Pierce Johnson Racks Up the Punch-Outs at Riverview Park

Gleyber Torres ripped an RBI triple and a single and scored a run, Charcer Burks singled twice, drove-in a run, and stole three bases, Roney Alcala reached base three times on a single, a double, and a walk, and starting pitcher Pierce Johnson (hamstring rehab) struck out eight in five innings of work, leading the Cubs to a 5-3 victory over the Rockies in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning on Field #6 at the Under Armour Performance Center at Riverview Park in Mesa, AZ.  

Working fast, throwing strikes, and mixing a 92-94 MPH fastball with a hard breaking-ball and a change-up, Johnson allowed one unearned run on four hits (two singles and two doubles) in his 5.0 IP (66 pitches), with no walks and eight strikeouts, 4/1 GO/FO, and a 78% strike percentage (70% is considered outstanding). I would think this will probably be Johnson's last EXST outing, and so I would not be surprised to see him get a start for AA Tennessee next Friday. 

Veteran MLB RHP Joel Pineiro followed Johnson to the mound and worked four innings (64 pitches - 48 strikes), allowing two runs (both earned) on four hits (two singles, a double, and a triple), with no walks and four strikeouts and a WP. The 35-year old Pineiro last pitched in MLB in 2011, but he made a comeback in Liga de Beisbol Roberto Clemente (the Puerto Rican Winter League) post-2013 (and he started a game for Team Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series in January). He did not receive an NRI to Spring Training with an MLB club, but the Cubs signed him to a minor league contract after the conclusion of Spring Training and assigned him to Extended Spring Training, where he is getting back into playing shape and being stretched-out as a starting pitcher. Like Pierce Johnson, Pineiro displayed excellent command today, throwing 75% of his pitches for strikes. His fastball velocity was only 87-88 MPH, but he got a ton of ground balls (8/0 GO/FO, plus two more grounders that were played into errors), and he displayed effective off-speed stuff (curve & change-up), too.  

RHP Josh Conway (2013 elbow stress fracture) threw another 25-pitch "live" BP session prior to the game, facing Jorge Soler (hamstring rehab), Elliot Soto (serving a 50-game Drug of Abuse suspension), Eloy Jimenez, and Erick Castillo. Conway sailed through his "inning," but Soler grabbed his right upper hamstring after only two AB in his first round and left the cage. He did eventually return for one five-pitch round, however, facing 19-year old Venezuelan RHP Adbert Alzolay (the other pitcher who threw a "live" BP session prior to the game).  
 
Here is the abridged box score from today's game (Cubs players only):

CUBS LINEUP:
1. Charcer Burks, CF: 2-5 (4-3, 1B, E-6, 1B, 4-6-3 DP, RBI, 3 SB)
2a. Kevin Brown, LF: 0-4 (3-U, 4-3, K, K, RBI)
2b. Tyler Alamo, PH: 0-1 (K)
3. Rony Rodriguez, RF: 1-4 (F-7, K, 1B, K, SB)
4. Eloy Jimenez, DH: 1-4 (E-5, F-9, K, 1B, CS)
5. Antonio Valerio, C: 1-4 (5-4-3 DP, 2B, F-9, 4-3, R)  
6a. Gleyber Torres, SS: 2-2 (1B, 3B, R, RBI)
6b. Bryant Flete, SS: 0-2 (L-6, P-4)
7. Roney Alcala, 3B: 2-3 (1B, BB, 1-3, 2B, R, SB)
8. Zak Blair, 2B: 0-4 (L-8, 4-3, 3-U, K, RBI)
9. Matt Scioscia, 1B: 2-4 (1B, 4-3, K+E2, 1B, 2 R, RBI)

CUBS PITCHERS:
1. Pierce Johnson: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R (0 ER), 0 BB, 8 K, 1 PO, 4/1 GO/FO, 66 pitches (52 strikes)
2. Joel Pineiro: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R (2 ER), 0 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 8/0 GO/FO, 64 pitches (48 strikes)

CUBS ERRORS: 4
1. 2B Zak Blair - E-4 (two-base throwing error allowed batter to reach base safely and runner to score from 2nd base)
2. 2B Zak Blair - E-4 (throwing error allowed batter to reach base safely)
3. 3B Roney Alcala - E-5 (fielding error allowed batter to reach base safely)
4. 3B Roney Alcala - E-5 (fielding error allowed batter to reach base safely)

CUBS CATCHERS DEFENSE:
Antonio Valerio: 1-1 CS

ATTENDANCE: 9

WEATHER: Mostly sunny & breezy with temperatures in the 80's

 

Comments

Thanks for the update AZ, as always.

So, gang, did Renteria get overruled on Veras? Or was he just being supportive last night after the game. I guess he's not gonna say, "yeah, our guy really sucks."

It is nice to be able to say for once, that's a game the Cardinals should have won. Veras gave them the game, and they said, nah, keep it.

Arodys Vizcaino, your spot is ready. Hurry the hell up. Thanks.

AZ Phil, I know Acala has a good stick. Have you figured out what position he belongs at on defense?

HAGSAG: Roney Alcala has the same physique as Rock Shoulders. While Shoulders is 6'2 225+, Alcala is probably 6'1 225+.

Like Shoulders, Alcala has a plus-arm that allows him to play 3B or corner OF and would be attractive as a catcher, but he has a lack of agility that will probably limit him to LF.

Alcala is a dead pull hitter with pop LH but more of a spray hitter RH (although he doesn't drive the ball with as much authority RH).

He has below-average speed (his double yesterday was a hard-hit grounder pulled down the 1st base line that rolled into the RF corner, a hit that for most players would be a triple, but Alcala held up at 2nd base, and his stolen base resulted from the catcher throwing the ball into CF, but there was no error charged because Alcala was unable to advance to 3rd base).

So in summary, Alcala is a lot like Rock Shoulders back when Shoulders was a switch-hitter, and like Shoulders, Alcala is a "natural" third-baseman (Shoulders played 3B in HS and JC and at Instructs with the Cubs before he hurt his knee and was moved to 1B), but will probably eventually end up in LF (as also happened with Josh Vitters and will probably eventually happen with Dustin Geiger). 

BTW, the Cubs tried Alcala at catcher last season in the VSL and then again when he was moved to the DSL Cubs after the VSL season ended (the VSL season starts and ends about two weeks prior to the DSL), but he has played ONLY 1B-3B-LF so far at EXST.  

What's up with Javy?

He was having some back issues a couple of days ago. Maybe they're giving it some rest?

per the twitter box, the other thing I'm waiting for...

http://tinyurl.com/nen6yl4

Two of Samuel Beckett's lesser known dramatic works.

Not many fan forum sites have references to Samuel Beckett, and certainly none populated by morans.

It's worth noting that the Cubs are not the focus of his play Catastrophe, although it seems obvious they should be.

waiting even more...Baez on the 7 day Iowa DL with ankle sprain. So much for a weak/week back.

https://twitter.com/MiLB/status/455396581039439872

ugg...i dunno if i'm more sick of replay or more sick of the "catcher/blocking" rule.

actually, i'm pretty much more sick of the catcher/blocking rule because it's getting practically automatic that a manager will argue proper/improper blocking based on which side of the call is made. it's rarely just getting the interpretation when a manager comes out...it's turned into a nearly pointless delay which is too often turned into a review delay on top of it.

You are so right.

There should be a baseball naming convention called the "E.Jackson", or the "Edwin" when a team's pitcher gives up 3 or more runs early in the game (preferably innings 1-3) and then seemingly pitches ok for the next 3-4 innings, but then has to leave by the 6th due to too many pitches thrown.

rain delay over.

Signing Edwin Jackson in a deal like that was like settling for the Ford Pinto when the Mustang 2+2 Fastback was already taken.

MIL/PIT had 2h 11m game today...total 5 runs, 11h, 14K, 4bb...MIL won

wow...wesley wright sighting.

coming into a game for the first time since april 4th. he's supposedly been healthy this entire time.

d.willis (AAA-SF) seems to be injured again. threw 3 WP in a row and walked off the mound holding his elbow.

Poor guy- He felt justified by his poor pitching mechanics because of his early success and no one was willing to sort him out because of that early success.

The perfect season continues -- losing 2 of 3 in each the first 4 series. However, the upcoming 2-game series against the Yanks is problematic.

So, after two exciting weeks -- the closer has been moved to mop-up duty before April 15, Baez and Soler are hurt, Bryant has been blah...the only real excitement is Brett Jackson's remarkable K rate.

re-evaluate bryant...he's been doing great for a 22 year old in AA, imo. .276/.432/.621 (3hr)

the only downside seems to be spotty play at 3rd.

j.vitters has been doing decent...and he's "only" 24...still, he's playing LF and it's not like he's expected to be an eventual breakout starter.

disappointingly, it seems n.ramirez is being used exclusively out of the pen in iowa...was hoping they'd give him more of a shot at starting even if the pen seemed to be his eventual landing point. he's had 2 good outings and 2 bad ones for some overall bad numbers outside of the Ks.

Yeah, I rarely agree with Crunch, but there should be no criticism of Bryant yet. First, he has only had about 30 at bats, so let's hold off judgment just a bit. But even so, he is FIFTH in the entire Southern League in OPS at 1.053.

Nevetheless, billybuck's comment is a reflection of the grief that will rain down on TheoCorp if the Cubs combine another awful season at the big league level with a large scale failure of the prospects. I think that with Castro and Rizzo both looking much better, and the overall talent of the prospects, that's an unlikely scenario. But it also isn't realistic to expect all the prospects to make it. So far, my bet is for Soler not making it. He seems brittle, which is weird for a guy built like a tank.

I don't know- I think, with the exception of 2 or 3 games, they have played decent. I'm very encouraged by Castro's defensive improvements. He seems to be proving me wrong, and I couldn't be happier to see it.

Agreed Ryno. Castro looked really sharp the last 4-5 games.
Anyone else think the piling on Edwin Jackson is a bit much? 6 IP and 4 earned runs isn't good....but it's not like he gave up 8 runs again. I'm not a fan, but he didn't pitch horribly yesterday.

AZPhil: my apolgies if you gave you thoughts in a previous post, but what are you impressions from Gleyber Torres, Tyler Alamo, and Eloy Jimenez so far?

Phil from a few days ago:
Submitted by Arizona Phil
on Thu, 04/10/2014 - 8:52amPermalink.

CUBSTER: Gleyber Torres is an exceptional defensive shortstop. He makes the routine plays consistently, and I mentioned in a comment a couple of days ago that he made a leaping catch sideways (leaping to his right) in the "sim" game on Monday, and you have to be fairly athletic to get elevation while leaping sideways... and he just turned 17 in December!

He is very confident and poised for his age, and he doesn't show emotion or get flustered when he makes a mistake.

Offensively he appears (at this point) to be a top of the order type (#1 or #2 hitter), although he will need to get on base at a high rate to stay there as he eventually moves up the pipeline to the higher levels (AA, AAA. and MLB).

19-year old Kane County SS Carlos Penalver is a pretty good defender, too, so the Cubs have a couple of interesting teenaged shortstops in the system (although they are both probably several years away).

Recent comments

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  • If he puts up Soriano numbers I will be ecstatic

    jacos 5 min 28 sec ago view
  • I think Javy is learning--but he's learning to make contact, not learning to lay off pitches out of the zone. A quick glance at his plate discipline numbers on Fangraphs shows that his contact rate is up, especially his contact rate out of the zone, but his swing rate is up too, especially his swing rate out of the zone.

    Charlie 39 min 58 sec ago view
  • I definitely saw ballpark radar guns go up to 102 on Kerry Wood back when he was still a starter, but who knows how accurate they were.

    Charlie 53 min 25 sec ago view
  • They've mentioned Henry Rodriguez (2013), Chris Carpenter, and Andrew Cashner as Cubs who have gone 100+. They said Rodriguez was tops at 100.8. Who knows before 2008?

    QuietMan 2 hours 17 min ago view
  • Regarding Heyward--

    He'll play regardless of what he does, just like Soriano played for seven years before they finally ditched him.

    What can they do? All I can think of is they can keep hiring and firing hitting coaches until they find one who can get him to stop hitting balls with the handle of the bat.

    (All those broken bats added to his paycheck is just a bit much.)

    VirginiaPhil 2 hours 18 min ago view
  • Lester will probably be all right.

    I think Arrieta might have added too much muscle preparing for that butt-naked ESPN photo shoot. Pitchers are supposed to be loose, not muscled up.

    Seriously.

    VirginiaPhil 2 hours 24 min ago view
  • I have basically written off Heyward for this year -- if you are working on major swing changes in late July, you are going to struggle. Hopefully, he can be more productive at the plate next year. It will be interesting to see what they do with him if the Cardinals keep winning and close the gap. Heyward is dead last in the NL in slugging and in the bottom 5 in OPS -- yet still has a positive WAR. Hunh.

    billybucks 2 hours 27 min ago view
  • Has anybody in a Cub uniform ever thrown a ball 103 before?

    VirginiaPhil 2 hours 31 min ago view
  • He certainly looks better, no doubt, and is a different player than what we saw when he first came up. Full credit to him for changing his approach and saving his career.

    But he has zero walks in 35AB since the break, and 10 in 251 AB all year. He does seem to be able to hit some pitches out of the zone, but, a guy with his pop should be drawing more walks. However, it's easy to forget he is still only 23, and probably trying to make an impact to prove he should be an everyday player.

    billybucks 2 hours 40 min ago view
  • The usual suspects, Molina and Wong. Gyorko drew a walk with two outs, none on. I recall us (particularly Szczur and Bryant) swinging at everything Familia threw.

    VirginiaPhil 2 hours 42 min ago view
  • Yup. Thanks Q

    The E-Man 2 hours 48 min ago view
  • QuietMan 2 hours 56 min ago view
  • I for one hope that Sosa comes back soon.

    Rob Richardson 3 hours 15 min ago view
  • O/B interesting you should mention that. Google ESPN Science Aroldis Chapman and you'll be treated to how his mechanics and delivery are possibly historic. It's the 120% of his body stretch plus the torque. They compare him to the Unit and NRyan.

    The E-Man 3 hours 53 min ago view
  • Amazing how much lower the production gets when Bryant runs into a mini-cold streak. He doesn't stay cold for long. If just one of Zobrist or, gulp, Heyward, gets hot, they oughta have one more really nice winning streak in them. Having a closer that you have absolute confidence in can't hurt.

    Old and Blue 4 hours 37 min ago view
  • I hope they hold onto Jimenez. Outfield depth is questionable, especially with McKinney, who struggled this year but still, gone.

    Old and Blue 4 hours 48 min ago view