Carlos Escobar blasted a 420+ foot two-run HR that landed on the roof of a mobile classroom at Frank Borman Elementary School beyond the left-centerfield fence to put the Cubs on the scoreboard in the top of the 1st, Shawon Dunston Jr belted a triple and two singles, scored two runs, and drove-in two more, and Yasiel Balaguert laced a two-run triple, singled, walked, and scored two runs, as the Cubs outlasted the Brewers 9-7 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning at Maryvale Baseball Complex Field #7 (AKA "Paul Molitor Field") in Phoenix, AZ.   

Tyler Roberts doubled twice, singled, scored two runs, and drove-in one, and Dustin Houle singled, doubled, walked, and scored three runs, to aid the Brewer cause.   

The pitcher's mound on Field #7 was in deplorable condition. It had apparently baked in the heat (the infield was hard as cement) and then had been over-watered just prior to start of the game, so starting pitchers Josh Conway (Cubs) and Daniel Keller (Brewers) were constantly slipping & sliding on clods of dirt when they hit their respective landing spots after throwing a pitch, and the two pitchers had to continually go to the back of the mound and scrape mud out of their cleats. The mound was also tacky at the rubber, so that at one point the cleats on Keller's right shoe got stuck in the mud and he had to abort a pitch by throwing it directly into the ground.

Meanwhile, Conway looked uncomfortable from his very first pitch, continually pawing at his landing spot and scraping mud out of his spikes after every single pitch. A member of the grounds crew was eventually located after the end of the 1st inning (today is Saturday, so there was just a "skeleton crew" on duty), and while he raked up the mud clods, nothing was done to dry up the mud itself or stamp-down the mound. On his second pitch in the bottom of the 2nd inning, Conway's spikes got caught in the mud and he tripped and threw a pitch awkwardly, about six feet over the head of the Brew Crew batter. A loud pop could be heard when he let go of the pitch, and his arm recoiled as if he had been shot. He was obviously in tremendous pain, and he ran up the 1st base line into foul territory before coming to a stop and going to one knee.  

Only after Conway left the game did two other members of the Maryvale grounds crew arrive and completely manicure the mound to make it safe for the pitchers. 

Conway was immediately driven back to Fitch Park in the Cubs utility van, and presumably he will be examined next week.

Conway was the Cubs 4th round draft pick last season out of Coastal Carolina University, and he was considered a pre-draft 1st or 2nd round talent who fell to the 4th round only because he had elbow UCL reconstruction (Tommy John Surgery) prior to the June draft. But after nearly making the Kane County starting rotation out of Minor League Camp, Conway has been the most-impressive Cubs pitcher so far at Extended Spring Training, and after throwing five solid innigs and 80 pitches in his previous start last Monday, he appeared to be on the verge of getting a promotion to Kane County or possibly Daytona.

Jose Rosario was scheduled to once again "piggy-back" with Conway (with both pitchers throwing four or five innings each), but Conway's early exit caused the Cubs to turn to reliever Mike Hamann to get ready quickly and throw a couple of innings. Rosario eventually did enter the game in the bottom of the 4th, and he had a miserable outing, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits (including three doubles), three walks, a wild pitch, and a two-base throwing error over three innings of work. He benefited from an inning-ending 4-6-3 DP and two runners being thrown out at the plate trying to score on singles to the outfield, or his final line would have been even worse. 

Reggie Golden earned the notorious "Golden Sombrero," striking out four times (all four times swinging), and he did it in four AB. 

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

Before yesterday's bottom of the ninth, Aroldis Chapman had allowed 5 hits, 2 walks, and 1 measly run over 13.1 IP. Friday, the Cubs got to him for 4 hits, 2 BB, and 3 runs in just two-thirds of an inning, and his ERA jumped from 0.68 to 2.57. It was also just the second time in 17 career appearances v. the Cubs that Chapman has been scored upon at all. Thus, I am counting yesterday as a moral victory and in my mind, with wins today and Sunday the Cubs can still achieve a series sweep. Or, at least a moral sweep.

Lineups for Saturday, 12:05 start:

The Cubs have reinstated 3B Ian Stewart from the 15-day DL and have optioned him to AAA Iowa. (Stewart came into the 2013 season with one minor league option year left).

Stewart suffered a strained quad in an intrasquad game at HoHoKam Park in February, and missed the entire 2013 MLB Cactus League Spring Training schedule. He was placed on the Cubs MLB 15-day Disabled List on March 31st (retro to 3/22), and was left behind at Extended Spring Training when the Cubs left Arizona at the end of March.

Stewart hit 200/250/267 in 16 PA at Extended Spring Training, and then was moved up to AAA Iowa on a minor league "rehab" assignment on April 14th, where he has hit an ice-cold 091/255/114 in 58 PA. 

Since the maximum number of days a position player can spend on a minor league rehab assignment is 20 (it's a maximum of 30 days for pitchers), May 3rd is the end of the assignment (time that was spent at Extended Spring Training prior to going to Iowa is not considered part of the minor league rehab assignment). However, a club does not have to reinstate a player to an active roster after the conclusion of a minor league rehab assignment if the player is not healthy enough to play (like if the original injury or illness reappears and/or was aggravated or if a different injury occurred during the course of the rehab assignment).   

Because Stewart made his debut on an MLB 25-man roster more than three years ago, Optional Assignment Waivers had to be secured before he could be optioned to the minors. Optional Assignment Waivers are revocable (meaning the request can be withdrawn if the player is claimed), and once secured they are good for the entire waiver period. So Stewart can be sent back & forth to the minors without any restrictions (that is, he can be recalled and then be optioned to the minors again anytime during the current waiver period without Optional Assignment Waivers needing to be requested & secured each time). The current waiver period just started this past Tuesday, and it doesn't end until 4 PM (EDT) on July 31st.

BTW, although Optional Assignment Waivers had to be secured before Stewart could be optioned to the minors, Stewart did NOT have to give his consent to the assignment. Only players who have accrued at least five years of MLB Service Time must give their consent before they can be optioned to the minors, and Stewart (if he had remained on the 15-day DL or if he had been reinstated to the 25-man roster instead of being optioned) would not have reached five years of MLB Service Time until July 31st. (And now that he's been optioned to the minors, Stewart reaching five years of MLB Service Time will be even further delayed).

John Polonius blasted a two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the 4th to break a 4-4 tie and propel the Giants to a 6-4 victory on Field #1, and Jonathan Jones belted a two-run walk-off double off the LF fence on a 3-0 pitch with two outs in the bottom of the 5th as the Giants edged the Cubs 4-3 on Field #2 (thus sweeping the doubleheader), in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning at Indian School Park in Scottsdale, AZ. 

Kevin Encarnacion doubled, tripled, and scored a run and Jacob Rogers hammered a solo home run on Field #1, and Reggie Golden slugged a tape-measure two-run HR on Field #2, to provide most of the Cubs offensive highlights.

John Leonard belted an RBI triple, singled twice, and scored a run, and Carter Bell drilled a two-run double, as one squad of Diamondbacks defeated one squad of Cubs 5-2 on Field #3, while on Field #4, 16-year old Sergio Alcantara doubled, tripled, and scored a run and Michael Brenly singled, doubled, and scored two runs for the Diamondbacks, and Neftali Rosario singled, walked, scored a run, and knocked-in another for the Cubs, as the two squads played to a 4-4 tie, in Cactus League Extended Spring Training doubleheader action this morning at Fitch Park in Mesa, AZ.

Brad Zapenas (2012 shoulder surgery rehab) doubled, tripled, drove-in three runs, and scored two more, Jeffrey Baez ripped a two-run double, singled, walked twice, and scored a run, and Rashad Crawford hammered a bases-loaded three-run triple, leading one squad of Cubs to a 13-7 victory over one squad of Giants on Field #3 (formerly known as Field #2), and Rony Rodriguez belted a bases-loaded three-run double, singled, and scored a run, and Justin Marra laced a two-run double, walked, and scored twice, as the other squad of Cubs defeated the other squad of Giants 7-4 on Field #4 (formerly known as Field #3), in a Cactus League Extended Spring Training doubleheader played Tuesday morning at Fitch Park in Mesa, AZ.  

Albert Almora laced an opposite-field RBI triple into the RF corner and then scored one out later on a sacrifice fly, Josh Vitters roped an RBI double, and Jose Rosario threw four innings of one-hit ball, helping the Cubs edge the Athletics 4-3 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning at Fitch Park Field #4 (formerly known as "Field #3") in Mesa, AZ. 

Almora (the Cubs 2012 1st round draft pick) saw his first game action in more than six weeks, since having hand surgery on March 16th (he broke his hamate bone at Minor League Camp on March 14th). He was a DH and hit five times in today's game, once in each of the first five innings. He lined out to CF in his first AB, then bounced out to third, reached base on an E-5 (another bouncer that the A's third-baseman tried to cut-off in front of the shortstop), ripped his RBI triple (and then he tore his pants and got a pretty good "raspberry" on his left thigh sliding home on the sac fly), and (in his last AB) grounded out to short. 

Josh Conway got the start for the Cubs and went five strong innings (80 pitches), allowing two runs on four hits (all four singles) and two walks, while striking out six (five swinging). He retired nine of the first ten men he faced and then four of the last five, but in between he gave up two runs on four hits in the top of the 4th. The way he is being stretched out makes it look like the Cubs might be thinking about moving him up to Kane County or Daytona in the near future.

Jose Rosario followed Conway to the mound and threw four innings of one-hit ball (although he did walk three). He surrendered a lead-off triple in the top of the 9th, but looked like he would get out of the inning and leave the runner stranded at 3rd after retiring the next two hitters. However, a two-out fielding error by 1st baseman Mark Malave allowed the runner at 3rd to score. Rosario looks like he might be about ready to move up to either Kane County or Daytona, too.


Eric Aybar (on an injury rehab assignment) singled and walked and scored two runs, Quentin Davis punched-out three RBI singles, and Jonathan Walsh belted a solo HR, as the Angels rallied to defeat the Cubs 7-4 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning at Diablo Park Field #7 in Tempe, AZ.

Dillon Maples got the start for the Cubs and allowed one run on two hits and two walks in three innings of work (50 pitches). He also struck out five and threw a wild pitch. His hammer-curve was virtually unhittable (as it usually is), and he was able to command his fastball somewhat better today than in previous outings.  

Josh Vitters continued his EXST rehab assignment, playing 3B for seven innings and batting five times. He flied out twice, grounded out, and reached base on an Eric Aybar error and on an HBP, and he also made an outstanding double-saving backhanded diving catch on the 3rd base line. He certainly looks like he's ready to return to Iowa.

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

Josh Vitters singled twice and ripped an RBI double, Carlos Penalver doubled twice, scored a run, and knocked-in another, Trey Lang tossed three innings of no-run no-hit ball, and catcher Lance Rymel threw out five baseruners (four caught stealing and one picked-off), as the Cubs edged the Rockies 5-4 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning at Dust Storm Field at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Resort east of Scottsdale, AZ.

Vitters was placed on the AAA Iowa Cubs DL with a back strain earlier this month, and before that he missed most of MLB Spring Training with a quad strain. He is presently on a rehab assignment with the EXST Cubs, and he played 1st base for five innings today and batted four times (once each in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings). All three of his hits were rockets, and even the F-7 out was a near HR. (He also played 3rd base in yesterday's intrasquad game -- see below).   

Cubs 2012 1st round draft pick Albert Almora (broken hamate bone during Minor League Camp) has started taking pre-game BP with the other position players, so I would think he will probably be seeing some EXST game action very soon, and then perhaps get moved-up to Kane County sometime next month.

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

Jaron Shepherd and Correlle Prime smacked solo home runs to highlight a three-run 1st inning, 2012 1st round pick David Dahl blasted a two-run HR to key a three-run 4th, Jared Simon singled, tripled, walked twice, and scored two runs, and Jeff Popick singled twice, doubled, and drove-in a run, leading the Rockies to an 8-2 victory over the Cubs in Extended Spring Training action this morning at Fitch Park Field #4 (formerly known as "Field #3") in Mesa, AZ.


Garrett Schlecht drilled a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the 2nd inning and Trevor Gretzky crushed a 420+ ft solo HR over the right-centerfield fence with two outs in the bottom of the 9th to account for the two Cub runs.


The defensive play of the day was a run-saving diving catch of a sinking line-drive by Rashad Crawford in short CF.


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


Josh Conway, Erick Leal, and Carlos Martinez combined to throw a three-hitter, retiring the last ten men a row, and David Bote drilled an RBI single to tie the game and Jacob Rogers followed one out later with a sacrifice fly to give the Cubs the lead, as one squad of Cubs rallied for two runs in the 5th and held on to edge one squad of Diamondbacks 2-1 on Whirlwind Field, and Carter Bell blasted a three-run home run to cap a five-run 3rd and Josh Parr singled and tripled and scored two runs, leading the other squad of D'backs to a 7-1 victory over the other squad of Cubs on Jackrabbit Field, as the two squads split a Cactus League Extended Spring Training doubleheader played this morning at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Resort east of Scottsdale, AZ.   


Former Cubs minor leaguer Michael Brenly (released during Minor League Camp) was the catcher for the Diamondbacks squad on Whirlwind Field, and he went 0-3 (K, F-7, K).


Here are the abridged box scores from the two games (Cubs players only):


For those of you who might be looking ahead a bit, here are the Cubs minor leaguers who are eligible to be free-agents post-2013, and the Cubs minor leaguers who are eligible for selection in the December 2013 Rule 5 Draft.

The Brewers go for the series sweep, their 7th win in a row overall, and their 17th win in the last 22 meetings with the Cubs.

Is that depressing enough for you?

Cubs v. Wily Peralta (0-1, 6.19; pitched well but took an ND in 4/9 game at Wrigley which the Cubs eventually won against the Brewer bullpen): DeJesus 8, Castro 6, Rizzo 3, Soriano 7, Schierholtz 9, Castillo 2, Valbuena 5, Barney 4, Feldman 1.

Brewers v. Scott Feldman (0-2, 6.00; pitching for the first time since a loss to the Giants 10 days ago): Aoki 9, Segura 6, Braun 7, Weeks 4, Maldonado 2, Gonzalez 3, Gomez 8, Betancourt 5, Peralta 1.

 

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