Sightseeing on the Pacific Coast Highway...
...350 miles west of Chicago on I-80, Mike Wellman keeps tabs on the Iowa Cubs in the PCL...
Living here in Des Moines I've always gotten a kick out of the local team playing in the Pacific Coast League. I guess that makes the portion of the 'road to Wrigley' that runs through here the Pacific Coast Highway. Here's my dispatch after the season's first homestand.
Of the eight games scheduled four were lost to opponents, three were lost to Mother Nature [one of which was reclaimed as the front end of a day/night doubleheader] and two went into the win column.
The team now heads to Nashville for a four-game set with the [micro] Brewers as the I-Cubs and Sounds resume their subsidiary version of the growing rivalry between Chicago and Milwaukee.
It's hard to glean much from the limited six-game sample, very little of which was played in conditions conducive to baseball, but here are some early trends that will bear watching as the season unfolds:
* Matt Murton is hitting .368 with zero RBI's. Jake Fox is hitting .240 with seven.
*Neal Cotts has two appearances so far. Each lasted two innings. He's allowed one hit with no walks and fanned six. Makes you wonder what's in the company file on him when they called up Marshall for a bullpen lefty instead.
*Jose Ascanio looks promising. He won't be 23 until next month and seems slotted as the closer here. I'm looking forward to watching him when it gets hot outside.
*I miss Micah Hoffpauir. He's supposed to be in Arizona getting oblique massages. Have you seen him down there, Phil?
*While trying to figure out what the brass is doing with various pitchers [Marshall, Cotts, Pignatiello] I was reminded that a year ago I was watching Carlos Marmol anchor the Iowa rotation before getting called up to become the anchor of Chicago's bullpen. Wait and see...
*Sean Gallagher looked very sharp in his lone start. In five innings he threw 75 pitches, 55 of them for strikes. He should throw tonight in Nashville since he was scheduled for the getaway day matinee here that was postponed due to winter.
*Sam Fuld is hittin' a hundred [1-10]and seems to have been assigned a personal trainer by the Cub organization. The accident/injury prone wallbanger has been followed from Peoria to Tennessee and now to Iowa by Matt Johnson, who's the I-Cubs' new team trainer.
*Murton has played in both right and left-field. Eric Patterson has been strictly a second-baseman. Fox has been at first base with Hoffpauir gone, but will also play in the outfield and at DH when the team is on the road against AL affiliates.
That's about it for now. Going forward I hope to make better use of my media credential which grants access to the ballpark, the press box and the playing field, but stops at the clubhouse door.
The team returns for a brief four-game stand versus Oklahoma on April 19. Stay tuned...MW
For sure! Russell and Baez are the first infielders in a while to make me think of star defensive players in football or basketball--it's almost like they force turnovers, and they definitely play the field with a degree of athletic aggression I'd expect from a linebacker.
[Edit: Was meant to be a response to JB above.]
tebow hit a HR in the 1st pitch he sees in instructs..lulz.
I don't think his issue(s) will have anything to do with it. He hasn't hit since he's been back. Coghlan has the hot hand.
I'm not a denier but definitely a skeptic on Strop and Grimm, who struggle with fastball control. Strop doesn't go near the ninth inning, and note how Grimm couldn't close the deal even with a 5-run lead. So Felix Pena comes in and gets the 3-pitch game-ending strikeout like it was nothing.
And how about Almora missing that very catchable ball? That was unexpected after all the hype about his glove.
When Trea Turner misses balls like that--which he does--I draw conclusions from it. It seems to be the one chink in his armor. But I'll give Almora another chance.
Assuming Soler is good to go, I think it comes down to 3 of the following 4: Coghlan, TLS, Sczcur, Almora. Of the 4, TLS seems to be the hardest to justify, particularly given his behavioral issues.
I'm wondering if both Coghlan and LaStella make it. With Javy being able to play all the infield spots and Joe maybe wanting late-inning D when Soler plays (assuming he plays), hence either Szczur or Almora, I think LaStella might be the odd guy out.
Hendricks needs the win, anyway, plus a couple more.
My hunch is that Hendricks wins the Cy Young . . . for Lester. That is, without Hendricks tipping the scale toward the Cubs, Scherzer tops Lester.
Old Cub fans remember when Ken Hubbs died at 22 in the crash of a small plane he was piloting in a storm in Utah in 1964. But Hubbs was not an elite power pitcher like Score and Fernandez. Score lived a long time after the accident but it was (effectively) career-ending.
HAGSAG: Since I've only seen them throw in one game and in one "live" BP session, all I can do is provide initial first impressions.
Brailyn Marquez is listed at 6'4 but is probably more like 6'5 or 6'6. I would describe him as a younger version of Bryan Hudson, throwing a ton of ground balls but not getting a lot of swings & misses (yet). Because of his size he could eventually grow into more velocity, but right now he's mostly a pitch-to-contact guy. He generally throws strikes.
Phil, do Marquez and Ocampo look like prospects?
It helps when your defense has declared war against the H in WHIP.
Lackey finishes with a 3.35 ERA. Currently good for 13th in the NL. Not bad for a guy signed to be a #3 starter in a 15-team league.
He is also 6th in WHIP. Pretty amazing: Cubs have the #2, #3, #5 and #6 starters in WHIP.
Completely meaningless game, but Pena striking out Sean the Turd to with the bases loaded was very fun.
Other than one bad game in SD, Pena has been very good. Even with that game, 9.0 IP, 13 K, 0.89 WHIP.
101 wins...most since 1910 (104).
neat. ...or sad. pick one. pick both. 'murica.
Just looked up Grimm's stats -- after a great run, he gave up 2 runs vs. MIL then didn't pitch for 10 days. Don't remember why?
Sean Rodriguez's helmet looks like it's taking a dump