubs 2012 3rd round draft pick out of Nipomo HS - Nipomo, CA) got the start in Game #1 and threw four innings (58 pitches - 40 strikes), allowing no runs on five hits and no walks, with two strikeouts and a nifty pick-off at 1st base.
RHP Jasvir Rakkar (Cubs 2012 26th round draft pick) had the most-impressive outing of the night, getting the save in Game #1 after throwing 1.2 IP of shutout ball with four punch-outs. Rakkar has not allowed a run over the course of seven innings (and five AZL appearances) so far. The 21-year old Canadian attended SUNY - Stony Brook, and pitched for the Seawolves in the College World Series prior to signing with the Cubs.
With tonight's doubleheader sweep, the AZL Cubs extended their lead in the AZL Wild Card standings to three games over the AZL Giants with only five games left to play, although two of the five games remaining are against the Giants.
If the Cubs can hold their lead in the AZL Wild Card standings, they will qualify for the AZL playoffs as the Wild Card team and would play their 1st round game on the road versus the team with the best record (which right now is the East Division leading AZL Athletics). The winner of that game would then play the winner of the other semi-final game (probably AZL Dodgers versus AZL Rangers) in a winner-take-all (and loser-go-home) Championship Game the next day. (The AZL doesn't mess around).
In fact, the AZL Cubs and the Boise Hawks are the only two Cubs minor league affiliates likely to qualify for the playoffs this year, and both are in pretty good shape to do so. It's just too bad that the AZL Cubs (should they qualify) would be playing without a lot of the guys (Vogelbach, Soler, Almora, Saunders, Martin, et al) who put them in a position to qualify for the AZL playoffs in the first place.
HAGSAG: I have not seen Joe Nathan out on the field, but he is supposedly at the UAPC.
ERIC S: Best outing I've ever seen from Manny Rondon, and I've seen most of his outings since the Cubs got him from the Angels.
M. Rondon is competing with six others (Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, Jose Paulino, Pedro Silverio, Jesus Castillo, and Erling Moreno) for a starting slot at Eugene, and (as you can probably tell from the EXST box scores) the competition has gotten fierce over the last couple of weeks, With the exception of Moreno, the Eugene SP candidates have upped their game lately, and M. Rondon's outing yesterday was especially impressive/dominating.
E-MAN: Pierce Johnsion was mixing a 92-94 MPH fastball with a plus-change-up AND curve, and he threw strike-after-strike-after-strike with all three of his pitches. I believe that was the best command and pitch-efficiency I've ever seen from Johnson, who often pitches from behind in the count and issues too many walks.
Of course now he has to avoid a recurrence of the lat strain (whch he has had previously in his career) as well as all of the other miscellaneous physical problems he's had over the last three years (hamstring, quad, back, etc).
PHIL: Any movement on P. Johnsons pitches? What was his "out" pitch? I know he was working on a 4th pitch, so wondering what he is looking like these days. Thanks.
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.