For the first time this season the best farm system in organized baseball comes to town as the suddenly first place Iowa Cubs scoot home from Omaha for a three-game set with the Memphis Redbirds that culminates with a pyrotechnic exclamation of patriotism on Independence Day Eve.

- Ricky Nolasco got shelled versus the Padres last night, one of the teams rumored to be in on him in trade talks...whether that will stunt his value or not remains to be seen, but it certainly didn't help it in any way.  After Garza got himself injured before the Cubs could deal him last season, you kind of hope a deal could be had before Garza's next start on Wednesday versus the A's.

- Buster says the Dbacks and Cubs did talk Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs asked for Archie Bradley and/or Tyler Skaggs and then the talking was done. I presume it must have been both, as he then tweets that the "perception" is that the DBacks would move Tyler Skaggs in the right deal.

- The Cubs were among many teams scouting Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez...rumors be it'll cost upwards of 4/40M (or more) to sign the 26-year old Cuban lefty. The Red Sox and Dodgers seem to be the main competition.

- Speaking of international signings, Baseball America has been big on suggesting the Cubs will look to add some international pool money in some of these trades. Theo said it's something that could happen, but the Cubs' international signing "plan" doesn't require it.

- Nick Cafardo says 3 teams are showing interest in Carlos Marmol. There's always the possibility the Cubs may get someone else's cast off while still paying Marmol the rest of his salary minus the pro-rated version of the minimum.

- Last and certainly least, the Giants are looking for a RH outfield bat...someone like Alfonso Soriano circa 2012.

 

A few weeks back, Jorge Soler fouled a ball of his shin...a seemingly common occurrence in baseball that carries little consequence past the few moments of stinging pain for the offending party. This being the Cubs and all, the foul ball sent Soler to the 7-day disabled list of which he returned off of this week. The leg still hurt though and now it's being reported that he has a stress fracture and will be out 4-6 walks and possibly the rest of the season. Oh Cubbery...you strike in mysterious ways! Soler will of course miss the Futures Game as well over the All-Star Break, which him and Arismendy Alcantara were named to the World rosters.

TheJedi took away some of the Blackhawks thunder this morning by finally ridding the Cubs of long-time heart attack-in-waiting, Carlos Marmol. The Cubs will have 10 days to trade him or he'll be released, either way the Cubs are going to be on the hook for the bulk of the rest of what he's owed (around $5M). They also announced that the suspension of Ian Stewart was upheld and he's been released as well. There were earlier rumors that the two sides were discussing a settlement, so I'm unsure if he'll get all of the money still owed to him or just a portion. Brian Bogusevic is the next up on the Price is Right and will take Marmol's spot on the 40-man.

Undoubtedbly the Cubs wil be selling as the July trade deadline approaches with Matt Garza, Scott Feldman, Kevin Gregg & Nate Schierholtz being the most likely chips on the table. There certainly may be others, but those players make the most sense. Let's take a look at some potential trade partners:

A look ahead at the Cubs 40-man roster over the next six months:

Five pitchers combined to throw a six-hit shutout with 17 strikeouts, as the AZL Cubs blanked the AZL Giants 1-0 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training post-season action this morning at Indian School Park Field #4 in Scottsdale, AZ.  

The Cubs have acquired 26-year old Venezuelan flame-throwing RHRP Henry Rodriguez from the Washington Nationals for minor league RHP Ian Dickson.

Dickson was the Cubs 35th round draft pick out of Lafayette College in 2011, and was used as both a starter and a reliever at Kane County this season, posting an ugly 6.88 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 35.1 IP and 11 Games (3 GS). He was a candidate to get demoted to Boise (and probably released post-2013) if he hadn't been traded. 

Rodriguez was Designated for Assignment by the Nats on June 4th to make room on their 40-man roster for LHP Ian Kroll, so they had until Friday (6/14) to either trade him, release him, or send him outright to the minors. However, because it takes two days to get a player through waivers, Washington really only had until 2 PM (EDT) Wednesday (today) to trade him. (He was NOT placed on waivers, otherwise he could not have been traded).

Jesse Hodges reached base four times on a double, two singles, and a walk, drove-in three runs, and scored another, and Jose Morales also reached base four times on a double, two singles, and a walk, leading the AZL Cubs to a 7-2 victory over the Boise Hawks this morning at Fitch Park Field #4 in Mesa, AZ.  

Kevin Encarnacion went 4-4 with three singles and a double for Boise.

Cubs 2012 2nd round draft pick RHP Duane Underwood got the start for Boise and hurled 3.1 IP. He struggled to command his fastball (82 pitches - only 40 strikes), allowing two runs on four hits and five walks and two WP. He also struck out four.

RHP Jorge Diaz pitched for Boise although he is assigned to the AZL Cubs.  

The game was a seven-inning contest.  

The Hawks arrived by bus at 6 AM for the 7:30 AM game, and departed for Sky Harbor Airport after the conclusion of the game. They are due to arrive in Boise at 5:30 PM (local time). They will travel by bus from Boise to Eugene on Thursday, and will play their first 2013 NWL game Friday night.  

There was a lot of loud joking around by the Boise players (like giving Shawon Dunston Jr a rash of shit about his tweets), but the AZL Cubs were fairly quiet. Players spend ten weeks at Extended Spring Training trying to make the Boise roster (if not Kane County or Daytona), and failing to do so can be a bit of a let-down. For AZL Cubs players like RF Jeffrey Baez (323/400/554 in 75 PA - 24 EXST Cactus League), 3B Jesse Hodges (275/342/449 in EXST Cactus League play  - with 321/387/571 over his last ten games), and 1B-OF Xavier Batista (387/441/935 with four HR over his last ten EXST Cactus League games, plus another HR in yesterday's intrasquad game), there had to be a feeling of vindication in soundly beating the team that will be leaving without them. All three deserve to be in Boise (and Batista probably should be at Kane County), but justice is usually not a factor when it comes to assigning players to a particular minor league affiliate.

AA Tennessee OF Jae-Hoon Ha continued his rehab, playing CF for five inings for the AZL Cubs and batting seven times in the game (once each inning). Ha went 1-6 with two fly outs, two ground outs, a line-drive-out, an RBI double, and a HBP, with two runs scored. He also stole two bases (including third base, and then he scored on an E-2 overthrow), and he also won the bat toss by heaving his bat over the grandstand fence and into the bleachers after being hit in the ribs by an Ethan Elias pitch. Ha looks like he's very close to being ready to return to Tennessee.

AA Tennessee 1B Justin Bour (broken wrist rehab) saw his first game action since April 19th, playing 1B for four innings with the Boise squad and batting five times. He went 1-4 with a sharp ground single through the 3.5 hole and a walk. a 3-1 GO, and two strike outs (both swinging). Bour left the game temporarily during the 5th & 6th innings and went over to Field #1 and took about four dozen ground balls around first base. One thing about Bour is that he is a tireless worker.    

Beefy 3B-1B Mark Malave was pressed into service at 2B for the AZL Cubs today. That's because INF Brad Zapenas was absent from Fitch Park, possibly en route to join the Kane County Cougars to replace INF David Bote, who has been assigned to Boise. (Bote will join his Hawks teammates in Boise). Zapenas hit 382/446/564 in 22 EXST Cactus League games (65 PA) while rehabbing from 2012 season-ending shoulder surgery.  

RHP Mike Hamann was (somewhat surprisingly) not on the Boise roster posted yesterday, but that might be because be could be going to KC instead. (Hamann was the Cubs #1 closer at Extended Spring Training). Or he may not be 100%.

2009 South Korean bonus baby ($550K) OF Dong-Yub Kim has disappeared from Fitch Park and may heve been released (can't be confirmed). Kim sufferered a torn labrum in his right shoulder at AZ Instructs post-2009, and eventually learned to throw left-handed. But even then he has a below-average arm (even for a LF), and so he had to hit a ton to remain a prospect. And while he still has plus bat speed and runs well for a big guy, it probably isn't enough (245/328/396 with three doubles, one triple, one home run, and eight RBI, in 27 EXST Cactus League games - 61 PA). 
 
Here is the box score from today's game:

Here’s a grab bag from recent days in the Iowa bush leagues:

 

*Junior Lake looks like a ballplayer but needs polish. He’s been getting on base a lot but his hits have included a swinging bunt here, a deflected ball there, a well-placed bloop, etc. With the glove his best game was in right field where he made multiple good plays. At 3B he’s made some diving and leaping stops but the arm’s erratic to the tune of five errors in less than a week. Still, he looks the part of a prospect.

Kevin Encarnacion belted a bases-loaded three-run triple and a double and scored three runs, Yasiel Balaguert singled three times, drove-in two runs, and scored another, and Xavier Batista collected three hits including a solo home run and an RBI single, helping one squad of Cubs defeat another squad of Cubs 12-6 in an Extended Spring Training intrasquad game played this morning at Fitch Park Field #4 in Mesa, AZ. 

Squad "B" pitchers retired 19 of the last 20 men they faced, as Squad "B" rallied from an early 6-1 deficit to win the game.  

The game was pre-planned as a ten-inning contest so that more pitchers could get work. 

The players had three days off during the First-Year Player Draft, and the team reconvened in Mesa yesterday. The players came into today's intrasquad game unaware of who would be going to Boise and who will be staying in Mesa. The Boise roster was to be announced by Hawks Manager Gary Van Tol at a team meeting at 2:00 (MST) this afternoon at the Fitch Park clubhouse, and supposedly one or two of the roster slots were still up for grabs going into the game.   

Boise's first game is this Friday night at Eugene (first home game is next Monday night), and the AZL Cubs will begin league play on June 20th. All AZL Cubs home games will be night games played at HoHoKam Park (Dwight Patterson Field).

Not related to the battle for Boise roster slots, AA Tennessee OF Jae-Hoon Ha (lower back strain rehab) played CF for five innings and batted five times in the game, going 1-5 with two strikeouts (one swinging & one looking), a FC, a F-9 fly out, and a line-drive opposite-field single. He also stole a base. Ha suffered the back strain during batting practice prior to a Smokies game on May 3rd, and this was his first game action since suffering the injury.   

Also, Iowa Cubs RHP Carlos Gutierrez (2012 shoulder surgery rehab) threw one inning and allowed the solo HR to Batista, and switch-hitting ex-Minnesota Twins C-1B-3B Jose Morales (strained hamstring rehab) was the starting catcher for Squad "A" and was behind the dish for seven innings.     

The Cubs claimed Gutierrez off waivers from Minnesota last October, and then outrighted him to Iowa in November. He was assigned to the Iowa squad at Minor League Camp, but was left behind at Extended Spring Training to continue his rehab. He got into one Cactus League Extended Spring Training game on April 10th, and then was shut-down for about six weeks. He has been pitching in "sim" games for the past couple of weeks.

Gutierrez was a former Twins 1st round draft pick out of the University of Miami, where he was the Hurricanes closer. He was throwing mostly cutters & sinkers today, topping out at 92 MPH.   

The Cubs signed Morales to a minor league contract in April, and he suffered the hamstring injury in his very first Cactus League EXST game on April 19th. He returned to game action on May 30th, and should be about ready to move up to Iowa. 

Here is the box score from today's intrasquad game:

Players selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft (MLB Rule 4 Draft) are placed on a club's Negotiation List.

And we're back at it today...with their first two picks Cubs picked Kris Bryant out of San Diego and then LHP Rob Zastryzny out of Missourri, the latter certainly being a signability pick to save some money to help secure the junior Bryant, who will have Boras and leverage in his corner.

The Cubs round 3 pick is CF Jacob Hannemann out of Brigham Young, a lefty at the plate and with the arm, the 22-year old is just a freshman, but that's because he took a few years off on a Mormom mission.

The MLB.com scouting report is below the fold.

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