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To the TCR Community--

Like many of you, I was very saddened to imagine a world without TCR. 

I've been a regular reader, parachatter (the seal!), and sometimes poster since I can't remember when. Living out east has made following the Cubs difficult, but spending time with you all has made it just a tad less difficult. I don't know about you, but when something big happens, I think, "I wonder what Crunch thinks about this?" (Seriously, I do that.)

Cubs & Rockies Split the Difference at Talking Stick

Jairo Rosario reached base four times (single, double, walk, and an HBP) and scored a run and RHSP Javier Palacios tossed four innings of shutout ball, leading the Rockies to a 7-2 victory over the Cubs on Dust Storm Field, and Roberto Caro belted a two-run triple and Andruw Monasterio followed with an RBI single to highlight a three-run third to help the Cubs take an early 3-0 lead, but then they had to hold-on to edge the Rockies 5-4 on Red Mountain Field, in a Cactus League Extended Spring Training split-squad doubleheader played this morning at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Resort east of Scottsdale, AZ.   

Eloy Jimenez drilled an RBI double and a single for the Cubs in a losing cause on Dust Storm Field. 

Chris Denorfia (on Cubs MLB 15-day DL - strained hamstring) continued his EXST rehab, serving as a DH for the Cubs squad on Red Mountain Field. He batted four times (once in each of the first four innings), and went 1-4 (5-3 GO his firsr time up, a strikeout looking in his second AB. a fly out to left his third time up, and a line-drive single to left in his fourth and final Plate Apparance). Denorfia appeared to be running better today than he did yesterday, but he clearly still isn't 100%.  

In EXST roster news, OF Kevin Encarnacion has been moved up to South Bend. Encarnacion was hitting 258/329/403 in 21 Cactus League EXST games (70 PA), with one HR and three triples, twelve RBI and nine runs scored, 7/10 BB/K, and one SB (no CS).  

Encarnnacion was signed by the Cubs out of Venezuela as an 18-year old in 2010, and has hit 291/402/428 in 797 career minor league games.

He was involved in a near-fatal car crash in the Dominican Republic post-2013 while attending an off-season mini-camp at the Cubs Dominican Academy. He was a passenger in the vehicle, and was pulled-out just seconds before the vehicle exploded.

Encarnacion suffered third-degree burns on his right side (he now wears a pressure-sleeve on his right arm) and shoulder damage as well, and the Cubs had him flown from the Dominican Republic to Phoenix immediately after the accident to be treated at the Burn Unit at Maricopa County Medical Center. After several surgeries and post-surgery rehabilitation that cost him the 2014 season, Encarnacion finally returned to the field at AZ Instructs post-2014.

The 23-year old Encarnacion was forced to give up switch-hitting as the result of the injuries sustained in the crash (he now only bats left-handed), and he was left behind at Extended Spring Training this year to continue working on hitting left-handed against LHP (not an easy task when you've never done it before) and to get regular playing time. 

Here are the abriged box scores from today's games (Cubs players only): 

Chris Denorfia & Pierce Johnson Rehabbin' at Riverview

Marcos Derkes belted a bases-loaded triple and RHSP Taylor Black tossed three innings of no-hit ball, leading the Rockies to a 6-4 victory over the Cubs in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning on Field #6 at Mesa CubTown at Riverview Park.  

The Cubs Cactus League EXST record dropped to 16-15-5 with today's loss. 

Jose Paniagua drilled an RBI triple and a single and Ho-Young Son ripped an RBI double, singled, reached base on an HBP, and stole a base for the Cubs in a losing cause.

Son is now hitting a robust 417/520/561 (and the .417 batting average leads the EXST Cubs for players with at least one PA per Cactus League EXST game), with four doubles and a triple, five walks and four HBP (so he is the Anthony Rizzo of the EXST Cubs), only three strikeouts (none in his last 33 PA), and five SB (albeit with two CS and four PO) in 18 Cactus League EXST games (50 PA). He also leads the EXST Cubs in multi-hit games with six (Frandy de la Rosa and Kevonte Mitchell have five a piece), and he made just his second error of the Cactus League EXST season today. Son will very likely be the starting shortstop for the Eugene Emeralds once the Northwest League season begins play next month. 

OF Chris Denorfia (on Cubs MLB 15-day with a hamstring strain) was a DH in today;s game and batted four times, once in each of the first four innings.

He struck out (swinging) on three pitches his first time up (and looked bad doing it), then grounded out 6-3 on the first pitch he saw the second time up, walked on four pitches in his third AB, and roped a line-single to left on the first pitch of the AB in his fourth and final Plate Appearance.

Denorfia jogged to 1st base when he ran (that's called "fuck 90 when I'm rehabbing my hamstring"), and Kevonte Mitchell was inserted into the game as a Designated Pinch-Runner the two times Denorfia reached base. Mitchell took advantage of the two opportunities by stealing a base and scoring two runs (Herb Washington, eat your heart out!).

RHP Pierce Johnson (on AA Tennessee DL with a lat strain) got the start on the mound for the Cubs today and looked a lot better today than he did in last Thursday's intrasquad game, working two innings of no-run/no hit ball (25 pitches - 19 strikes), and allowing just one baserunner (he hit the first man he faced) before easily retiring the last six in a row (4-3, P-4, K, K, F-8, 3-1).

His fastball velocity was better than last time, too, as he was working mostly at 92 MPH, and he touched 94 (the very first pitch of the game). He threw 12 consecutive strikes at the end of his outing (including all ten pitches he threw in the top of the 2nd), and was able to command all of his pitches (something he was not able to do last time out).

RHP Jesus Castillo (one of two pitchers acquired from the Diamondbacks in the Tony Campana deal a couple of years ago) followed Johnson to the hill and had a very poor outing, allowing three runs on two walks and two hits (one of which was the Derkes bases-loaded triple) in just one-third of an inning.

Usually a starting pitcher, LHP Jose Paulino had his outing pushed-back to the middle innings to accomodate Johnson and Castillo, and although he did allow three runs (two earned) on three hits, four walks, an HBP, and a balk in 3.2 IP, he was throwing his two-seamer harder than usual, working at 91-93 and touching 94-95 while getting a ton of ground balls (8/0 GO).  

LHRP Andin Diaz had his fastball gas consistently up to 94-95 MPH over the last two innings of the game (no runs/no hits allowed) 

Prior to the Cactus League EXST game on Field #6, RHP Marcelo Carreno (post-2013 right shoulder surgery) and RHRP Corbin Hoffner threw a one-inning "sim" game on Field #4. This was the first time Carreno (acquired as the PTBNL from the Tigers in the August 2012 deal that sent IF-OF Jeff Baker to Detroit) has faced hitters this year, while Hoffner is trying to perfect his new exteme sidearm (almost "submarine") delivery by getting extra work throwing against hitters on days he would normally just throw a bullpen side-session.  

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

Updated Cubs Post-2015 Rule 5 Draft & Minor League Free-Agent Eligibles

Here is an updated list of Cubs post-2015 MLB Rule 5 Draft & MLB Rule 55 Minor League Free-Agent eligibles. (There are no Cubs minor league players eligible to be a post-2015 Article XX-D minor league free-agent at this time). 

It is not an oversight that players like LHP Hunter Cervenka, OF Pin-Chieh Chen, C Willson Conteras, RHP Felix Pena, and RHP Starling Peralta (plus a couple of dozen more) are not on the list of Cubs 2015 Rule 5 Draft eligibles. A player who is eligible to be a minor league free-agent post-2015 is eligible for selection in the December 2015 Rule 5 Draft only if the player signs a 2016 minor league contract or agrees to a minor league successor contract prior to the Rule 5 Draft (see full list of Cubs post-2015 MLB Rule 55 minor league free-agent eligibles below), and any player eligible to be a minor league FA can't sign a minor league successor contract for the next season until after the conclusion of the current minor league season. 

Moreno & Cease Piggy-Back Their Way to Fitch Park

Trace Loehr singled twice, walked, stole a base, scored two runs, and drove-in another, Jean Carlo Rodriguez drilled a bases-loaded three-run double, Vicmal de la Cruz belted a solo home run, walked, and drove-in another run with a GO, Andy Paz slugged a two-run HR, and RHSP Jon Massad tossed four innings of no run/no hit ball, leading the Athletics to an 11-5 victory over the Cubs in Memorial Day Cactus League Extended Spring Training game action on Field #4 at the Lew Wolff Training Complex at Fitch Park in Mesa, AZ. 

The game was called after 7-1/2 innings of play. 

Kevin Encarnacion hammered a solo home run and an RBI single, Kevonte Mitchell drilled an RBI single, a double, drew a walk, stole a base, and scored a run, and Ricardo Marcano roped an RBI triple, walked, and scored a run for the Cubs in a losing cause.

In 22 Cactus League EXST games, Kevonte Mitchell leads the EXST Cubs in stolen bases with 12 (one CS and one PO). Also, he is hitting 239/345/310, with three doubles and a triple, eleven walks, 15 K, and one HBP, ten runs scored, and seven RBI, in the 22 games (84 PA). The 19-year old 6'4 185 Mitchell (Cubs 2014 13th round draft pick - Kennett HS - Kennett, Mo) is a virtual lock to play CF and hit lead-off for the Eugene Emeralds, once the Northwest League (NWL) commences play next month. 

RHP Erling Moreno (2013 IFA - Colombia) got the start for the Cubs today and retired six of the seven men he faced (1B, 5-3, 4-3, K, F-8, K, 4-3). He allowed one run on one hit (a single leading off the bottom of the 1st inning that came around to score on a couple of ground outs and a WP) and no walks, with two strikeouts (both swinging). Moreno rolled easily through his two innings, throwing a good percentage of strikes (27 pitches - 18 strikes - 67% K), and mixing his 91-92 MPH fastball, plus-curve, and change-up to keep the A's hitters mostly off-balance.

The 18-year old 6'3 200 Moreno was signed by the Cubs ($650K bonus) out of the same 2013-14 International Signing Period class that produced OF Eloy Jimenez, SS Gleyber Torres, RHP Jen-Ho Tseng, 3B-1B Wladmir Galindo, C Yohan Matos, and RHP Jeferson Mejia (since traded to AZ in the Miguel Montero deal), but he underwent an elbow UCL transplant (Tommy John Surgery) midway through the 2014 season that has slowed his development, and so this was his first game action in almost a year.

Moreno will likely join RHP Dylan Cease, ex-Mexico City Red Devils RHP Jesus Camargo, RHP (ex-C) Mark Malave, and probably either Adbert Alzolay or Santiago Rodriguez in the AZL Cubs starting rotation (at least at the outset of the AZL season, until the 2015 draft picks begin to arrive).     

Speaking of Dylan Cease, he also saw action in today's game, "piggy-backing" with Moreno. Although he threw just 1.0 IP, Cease actually pitched in parts of two different innings (facing eight hitters total), hence the high pitch count (37 pitches) in just one inning (three outs). 

Cease was working his fastball at 95-97 MPH to the first four batters he faced, but then elevated the FB velocity up to 98-99 when facing the next four. He continues to struggle with command, however, walking two and going to three-ball counts on two other hitters, bouncing his breaking ball (which is a really a plus-pitch when he throws it over the plate instead of bouncing it in front of the plate), and throwing only 56% strikes.

After throwing an amazing six wild pitches in just one inning of work last Friday versus the Diamondbacks at Talking Stick, RHRP Daniel Bard had another nightmare inning (actually just one-third of an inning), allowing four runs on one hit (the Rodriguez bases-loaded double) after walking three and hitting a batter. And he threw three more WP today, too, for a total of nine in his last 1.1 IP.       

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

Anthony Varvaro Waiver Claim Voided

The Cubs waiver claim of RHP Anthony Varvaro has been voided by the MLB Commissioner and he has been returned to the Boston Red Sox, where he will be placed on the BoSox MLB 60-day DL. Varvaro will undergo surgery to repair a torn elbow flexor tendon later this week.

Martarano & Loux See Game Action at Riverview Park

It wasn't a Cactus League Extended Spring Training game, but the Cubs did play an intrasquad game this morning on Field #6 at Mesa CubTown at Riverview Park.

Some of you may notice that when there is an EXST intrasquad game or a Cactus League EXST split squad doubleheader, that (with the exception of the pitchers and catchers, who move back & forth between the squads) one squad (Squad "A") is essentially the proto-Euguene Emeralds, and the other one (Squad "B") is essentially the proto-AZL Cubs. The squad rosters change slightly every now & then, but what you see now is probably pretty close to what will likely be the case next month when the two teams are officially separated.

Three position players assigned to Squad "B" -- 3B-1B Wladimir Galindo (left wrist injury),  IF-OF Carlos Jimenez (left elbow injury from HBP yesterday), and 1B-C Miguel Rico (left knee injury) -- are out indefinitely, so the AZL Cubs may have to "run short" for a while at the start of the AZL season. (Rico is being converted to catcher, but also plays 1st base).

RHP Barret Loux (on Iowa Cubs 7-day DL with a right triceps strain) made his first game appearance in a month, getting the start for Squad "B" in the intrasquad game. While he did throw 3.2 IP (44 pitches) and allowed no runs, he also surrendered five hits (and a walk), struck out only one, and his fastball velocity topped out at 86 MPH.

The 26-year old Loux was the 1st round draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010, but then was declared a free-agent by MLB after the D'backs reduced their original bonus offer after a post-draft physical showed a pre-existing shoulder problem. (The Loux Case was one of the factors that led to draft slotting in the 2012 CBA).

So Loux signed with the Texas Rangers in November 2010 after being declared a free-agent, and then was traded to the Cubs as the PTBNL in the Geovany Soto deal post-2012. He made it through the 2011-13 seasons OK, but then he had shoulder surgery post-2013 and TJS at the start of last season, so he has been through the sports medicine wars over the past couple of years. He made a fairly rapid recovery from the 2014 TJS, however, and actually was a member of the Iowa Cubs starting rotation at the begining of the 2015 season, before being shut-down last month.

18-year old RHP Austyn Willis (Cubs 2014 18th round draft pick - Barstow HS - Barstow, CA) started the intraquad game for Squad "A", and had a lot of difficulty throwing strikes in his three innings of work (61 pitches - only 28 strikes). For a guy who is 6'6, Willis does not throw especially hard (his fastball tops out at 89 MPH), but he usually is able to spot his fastball effectively and throw all of his pitches (including his curve and change-up) for strikes, with the stamina to throw multiple innings. At 6'6 205, Willis has the size & frame scouts call "projectable," because it is presumed that he will add velocity as he matures and fills-out. Along with Carson Sands, Justin Steele, Jose Paulino, and Oscar de la Cruz, Willis is being primed to be one of the rotation starters at Eugene when the Northwest League season commences next month.  

6'7 RHRP Scott Frazier (Cubs 2013 6th round draft pick - Pepperdine) threw an inning in the game (12 pitches - 7 strikes) and retired the side uneventfully (4-3, BB, 4-6 FC, K), although the Squad "A" lineup was adjusted so that he only had to face left-handed hitters (something the Cubs can't do in a Cactus League EXST game). His fastball velocity usually sits at 95-97 MPH and has touched 98-99 previously this Spring, but he apparently has dialed it down a bit, because he threw only 96 (max) today, working mostly at 94-95.

Boise State's Joey Martarano saw his first game action of 2015, serving as a DH for Squad "B." He was hitless in four plate appearances, but he did reach base on an HBP and scored a run his first time up. He ran through a "stop sign" as he rounded third and headed home, but when you've got a 6'4 235 D-1 college linebacker coming through, you just have to get out of the way and let him roll. I half-expected him to tackle the catcher at home plate, but he did not. Martarano projects to be the first-baseman and sometimes DH for the AZL Cubs once the AZL season starts next month.

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

Bard Totally Wild at Talking Stick

Jenner Emeterio singled, doubled, and tripled, scored two runs, and drove-in another, Varonex Cuevas singled and scored in the 3rd and belted a two-run home run in the 6th, and Carlos Jimenez singled, doubled, reached base on an HBP, and scored a run. as the Cubs edged the Diamondbacks 6-5 on Whirlwind Field, and Raymel Flores drilled a two-run single with two outs and the bases loaded to key a four-run 3rd, as the D'backs shutout the Cubs 6-0 on Jackrabbit Field, in a Cactus League Extended Spring Training split squad doubleheader played this morning at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Resort east of Scottsdale, AZ.

Both games were called after 7-1/2 innings of play. 

Veteran MLB RHRP Daniel Bard had a very odd/unusual day. Working one inning in the game on Whirlwind Field, Bard issued three walks, struck out two (both swinging), and uncorked six wild pitches. That's six wild pitches In one inning!

In EXST Cubs roster news, catcher Eric Gonzalez has been assigned to the DSL Cubs, and catcher Tyler Pearson has been moved-up to AA Tennessee.  

The 18-year old Gonzalez got into eight Cactus League EXST games (14 PA), going 0-13 with one walk and five strikeouts. He threw out one of three baserunners attempting to steal against him (33% CS). Gonzalez was signed by the Cubs last June, and he hit 254/297/322 in 19 DSL games last season.

The DSL Cubs begin play a week from tomorrow (Saturday May 30th), and it's possible that additional players who are presently at Extended Spring Training will get assigned to the DSL Cubs prior to DSL Opening Day.

The 23-year old Pearson was the Cubs 25th round pick in the 2014 MLB Fiirst-Year Player Draft out of Texas State (by way of Rice). He hit 235/322/431 in 21 games with AZL Cubs last season, and 250/333/458 in 14 Cactus League EXST games (30 PA) this season (with three doubles and a triple, three walks and an HBP, eight strikeouts, a SH, a SF, and two GIDP). He had a 14% CS, with one passed ball in Cactus League EXST games.

While he was assigned to Tennessee and will physically report to the Smokies, he will not be activated until he is needed. The Cubs have been doing that quite a bit this season, which is to say a a player will be placed on a minor league affiliate's 7-day DL or assigned to Eugene or AZL Cubs (but only on paper), without the player actually leaving the club or reporting to Extended Spring Teaining. Then other times, the player does report to EXST.

One player on a Cubs minor league affiliate's 7-day DL who is definitely at Extended Spring Training is OF Shawon Dunston Jr, who is rehabbing a right arm injury (I believe it's the right shoulder) sustained about a month go at Hi-A Myrtle Beach. Dunston is just now beginning a throwing program and to take BP at EXST, so he probably won't be ready to return to the Pelicans for a while.

Here are the abridged box scores from today's games (Cubs players only):

Joey Martarano Reports to Extended Spring Training, Pierce Johnson Gets Rocked

First-baseman Joey Martarano has reported to Cubs Extended Spring Training, after spending the 2014-15 school year attending Boise State University.

Martarano was the Idaho High School Baseball Player of the Year at Fruitland HS in his senior year, and was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Rule 4 Draft). He was offered a $100K bonus by the Phils but did not sign, instead opting to enroll at Boise State and play football.

The 20-year old 6'4 235 Martarano is a linebacker on the Broncos football team, and he is a promising football player. (He had his best game when it really mattered most, in Boise State's 38-30 victory over the University of Arizona in last January's Fiesta Bowl).

Because Boise State does not have a baseball program, Martarano was the rare "Freshman eligible" in the MLB 2014 First-Year Player Draft, and the Cubs took him in the 22nd round. The Cubs convinced him to sign by offering him a chance to play pro baseball during summer vacation (as sort of a "summer job"), with no restrictions on attending college and playing football the rest of the year.

Although he was drafted as a third-baseman, the Cubs immediately moved him to 1st base when he reported to Riverview Park last July, and it looks like 1st base is where he will stay. He spent one month with the AZL Cubs in Mesa last year after signing, but got into only six games before going back to school. (He hadn't played baseball in more than a year, so it took him a while to get back into shape). He will likely spend the months of June and July playing baseball in the Cubs organization this year (probably with the AZL Cubs again), before going back to Boise for pre-season football camp in August.

It's unfortunate for Maratano that the Cubs moved their Northwest League affiliate from Boise to Eugene this year, because otherwise he might have had a chance to play minor league baseball in his college's hometown.

It wasn't a Cactus League Extended Spring Training game, but the Cubs did play an EXST intrasquad gane this morning on Field #6 at Riverview Park. Joey Martarano did not play in the game (he's taking BP and participating in fielding practice and baseruning drills while he gets into "baseball shape"), but the tilt did feature the first game action since Spring Training for RHP Pierce Johnson (on AA Tennessee 7-day DL with a lat strain).

And Johnson got rocked, too, allowing nine hits (six singles, two doubles, and a triple) and three runs in just 2.1  IP (44 pitches). His fastball was sitting at only 90-91 MPH and topped out at 92, although his breaking ball had some nice bite. He didn't register any strike outs, and if it wasn't for two timely pick-offs, his line surely would have been much worse.
  
While Pierce Johnson was getting hammered, LHP Carson Sands (Cubs 2014 4th round draft pick - North Florida Christian HS - Tallahassee, FL) was throwing 4.2 IP of shutout ball. 

Significant offensive contributions were provided by Jose Paniagua (two doubles), Danny Gutierrez (a solo home run, a single, and a stolen base), Carlos Sepulveda (a triple, a single, and a run scored), Ricardo Marcano (single, double, and a run scored), and Varonex Cuevas (two-run single and a stolen base).

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

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