Cubs Eat A's for Breakfast

Mark Pawelek threw three shutout innings, and the EXST Cubs strung together four consecutive two-out RBI hits in the top of the 7th inning, en route to a 4-1 victory over the EXST A's in a "Rush Hour Special" (9 AM start) at the Papago Sports Complex in Phoenix. 

Pawelek, the Cubs #1 draft pick in 2005, has now thrown six consecutive scoreless innings after returning from a sprained ankle suffered the first week of EXST, and if he can continue to throw the ball like he did today, he could well find himself in Peoria by this time next month. This is a Mark Pawelek the Cubs haven't seen since 2005.

Despite Pawelek's three shutout innings, the EXST Cubs trailed the A's 1-0 after six, as the A's scored a run off Cubs LHP Arik Hempy on a double, wild pitch, and a sac fly in the bottom of the 4th.

But then the Cubs went to work.

Gian Guzman led-off the top of the 7th with a line single to left. After Luis Bautista flied out, Guzman stole second (BTW, Cubs Roving Baserunning and Outfield Instructor Bobby Dernier is at EXST this week), and advanced to third on an overthrow.

Bryan Jost struck out, but then Dwayne Kemp (double down the LF line), John Contreras (double off the left-centerfield fence), Alvaro Sosa (line double to right-center), and Kevin Soto (line single to left) plated four runs, giving the Cubs a lead they never relinquished.

RHPs Yohan Gonzalez and Miguel Sierra each threw two shutout innings to finish off the A's, as Sierra returned to the mound after missing three weeks as a result of being struck on the right (pitching) elbow with a line drive in a game last month.

Here is today's abridged box score (Cubs players only):

NOTE: When he wasn't warming up pitchers in the bullpen, Roberto Sabates hit in two different spots in the batting order.

LINEUP:
1. Kevin Soto, RF: 2-4 (RBI, 2 K)  
2. Nelson Perez, LF: 1-4 (K) 
3. Brandon Guyer, DH #1: 0-4 (K) 
4. Drew Rundle, CF: 1-4 (3B, K)
5. Gian Guzman, SS: 2-4 (R, SB, K) 
6. Luis Bautista, C-1B: 1-4 
7a. Bryan Jost, 1B: 0-2 (BB, K) 
7b. Roberto Sabates, PH-C: 0-1  
8a. Dwayne Kemp, 2B: 1-3 (2B, RBI, R, GIDP)
8b. Starlin Castro, 2B: 0-1 
9a. NONE - SKIPPED
9b. Roberto Sabates, DH #2: 0-1 
10. John Contreras, 3B: 1-3 (2B, RBI, R) 
11. Alvaro Sosa, DH #3: 2-2 (2 2B, RBI, R, BB) 

PITCHERS:
1. Mark Pawelek - 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 PO (4/0 GO/FO)
2. Arik Hempy - 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 WP (3/2 GO/FO)
3. Yohan Gonzalez - 2.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K (1/4 GO/FO)
4. Miguel Sierra - 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K (2/1 GO/FO)

ERRORS (3): Kemp (E-4 bobble), Bautista (E-2 overthrow at 2B on SB attempt), and Jost (E-3 dropped pop-up in foul territory). 

CATCHERS DEFENSE:
Bautista: 0-1 CS

WEATHER: Hot and sunny

ATTENDANCE: 1
 

HISTORY NOTE: Most of the EXST Cubs and A's players probably aren't aware of it, but the Papago Sports Complex was once part of a large WWII POW camp (Security Unit #84) that featured a mass escape of German prisoners (mainly U-boat officers) in December 1944.

While Papago Park no longer has gun turrets and barbed-wire fences (at least none that are visible), it's still out in the middle of nowhere, and you can readily see the caves high up in the neighboring buttes where some of the escapees who didn't try to make it to Mexico hid-out while on the lam.

And If the POW camp was still there today, you can figure the Cubs would probably sign some 6'4 volleyball player from Dusseldorf who never saw a baseball game in his life, and make him a pitcher. 

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Comments

AZ Phil - always great to hear about Cubs baseball being played in other environs, I was wondering if you could recap Pawelek's brief career so far, including the highs and (unfortunately) mostly lows. What expectations do the Cubs have at this point for this prospect?

What is Pawelek doing differently these past 6 innings? His control is better...is it just mechanical corrections or has his stuff improved? Thanks, AZ Phil.

Also, what are your thoughts on Miguel Sierra? That's a fine outing he had today.

i've noticed None Skipped has been getting plenty of playing time, but not putting up any numbers worth mentioning.

is it a mistake to keep devoting roster spots and playing time to him or is he working on something?

Submitted by Dmac on Thu, 05/08/2008 - 4:33pm.

AZ Phil - always great to hear about Cubs baseball being played in other environs, I was wondering if you could recap Pawelek's brief career so far, including the highs and (unfortunately) mostly lows. What expectations do the Cubs have at this point for this prospect?

===========================

DMAC: The Cubs selected Mark Pawelek with their #1 pick (#20 overall) in the 2005 Rule 4 (June) draft. He was the 4th HS pitcher selected in the '05 draft, but he almost certainly would have gone higher if it wasn't for the fact that he had Scott Boras as an "advisor" (unofficial agent) and that he had signed a Natioal Letter of Intent to attend Arizona State. But the Cubs were able to sign him, and he reported initially to the AZL Cubs at Fitch Park.

I saw Mark Pawelek in his first pro season at AZL Mesa (2005), and I can tell you he was as good as advertised (94 MPH fastball, plus-curve, plus-slider, and plus-change). Then he went to the AZ Instructional League post-2005, and the Cubs coaches apparently started tinkering with his pitch selections, delivery, arm slot, release point, etc (probably with the intention of trying to prevent an arm injury), and he gradually just lost confidence.

The Pawelek Family is very unusual, in that the dad fancies himself a pitching coach, and is very involved in Mark's career. His dad pitches for a top senior team, and he really knows his stuff. But he's kind of like Mike Marshall, in that he has a somewhat different approach than do most minor league pitching coaches. 

Mark and his older brother Dennis (who was drafted by the White Sox, but chose to play college football instead) had a special work-out regimen back home in Utah, where their dad had them throw every day, and where Mark and Dennis were taught a particular philosophy of pitch selection.

Unfortunately, the Cubs have only one way for everybody, and Mark was forced to conform to the Cubs Way (especially when it came to side sessions and pitch selection), and apparently it messed him up.

The Cubs claimed Pawelek came to Minor League Camp in 2006 "out of shape," but he wasn't overweight or anything, he was just "messed up" mentally and his mechanics were out of whack, to where his velocity was down into the mid-80's and he couldn't throw any of his "hard" pitches (fastball and slider) for strikes. And he kept hitting batters. How much of that stemmed from his work in the AZ Instructional League after the 2005 season, I don't know, but his confidence was clearly adversely affected and he couldn't get back to where he was at AZL Cubs in 2005.

There is nothing wrong with Mark Pawelek's arm. His problems have all been related to messed-up mechanics that caused his velocity to drop into the mid-80's and his command to go haywire (where he started hitting batters with regularity), and then (with the drop in velocity and loss of command) a confidence issue ensued.

I talked to a scout from another organization last year, and he said his club is just waiting for the Cubs to give up on Pawelek so that his club can get him and "pick up the pieces." (The Cubs minor league pitching coaches are not held in real high esteem by some of the other organizations, BTW).

From what I can see, Pawelek at least appears to be getting his confidence and enthusiasm back, and he's once again relying on his innate talent and just cutting the ball loose and then whatever happens, happens. While he might continue to struggle some with command (and what 21-year old hard-throwing left-hander doesn't?), if he's got his confidence and enthusiasm back, that's half the battle.

Submitted by Raisin101 on Thu, 05/08/2008 - 4:49pm.

What is Pawelek doing differently these past 6 innings? His control is better...is it just mechanical corrections or has his stuff improved?

Thanks, AZ Phil.

Also, what are your thoughts on Miguel Sierra? That's a fine outing he had today.

==================================

RAISIN: Pawelek's velocity still isn't back to where it was in 2005, but at least he's starting to throw his slider and two seamer for strikes.

Miguel Sierra is one of the better Latin pitchers making their U. S. debut at EXST. Jeffry Antigua and Julio Pena are the other two who have been particularly impressive lately, and Eduardo Figueroa, Yohan Gonzalez, and Rogelio Carmona clearly have some upside as well. And Jose Severino looked pretty good, too, until he got sent home for disciplinary reasons.

All of the young Latin pitchers at Fitch Park are works in progress, and most are improving weekly. How good they will ultimately be is still TBD, but I would say Antigua, Sierra, and Pena are 1-2-3 at the moment. 

Thanks for the recap, Phil. Disturbing to hear that comment about the minor league pitching coaches, you'd think that the new Minor League Director will make some changes soon, since he would be in a position to have known about that reputation before he took the job.

Submitted by Dmac on Thu, 05/08/2008 - 6:23pm.

Thanks for the recap, Phil.

Disturbing to hear that comment about the minor league pitching coaches, you'd think that the new Minor League Director will make some changes soon, since he would be in a position to have known about that reputation before he took the job.

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DMAC: New Cubs Minor Pitching Coordinator Mark Riggins (who replaced Alan Dunn) was at the game at Papago Park today, and he is apparently personally supervising Mark Pawelek's "rehab."

Riggins was the Minor League Pitching Coordinator for the St. Louis Cardinals for 12 years prior to joining the Cubs organization after last season (he also has been a major league pitching coach), and so it's possible that he might actually know what he's doing. I believe it's noteworthy that Hendry and Fleita decided to look outside the Cubs organization when choosing Alan Dunn's replacement, rather than promote from within (as they have in the past) 

It will be interesting to see how Pawelek does in his next couple of outings at EXST. If he continues to pitch like he has been lately, I would expect him to go to Peoria next month, rather than to Boise (again)

BTW, if Pawelek had opted to go to Arizona State instead of sign with the Cubs in 2005, he'd be only a junior at ASU right now. It's way, WAY too early to give up on Pawelek, especially with the clean elbow/shoulder history (no surgeries) he has.

That does NOT mean "all is well, full speed ahead, next stop Cooperstown." But it does mean Pawelek looks like he might be starting to turn the corner, and if he is, there is certainly some reason to be cautiously optimistic about his future.

Thanks Phil!

"ATTENDANCE: 1 "

Was it tough to grab a hot dog?

Any lines at the beer stand?

Urinals?

Must have been a bitch getting out of the parking lot!

At the very least, you need to have your own space there at EXST.

I have asked about Pawelek in months past, and recall he was very highly touted when signed. I hope he gets better advisement than he has previously.

Any standing ovations today? Were the boo birds under control?

according to SDTU:

http://www3.signonsandiego.com/news/2008/may/07/wr...

Anyone else think the Jimbo and Lou will pick him up? I have got a bad feeling they will since Gammons has been reporting Lou wants a LHOF who can be a 5-hole hitter.

I love Khalil (on defense), but dealing him for a package of Felix Pie and Ronny Cedeno might be a good start. Both are 25 or younger, have considerable upside and can run. They could form a pretty effective 1-2 in the lineup with consistent playing time.

I would do this deal in a minute... but has the commenter ever seen Pie? A number 1 or 2 hitter? Yikes

is pretty hackstastic also.

Khalil aint no on base machine himself

No, but when you hit 27 dongs from the SS position, you don't need to worry about OBP.

Well... first of all, he has only hit 27 "dongs" once.

Second of all, he only has one homerun this year, in 129 at-bats.

He has a career line of: .252/.309/.435

So he has a mediocre SLUG, a bad BA, and an awful OBP.

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