A's Cry Wolff at Fitch Park

Miguel Mercedes belted a two-run home run and Vicmal de la Cruz singled, doubled, and scored two runs, as the Athletics edged the Cubs 3-2 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning on Field #4 at the Lew Wolff Training Complex at Fitch Park in Mesa, AZ. 

Adonis Paula slugged a solo HR and Frandy de la Rosa singled and tripled for the Cubs in a losing cause. 

In EXST roster news, IF-OF Varonex Cuevas has been moved-up to AAA Iowa. The 22-year old switch-hitting super-sub was hitting only 204/235/327 with one HR and three doubles, four RBI, six runs scored, two walks, 14 strikeouts, and no SB (two CS), in 18 Cactus League EXST games (51 PA) this season, but he has been hot lately, putting up a 353/421/588 line over his last six Cactus League EXST games (19 PA). He has played 2B-3B-SS-LF at EXST. 

Cuevas was signed by the Cubs as an 18-year old out of the Dominican Republic in May 2011, and spent his first three seasons with the DSL Cubs (240/344/304 in 163 DSL games 2011-13) before arriving in the U. S. last season. He hit 288/416/493 in 24 Cactus League EXST games (89 PA) last season before being assigned to Boise, where he struggled (hitting just 118/211/235 in 12 NWL games). He then was moved down to the AZL Cubs, where he hit 318/368/466.  

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

Cubs Blank Angels at Diablo Park

Jhonny Pereda roped an RBI single, doubled, and walked, Roney Alcala doubled twice and drove-in a run, and LHSP Jose Paulino hurled five innings of shutout ball with an 11/0 GO/FO and combined with three relievers to toss a five-hit shutout, as the Cubs blanked the Angels 4-0 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning on Field #7 at Diablo Park in Tempe, AZ.

Chris Denorfia (on Cubs MLB 15-day DL with a strained hamstring) continued his EXST rehab today, playing left field for all nine innings and getting four AB. He drilled line-drive singles in each of his first two PA, then walked his third time up, and flied out to the warning track in left in his fourth and final AB, Denorfia was running the bases at full-tilt and he made a nice running catch in left (although he had to wait until Jose Paulino left the game to do it, because Paulino was a "ground-ball machine" today).

The plan at present is for Denorfia to remain at Extended Spring Training through Saturday, but actually he looks to be 100% right now.

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

Soler vs. the Cubans

by CubsfaninCA

There have been a lot of opinions on the floor and ceiling for Jorge Soler since he started his career. Most agreed that he had a solid floor, but opinions on the ceiling varied and he was even described as “possibly the best in the organization, might be better than Bryant.”  I think it’s safe to say that’s not going to be the case. (If it is, he’s got some catching up to do this year already.) With most players you could easily pull up some players for comparison, but Cuban players generally have different developmental paths than most major leaguers do.

Soler has passed the 300 PA mark, so it’s typically safe to say a lot of his numbers are stabilizing to some point. He’s been heating up lately so maybe he’d fare better if I waited a couple more weeks, 300 is a nice round number. We can thus take some similar Cuban players over their first 300 PA--I actually used their first 72 games, in most cases about the same--and see how they worked out. Obviously there are some apples to oranges, especially considering the advanced age of players like Jose Abreu, but these are the 12 other significant Cuban players still in the league compared against Soler. The left side of the chart is their career numbers (thus far) and the right side is how they fared after their first 72 games, ranked by their OPS after those 72 games.

Denorfia and Dunston Help Cubs Salvage Tie at Riverview

Chris Denorfia (on Cubs MLB 15-day DL - strained hamstring) belted an RBI double, walked, and scored a run and Shawon Dunston Jr (on Myrtle Beach Pelicans 7-day DL - right shoulder injury) doubled, stole two bases, and scored a run for the Cubs, and Jesus Lopez drilled a two-run single, doubled, and walked and Vicmal de la Cruz singled, doubled, and scored a run for the Athletics, as the Cubs and A's played to a 5-5 tie in Cactus League Extended Spring Training game action this morning on Field #6 at Mesa CubTown at Riverview Park. 

The game was called after eight innings of play. 

RHP Pierce Johnson (on AA Tennessee7-day DL with a lat strain) continued his EXST rehab, working three innings (37 pitches) for the Cubs and allowing two runs on four hits (two doubles and two singles) and no walks, with three strikeouts (all three swinging) and a 4/2 GO/FO. Johnson had excellent command today and threw a high percentage of strikes (71%). His fastball velocity sat consistenty at 92 MPH (max), with only an occasional drop-off to 91.  

18-year old Colombian RHP Erling Moreno (2014 TJS) made his second game appearance in a week. The 6'3 righthander allowed two hits (a single and a double) in 1.2 IP, and successfully escaped a "runner at 3rd and out out" situation. Moreno's fastball velocity sat at 89-90 (down a couple of MPH from last week), but he displayed outstanding command of all of his pitches, most noteworthy an advanced change-up (unusual for an 18-year old) 

Cubs 2014 5th round draft pick RHP Dylan Cease (2014 TJS) also made his second game appearance in a week (he faced the A's at Fitch Park last Monday), but he did not fare as well as Moreno. While he only allowed one run, he also allowed six of the ten batters he faced to reach base (three singles and three walks, plus a WP) in just 1.1 IP. Cease's fastball velocity was at 95-97 MPH in both innings, down a couple of ticks from his outing last week when he touched 99.

Prior to the Cactus League EXST game, RHP Marcelo Carreno (post-2013 shoulder surgery) and RHP Trey Masek (2014 shoulder surgery) squared-off in a two-iining "sim" game on Field #3.   

Here is the abridged box score from today's Cactus League EXST game (Cubs players only): 

Turner Uses Hidden Ball Trick to His Advantage

Eloy Jimenez drilled an RBI double and an RBI single, Erick Castillo collected four singles, scored a run, and drove-in another, and RHP Jacob Turner hurled three innings of one-hit shutout ball for the Cubs, and Fernando Pujadas ripped two doubles and knocked-in two runs for the Giants, as the two teams played to a 4-4 tie in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning at Indian School Park Field #2 in Scottsdale, AZ.     

Jacob Turner got the start for the Cubs and was masterful, working three shutout innings (37 pitches - 29 strikes) and easily retiring the first eight men he faced (3-U, 4-3, 6-3, K, F-8, F-8, K, 3-1) on just 32 pitches, before surrendering a two-out bouncing double down the LF line (just out of the reach of a diving Adonis Paula) in the bottom of the 3rd inning. He then got the final out on a 3-1 GO to complete his outing.

Turner is on the Cubs MLB 60-day DL (retro to 3/27) with a right elbow flexor strain, and today was his first game action since being shut-down on March 10th during MLB Spring Training.  

As is the practice when a major league pitcher throws in a minor league game, Turner was allowed to use the official "Major League": baseball (which has a different feel than the official "Minor League" ball), and his club (in this case the Cubs) is responsible for supplying the Major League balls to the home plate umpire each half-inning. Then when the big leaguer finishes his inning, the Major League baseballs are sent back to the bench, and the Minor League balls are returned to the home plate umpire.

The Minor League ball that was in play when the last out of the top of the 2nd was recorded was inadvertently left on top of the mound after the conclusion of the half-inning, and when Turner got out to the mound and saw it, he picked it up, looked at it for second, and then disdainfully tossed it out of play (usually the umpires job) while a Major League baseball suddenly appeared in his glove at the exact same time (a variation on what I believe magicians call the "vanishing elephant illusion"). It was absolutely amazing (or I was in a drooling stupor, not sure which). Then Turner made the Giants disappear.

Chris Denorfia (on Cubs MLB 15-day DL - hamstring strain) continued his rehab in the game, playing LF for five innings and batting four times. He grounded out sharply 5-3 on a 1-2 pitch in the top of the 1st, hammered an opposite-field double off the RF fence on the first pitch he saw his second time up, roped a line-drive single over the second-baseman's head into right-field on a 2-1 pitch in his 3rd AB, and struck out (swinging) on a 1-2 pitch in his final Plate Appearance of the day.

Denorfia has five hits (three singles and two doubles), two walks, and four strikeouts in four games (16 PA) this week, and appears to be pretty close to completing the Extended Spring Training portion of his rehab. I suppose he could go directly back to Chicago, but I suspect he will probably spend at least a day or two at AA Tennessee or AAA Iowa to face more-advanced pitching before he is reinstated from the DL.

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

Do the Cardinals Really Know How to Draft Pitchers Better?

by CubsfaninCA

Much has been made over the Cardinals “voodoo” that suddenly takes no-name pitchers and makes them stars. They seem to do the same with some hitters on occasion, but it’s mostly the pitchers that seem to come out of nowhere.

I wondered if it’s luck or voodoo, or do they really just know how to draft and/or develop pitchers better than other teams.  So I went through the last 10 drafts and pulled out the pitchers drafted by 4 teams—the Cards, our Cubs, the Braves (who also seem to have an abundance of young pitching) and the Phillies (who lately as an organization don’t seem to be doing anything well). I listed the pitchers who got to the majors and to eliminate the cup of coffee guys, used 20 Ks as a minimum threshold.   

There were a few interesting anomalies: the Cards drafted Michael Stutes but he didn’t sign and later signed with the Phillies, the Cubs originally signed Sonny Gray but he also didn’t sign, and it was fun seeing our own Brian Schlitter’s name in another team’s column.

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