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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  • I think you're very much overvaluing Schwarber if you think he can fetch Sale by himself. An unproven rookie with demonstrable offensive flaws he hasn't had the chance to show he can overcome and with no defensive upside will never fetch an ace of the quality of Sale in today's market where pitchers are fetching insane prices, especially with Sale's team friendly contract. You'd for sure need to throw in a pitching prospect in return at least.

    johann 4 min 49 sec ago view
  • best relievers in baseball tend to not be the best relievers for very long though...

    also, when you start just trading away guys for marginal benefits, that window will shrink. The window is easily through 2021, just have to look how long Rizzo is signed for and how long they have rights to Bryant, Russell and so on down the line.

    Can't say I'm too worried about the SP, they've done nothing but land guys on the cheap and on the expensive since they've arrived. TheJedi will figure that out.

    Rob G. 41 min 35 sec ago view
  • Not sure I agree with this logic. The Cubs are one of the best teams in baseball, they have spent heavily on the team over the past couple of seasons, have more hitting prospects than they have places for them to play (and more on the way), a clear weakness in the bullpen, and have a 1.5 year window with Arrieta (to say nothing of the likely declines of Lester and Lackey).

    Unless you think (maybe even if you do think) Schwarber is the next coming of Babe Ruth, I would certainly consider trading him if it brought back a couple of the best relief pitchers in baseball.

    Rob Richardson 3 hours 23 min ago view
  • Miggy was going to sit anyway with Lester starting.

    In related news, do any of the Cubs pitchers want to throw to Contreras?

    Rob G. 3 hours 36 min ago view
  • Only Russell and Miggy failed to reach base yesterday. Both sit today.

    billybucks 3 hours 44 min ago view
  • Trading Schwarber actually makes a lot of sense because his actual position is currently being taken by Anthony Rizzo, unless they vote in the DH this offseason.

    Trading him for a reliever is never going to happen though. I don't think you can trade Schwarber unless you get a CF'er for a few years (presume Fowler finds his multi-year deal next offseson) or a couple of high end young starters...or an established starter...a good one like Chris Sale.

    Rob G. 3 hours 55 min ago view
  • I don't see what the Yanks have that the Cubs need.

    Ryno 4 hours 47 sec ago view
  • peter gammons on MLB network pushing the yanks/schwarber angle...says insiders from the yanks say brian cashman highly covets him.

    unless that conversation starts with a.miller (2/18m left on contract) i dunno how you even start that conversation given the "not trash, but no stars" state of the yanks minor league system.

    they got corner OF'r aaron judge, C gary sanchez, RHP james kaprielian's questionable elbow, RHP domingo acevedo...all interesting, none expected to impact the game like schwarber's power potential.

    crunch 4 hours 34 min ago view
  • Zo, Heyward, KB, Riz, Contreras (LF), Baez (SS), Szczur (CF), Ross, Lester

    Cubster 4 hours 42 min ago view
  • damn. low sample size blah blah whatever, but that slash got sneaky good. 10 hits, 4 walks, 2hr, 1 double through 39 PA...nice

    crunch 5 hours 1 min ago view
  • Buddy Ryan takes his place alongside George Allen as the great Bear head coaches who never were.

    VirginiaPhil 7 hours 56 min ago view
  • Well, at least he can still hit: Jake slashing .294/.368/.868. Forget hitting 8th -- he should hit 6th.

    billybucks 8 hours 14 min ago view
  • Curious to see today's lineup vs. a LHP: Ross needs to catch Lester, Joe likes Javy at 3B when Lester pitches. Heyward with back-to-back good games at the plate, and is actually hitting a little better against LHP (.247/.341) than RHP (.232/.321), although neither is much to write home about. But, tomorrow is an early day game, so some regulars will probably sit either today or tomorrow.

    Maybe Willson in LF, KB in RF and Almora in CF? If so, Albert Jr., assume every ball is yours.

    billybucks 8 hours 19 min ago view
  • "Pitching prospects not looking so hot"

    That reminds me that Lucas Giolito will start for the Nats tonight.

    VirginiaPhil 8 hours 22 min ago view
  • Well, there you go. Federowicz is one of the best at balls in the dirt.

    VirginiaPhil 8 hours 42 min ago view
  • Reds pitching meeting tomorrow:

    "Hey coach...maybe we should walk Bryant?"
    "No...keep challenging him with fastballs! What kind of man are you?! The Cubs walked Harper, and look what happened there! They got teased for it, by one of the Nat players! Is that what you want?"

    billybucks 19 hours 23 min ago view