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).

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  • If Travis' back-to-back-to-back walks cost Hendricks the ERA title, that would really suck.

    billybucks 6 hours 47 min ago view
  • Edit: "A lifeless loss to a lousy Sox team."

    billybucks 7 hours 30 min ago view
  • This place is a real downer after a loss to the Sox.

    Charlie 7 hours 41 min ago view
  • I expect they will go 5-9 games above .500 the rest of the year. 96-98 wins will win the Division.

    They should have one more 2-3 week hot streak in them.

    However, several players are just "average" for the last month: Zobrist, Ross, Russell, Ceasar. Montero is terrible, plus he cannot throw anyone out. -WAR. Heyward is abysmal at the plate, but a plus in the OF. Still with RISP he has been terrible. KB has not been driving in runs as of late. But Apparently the team is still above average with RISP according to S Sahadev.

    The E-Man 7 hours 47 min ago view
  • I came to that realization tonight. I kept expecting them to play better, but now I realize they aren't going to. They are a .500 team now.
    - They have one reliable starting pitcher. Jake's magic is gone, and it doesn't look like it's coming back. Lester has been lousy recently. Lackey's ERA goes up every time he pitches.
    - Heyward has been dead weight all year. I can't remember a single series where he was a significant offensive contributor. Not one. Great defense, but but if he were hitting .270 with 10 HR and played average defense, the Cubs would be better off.

    billybucks 7 hours 51 min ago view
  • new rule...no one's allowed to throw k.bryant a changeup

    crunch 8 hours 2 min ago view
  • Team is .500 since early May and is playing like a .500 team. Lack of offense seems to be putting a lot of pressure on the pitchers...and they aren't handling it terribly well.

    .500 the rest of the way still may win the division though.

    blockhead25 8 hours 8 min ago view
  • ...i hate espn.

    nothing like settling into a cubs game to get a few minutes cutaway for an ortiz AB in the 6th inning of the det/bos game.

    oh, at least they're doing split screen now...i guess.

    crunch 8 hours 23 min ago view
  • I'm liking this rookie Nathan.

    CTSteve 8 hours 24 min ago view
  • Richard DFA'd. Meh...

    The E-Man 11 hours 15 min ago view
  • Throwbacks with fashionable cutouts would be a nice touch.

    Charlie 13 hours 48 min ago view
  • The next 2 games are nationally televised. I think we dominate tonight, hitting 3 HRs off Shields. Great night for KB to end HR drought facing HR prone pitcher in one of the most hitter friendly parks in the league.

    chitownmvp01 14 hours 20 min ago view
  • If the ball didn't deflect off the pitcher's mound, the game wouldn't have ended. Montgomery did miss his location though, but if that same contact was made and went in any of direction, good chance of ground out if it doesn't get through.

    If it was 1 night later, Chapman would be out there and we probably would be going to extras.

    Also, If KB wasn't robbed of a HR, perhaps we would have won. We will never know. Nice play by Melky though.

    chitownmvp01 14 hours 22 min ago view
  • The comparison isn't Chapman replacing Rondon. It's Chapman replacing Richard (hopefully) in the pen. Chapman's better.

    billybucks 16 hours 19 min ago view
  • I'm with you, Rob. You pretty much summed up how I feel about it.

    JoePepitone 18 hours 39 min ago view
  • Been quite the roller-coaster the past two days -- both games, plus the Chapman kerfuffel. How about a couple of nice, comfortable wins before facing Sale? Cubs should definitely wear throwbacks for that game.

    billybucks 19 hours 34 min ago view