April 2010

Frank Batista threw four shutout innings and Carlos Rojas got the last four outs to nail down the victory, as the EXST Cubs edged the EXST A’s 5-4 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action at Papago Park Field #2 in Phoenix this morning.


Batista became the first EXST Cubs pitcher to throw four innings, allowing just one hit and no walks while striking out one. The 21-year old Dominican RHP was the Cubs #1 pitching prospect in the DSL last season, going 4-2 with a 3.55 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, with 7/63 BB/K in 58.1 IP for DSL Cubs #1. So far at EXST, Batista has thrown 9.2 IP, allowing four runs (three ER) on six hits, 2/4 BB/K, with a 2.79 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and .171 OBA.

Runey Davis reached base three times, scored two runs, knocked-in another, and stole a base, but the EXST Angels scored two runs in the 8th to take the lead after the EXST Cubs had clawed their way back from a 6-0 deficit to tie the game in the 6th, and held-on to defeat the Cubs 8-6 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa this morning.


With two hits today, Davis raised his EXST batting average to .353 (.450 OBP), and with his speed and the ability to play all three OF positions, I would think Davis (the Cubs 2009 12th round pick out of JUCO World Series champion Howard JC) is a strong candidate to get promoted to Peoria.

That seems to be the growing sentiment by a number of folks upset about the passing of SB1070 - the new Arizona immigration law. The tie between the Diamondbacks and the law is that the owners of the Diamondbacks - the Kendrick's - are big contributors to the Arizona Republican party and the Republicans in power in Arizona are behind this new law.

Sergio Burruel cracked a three-run double, Alvaro Ramirez drilled a two-run triple, and Xavier Batista and Arismendy Alcantara smashed solo home runs, but the Angels took advantage of nine walks to score 11 runs over the last three innings and overcome a four-run deficit in the bottom of the 8th and another four-run deficit in the bottom of the 9th, as the EXST Cubs and EXST Angels played to a 12-12 tie in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action at Diablo Park Field #3 in Tempe this morning. The game was halted by mutual agreement between the two teams with one out in the bottom of the 9th after the Angels tied the game on a 420-ft+ three-run home run off the top of the Batter’s Eye in CF.

Sobering thought...the Cubs just got beat 2 of 3 at home by the worst team in baseball the last two years. Sure, anyone can win a 3-game set, but the Cubs sure didn't look like a better team at any moment in this series. And yes, the Nats are a better team this year than year's past, but they also were missing Ryan Zimmermann for the set. All of that is just a convoluted way of saying that the tea leaves aren't really predicting a bright 2010 future at the moment for the Cubs.

The Good: The Cubs walked 4 times(Colvin, Fukudome x2 and Nady) and had 9 hits including Theriot and Fukudome getting on-base 5 times in total. Dempster had a solid 8 IP, 3 ER affair with just one walk and 6 K's. Marlon Byrd's circus catch losing the ball in the sun. I wonder how the media and crowd reacts if he doesn't make that catch as they were sure quick to jump on Bradley last year for losing the ball in the sun.

I think that was the first game I got to watch in its near entirety in about 2 weeks. My apologies for the outcome.

The Good: After Gorzelanny finished his warm-ups, he mowed the Nationals down through 7 innings. The problem was it took him 3 batters into the game to finish loosening up. Geovany Soto went 2/4 and Kosuke Fukudome reached base 3 times, twice on walks to set-up getting stranded by Lee, Byrd and Ramirez. Soto also gunned down two very capable baserunners in Wily Taveras and Justin Maxwell.

Rafael Disla roped a two-run triple into the RF corner to score the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the 7th, rallying the EXST Cubs to a 4-2 victory over the EXST Giants on Field #2, while over on Field #3, Cubs hitters could only muster three hits and two walks while striking out 11 times as the Giants blanked the Cubs 6-0, in a Cactus League Extended Spring Training split-squad doubleheader played at Fitch Park in Mesa this morning. The games were played simultaneously

Apparently thoroughly embarrassed by the parent club’s piss-poor performance versus the Cubs at Miller Park in Milwaukee over the weekend, the EXST Brewers played inspired Cactus League Extended Spring Training baseball this morning at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa, defeating the EXST Cubs 5-1. With the loss, the Cubs fall to 4-6-2 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training play.

LIfe is better when the Cubs win, but failure has a way of stoking a Cub fan's creativity, doesn't it? This dramatic reinterpretation of a call into David Kaplan's post-game "Tenth Inning" show is the work of WGN listener Edwardo, who was clearly inspired by Comedy Central's "Crank Yankers."

Shoe? He don't need no stinkin' shoe

more after the break...

So, just how much good stuff happened in this Saturday night game?

(Click on image for full-size version)

18-year old Taiwanese infielder Pin-Chieh Chen had three hits, knocked-in two runs, and stole a base, leading the Cubs to a 4-2 victory on Field #1, while the Giants rallied with five runs in the 7th to win the other game 5-1 on Field #2, as the EXST Cubs and the EXST Giants split a Cactus League Extended Spring Training doubleheader played at Indian School Park in Scottsdale this morning. Both games were pre-planned to be eight-inning affairs, and the two games were played simultaneously with split squads.


Rebel Ridling (appendectomy rehab) played 1B today (he had been restricted to DH in his previous EXST games), and got a total of seven Plate Appearances in the first seven innings of the game on Field #1. He grounded out to second, lined out to CF, and flied out to CF in his first three at bats, before rapping singles in three of his last four ABs. The HR power might not be there yet, but in most other ways he looks like he might be just about ready to move up to Daytona.

Cubs Mets
Theriot, SS #Reyes, SS
Baker, 3B #Castillo, 2B
Lee, 1B Wright, 3B
Byrd. CF Bay, LF
Nady, RF Francouer, RF
Soriano, LF *Davis, 1B
Soto, C Barajas, C
*Fontenot, 2B #Pagan, CF
*Gorzelanny, P Santana, P

Good news is the Cubs can split the series with the win tonight, bad news is they're still the Cubs. AmIrite? Okay, the actual bad news is that it's Johan vs. Gorzelanny.

Now there's a surprise...

Zambrano to bullpen starting Friday. "Because of his stuff" Lou sez. Z is cool with move.

We'll see if the bullpen gets better, but it's certainly gonna be a lot more expensive. How many bad starts by Gorzelanny or Silva before this gets reversed?

Runey Davis reached base twice on a double and a walk and scored two runs, leading the EXST Cubs to a 7-2 victory over the EXST A’s in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action at Papago Park Field #2 in Phoenix this morning.


The game was a pre-planned 7-1/2 affair with the Cubs playing as the “home” team even though the game was played at the A’s minor league complex, because the A’s only had enough healthy and rested pitchers available to throw seven innings, while the Cubs needed at least eight opponent's innings to get their scheduled pitchers enough work.


(Apologies in advance if the readings from my crystal ball prove faulty. It's something about the neighborhood. Even the cable reception is erratic around here.)

 

by Paul Sullivan, Tribune Reporter
2:17 p.m., CDT, May 6, 2010

PITTSBURGH – If you thought that watching his team lose to the perennial doormat Pirates, 9-3, on Wednesday night and plummet into the NL Central basement was the toughest thing Jim Hendry has ever had to do as a baseball man, an hour after the game you were proven wrong.

Hendry informed the assembled media and all of Cub Nation that he was firing his good friend and Cub manager for the past 4+ years and 526 games, Lou Piniella.

"There's no two ways about it. This stinks," said an emotional Hendry, "but after a very disappointing season last year and the awful start we've had this year, we're going to have to take the team in a different direction. Alan Trammell will be taking over the ballclub for the rest of the year, and I know that he and the other coaches are going to do everything humanly possible to turn this thing around.

"There's still time to make this a special season, but the ballplayers have to start doing the things they're capable of. I know that, Alan knows that, and the ballplayers know that."

Xavier Batista and Blair Springfield each had two hits, a run scored, and an RBI, but the EXST Angels rallied for five runs in the bottom of the 8th to edge the EXST Cubs 7-6 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action at Diablo Park in Tempe this morning.


Rebel Ridling (appendectomy with complications) once again was a DH, getting five Plate Appearances in the first seven innings. He roped a liner into the LF corner in his first AB (but only managed to get to 1st base), then was called out on strikes in his second PA, before grounding out three times in a row (1-3, 5-3, 5-3) to complete his day at the plate. While he seems to be swinging the bat OK, he also seems to be running a bit gingerly.


This is just me speculating on what the Cubs will do on Saturday when Ted Lilly returns to the rotation. The most likely option is still either Tom Gorzelanny or Carlos Silva with odds favoring Gorzelanny heading to the pen as Lilly just replaces another lefty. And then either James Russell or Jeff Samardzija going back to Iowa, although someone in the pen still has a week to get their ticket punched.

Lou did not commit to it being Gorzelanny or Silva as of yesterday, even if that's the most likely scenario:

``I didn't say that. I never said that. You all [media] can say what you want. All I said basically is that somebody's got to leave the rotation to go into the bullpen. That's all I said.''

Ted Lilly threw 87 pitches—61 for strikes—in a seven-inning stint at Peoria last night, in which he gave up just one run and three hits while fanning nine. The Chiefs beat the Burlington Bees, 2-1.

Lilly walked the first man he faced and gave up a triple to the third Burlington hitter. He was almost perfect after that.

Lilly, as quoted in the Peoria Journal Star...

“I struggled with (my command) at times, but for the most part I felt alright. I was mixing my changeup more than I have, so I was getting a feel for it tonight.”

Tags: 

Here's the ugly box score, and here are some details...

The good: Randy Wells allowed just one scratch run over six innings, yielding six singles and a couple walks while fanning five. At the plate, Wells delivered two singles of his own, one of which figured in the mini rally that netted the Cubs' only run of the game. Also, Marlon Byrd, moved up to the leadoff spot in Lou Piniella's new-look batting order against southpaws, collected three hits and the only Chicago RBI of the night.

The bad: Where to begin?

The EXST Giants swept the EXST Cubs by the scores of 7-0 and 9-2 in a “Split Squad” doubleheader played at Fitch Park in Mesa this morning. The EXST Cubs are now 2-3-2 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training games.


The games were played simultaneously, one game on Field #2 and the other on Field #3. Both games were abbreviated due to the squads having a limited number of pitchers available to throw in a game.


Rebel Ridling (appendectomy with complications) saw his first game action of the 2010 season today, getting four Plate Appearances in the game on Field #2. He hit the ball hard all four times, grounding out sharply 5-3 his first time up, flying out twice (F-8 and F-9) in his next two ABs, and then crushing a double off the fence in right-center in his 4th and final PA. The 23-year old 6'4 235+ Ridling (310/357/466 with 16 HR & 97 RBI, 34 doubles, and a league-leading 166 hits in 136 games at Peoria in 2009) will probably be at Fitch Park for about another week before joining the Daytona Cubs.


Ridling replaces Matt Spencer as the newest EXST “AB Hog,” as Spencer (broken toe) has completed his rehab and is en route to Daytona, where he will play until the Cubs can open up a roster slot for him at AA Tennessee. 


Francisco Guzman had the best day offensively, ripping an RBI triple to CF and beating out a routine ground ball to 2nd base for an infield single, while also scoring two runs. Otherwise, Cubs bats were quiet on both fields.


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


The Cubs squandered another superb start, this one by Ryan Dempster, and lost 3-2 to the Astros in 10 innings Sunday afternoon. To make matters worse, the bullpen culprits on this day were the Cubs' two relief studs so far this young season, Carlos Marmol, who surrendered the tying run in the 9th, and Sean Marshall, who took the loss after allowing a double by Jason Michaels and a sacrifice fly by Pedro Feliz in the 10th. To make matters worser, the the now 5-7 Cubs wound up dropping two of the three games to Houston, thus ending the season's first homestand at 3-3. To make matters even worser, the Astros really, truly suck.

In the aftermath of the loss, Lou Piniella announced that Marlon Byrd, who had three hits and both Cub RBI Sunday, would henceforth be leading off against lefthanders with Jeff Baker moving up to the second spot and Ryan Theriot sliding down to eighth. (Byrd has actually hit leadoff or sixth more often than in any other spot in the lineup throughout his career.)

Young lefty Jon Niese is supposed to start for the Mets when the Cubs begin a four-game visit to Citi Field on Monday night, so Lou's new lineup will get its first go right away. Randy Wells is scheduled to start for the Cubs.

Xavier Batista and Blair Springfield drove-in two runs a piece in a four-run Cubs 2nd, and Matt Spencer whacked a home run over the RF fence leading-off the bottom of the 3rd, as the EXST Cubs held-on to defeat the EXST A's 6-5 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa this morning.


The Cubs managed only six hits while committing six errors in the field, as the EXST Angels defeated the EXST Cubs 4-1 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa this morning.


Considered by most observers to be the Cubs #3 best pitching prospect coming into the season, RHP Chris Carpenter made his first appearance of the year after nursing a sore shoulder throughout Minor League Camp and after starting the 2010 regular season on the AA Tennessee Smokies 7-day DL. Carpenter was the Cubs 3rd round pick in 2008 out of Kent State, and went a combined 6-7 with a 2.82 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP and 52/118 BB/K in 130.2 IP at Peoria/Daytona/Tennessee in 2009.


Thursday is "Camp Day" at Cubs Extended Spring Training, which means the entire squad participates in an extended training & workout session (PFP, pick-off drills, baserunning drills, fielding practice, BP, and situational hitting), with an intrasquad game to follow.


In post-Minor League Camp roster news, RHP Alvido Jimenez, Hector Mayora, and Jade Mendez, 1B Melvin Camarena, and OF Xavier Batista, Albert Hernandez, and Manuel Pestana arrived at Fitch Park from the Cubs Dominican Academy in Boca Chica, DR, last week (and Camarena, X. Batista, Hernandez, and Pestana have already seen EXST game action), and 23-year old 5'11 195 former catcher Alvaro Sosa (214/254/305 with a 33% CS% combined at AZL Cubs and Boise in 2009 and a career .225 hitter going back to 2005) is being converted to a RHP (joining ex-OF Drew Rundle, who continues his conversion to LHP that began at Instructs last October). And (as I have mentioned previously) utility INF Jonathan Mota continues his conversion to catcher, to help him improve his versatilty. (Mota will be assigned to a full-season minor league team after he has had a chance to get some more experience behind the plate).


Here is the current up-to-date Cubs Extended Spring Training roster (61 players) as of today:


After four efficient innings and a mere 51 pitches Ted Lilly called it a rehab at Principal Park tonight and headed for the clubhouse, maybe to call ahead and order a postgame spread for his temporary teammates.


Lilly fanned four, all swinging, and walked only one. He permitted only one hit, a wind-blown home run by Tyler Greene in the top of the 1st. His pitch counts by inning were 17, 12, 13 and 9.


Francisco Guzman singled three times, stole three bases, scored two runs, and drove-in another, but it wasn’t quite enough, as the EXST Cubs and EXST Brewers played to a 6-6 tie in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action at Maryvale Park Field #7 in Phoenix this morning.


The Cubs come back in dramatic fashion with four runs in the eighth with the entire rally starting with two outs - taking a second straight from the Brewers. I don't know what the joke is, but the punch line was once again LaTroy Hawkins.

The first in-season roster move was annouced as Esmailin Caridad will go to the disabled list for sucking, a forearm strain with Jeff Gray getting called up. I updated the bullpen chart on the right with the green indicating Gray's appearances in the minors. Derrek Lee takes the day off with the sore right thumb, conveniently on day when Dave Bush is pitching, whom Lee is 5/31 against in his career against with a .413 OPS.

Lineups after the jump...

Down to their last strike, the Cubs rallied for three runs in the top of the 9th to take a 5-3 lead, only to see the Giants take advantage of a two-base throwing error in the bottom of the 9th and score two runs to tie the game, as the EXST Cubs and EXST Giants played to a 5-5 tie in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action at Indian School Park Field #2 in Scottsdale this morning.  


I haven’t read too much John Updike. And I never saw Ted Williams play ball live, even on television. But honest to God, Updike’s famous essay on Williams’ last game [“Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu”] is on my list of favorite things. I already have a recorded version on CD which I listen to occasionally just as I re-watch “Hoosiers” every now and again as an antidote for creeping cynicism. And now, thanks to the Library of America, I have it bound in hardback too. I regard it instantly as a prized possession, a piece of me the heirs shall have to fight over in my aftermath. Why do I value it so? Because it marries a couple that were meant for each other and each of whom mean a lot to me - baseball and writing.

Updike was no baseball fan. But he saw the essence of the game’s appeal more clearly than just about all of the game’s most ardent followers are able to and articulated it. His insights are there for the taking in his reflections on the very last at bat in the career of the enigmatic Teddy Ballgame.

Brandon May reached base four times, scored four runs, and drove-in two more, Jonathan Mota knocked-in three runs, and Charles Thomas had three hits, leading the EXST Cubs to a 15-7 drubbing of the EXST Giants at Fitch Park Field #3 this morning in Mesa.


Today was Cactus League Extended Spring Training (EXST) Opening Day in the Valley of the Sun, as the EXST Cubs played the first of 38 games they will be playing over the next eight weeks.

Commence the Season

"Hey, it's Opening Day. We've got some things to find out about this group, and we'll find them out relatively quick.'' - Lou Piniella

''Words can't describe how it felt. Just awesome.'' - James Russell on his major league debut.

Quote You Only Hear from the Losing Team on Opening Day
''Opening Day don't mean anything. You want to win ballgames early in the season. The more games you win now, the less you have to win later. But it's just a game.'' - Aramis Ramirez

Is There a Draft?

"We need Zambrano to shut the door." - Lou Piniella

Whenever the Iowa Cubs finally win a game they will be the last team in the Paciifc Coast League to do so in 2010.

This afternoon they dropped their 4th straight to Nashville, 4-2, on a sunny blustery day in Des Moines. The team managed only eight runs while being swept by the Brewer wannabes.

Carlos Zambrano got the opportunity to redeem his baseball soul thanks to the grace of Touchdown Jesus and the Cubs bullpen works this time in a 4-3 win at Cincinnati.

The Good: Z pitches quite well going 7 innings and giving up 3 runs and a home run against 9 K's, including striking out the side in his last inning. The Cubs offense doesn't strand a runner. After Ryan Theriot breaks up the perfect game to lead off the 4th, he takes second on a wild pitch that bounced in front of catcher Ryan Hanigan. Hanigan throws it away and it bounces into center field and Theriot was going to try third base (and it looked like he would have probably been nailed to me), but ran into shortstop Orlando Cabrera. No interference obstruction was called though despite the protests of Lou and Theriot. That made the count 2-0 on Fukudome and he showed bunt on the next pitch but took it for a strike. Not sure if he was just trying to dupe Harang or was seriously considering a bunt, but he then takes the ensuing curveball deep to right for the first 2 Cubs runs. He almost hit a second one out in his next at-bat. Soriano hit a hanging slider out for run number 3 and Jeff Baker with the clutch pinch-hit home run off Arthur Rhodes. Marmol's slider was biting and the Reds were flailing away for the save.

The Bad: The Cubs didn't leave anyone on-base cause they just managed one walk and 5 hits, 3 of them home runs and Lee got picked off first base. If they did plus/minus ratings like in hockey, Soriano was probably a 0, because the first run by the Reds was thanks to a linedrive with 2 out that Soriano turned the wrong way and then lept and missed by an inch that should have ended the inning. #8 hitter Ryan Hanigan then singled him home despite first base being open and Harang on-deck. Grabow did get through the 8th, but gave up a single to lefty Joey Votto and a rocket to lefty Jay Bruce that Lee made an outstanding leaping stab to rob a hit. A bit worrisome we have another Mike Remliger situation brewing.

Next Up: Tom Gorzelanny makes his 2010 debut against 2009 draftee Mike Leake making his major league debut.

Nearly 7 innings of great baseball from the pitching and defense, ruined in 4 batters. That was a debacle deep-fried in a disaster served with a chaser of Cubbery. 

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