AZ Instructional League

Victor Caratini blasted a two-run home run, doubled, singled twice, walked, and scored four runs, Jordan Hankins knocked-in four runs with three run-scoring singles, Kevonte Mitchell singled twice and doubled, scored twice, and drove-in a run, Chesny Young laced a bases-loaded three-run triple and a single, and Johan Matos belted a solo home run and singled, in an AZ Instructional League Cubs intrasquad game played this morning at Riverview Park in Mesa, AZ.

The game was played at "Cubs Park" (home to the AZL Cubs and the Mesa Solar Sox of the AFL, and the Chicago Cubs during Spring Training in March).

Collecting 17 hits (including three doubles, a triple, and a home run), Team Gonzalez evened-up the "Cubs World Series" at two games a piece with a 15-5 drubbing of Team Johnson. 

Eloy Jimenez left the game after being hit on the left arm by an Erick Leal fastball. 

Several of the Cubs young sluggers competed in the annual Cubs Instructs Home Run Derby on Field #2 prior to the game, and Billy McKinney edged out Scott Frazier to take home the title. 

Frazier is a pitcher, but the 6'7 fireballer was a two-way player (pitcher/outfielder) in HS, and he showed that he still knows how to swing the lumber, clubbing several prodigious shots onto the street beyond the LF fence ("Cubs Way') during the course of the contest. He then threw a 1-2-3 7th inning in the game that followed. 

Here is the box score from today's game:

Mark Zagunis singled twice, doubled, walked, stole a base, drove-in his team's lone run, and threw out a runner at the plate, in an AZ Instructional League Cubs intrasquad game played this morning on Field #4 at the Under Armour Performance Center at Riverview Park in Mesa, AZ.

Although they were outhit, Team Gonzalez took advantage of three errors, six walks, an HBP, and a PB, to edge Team Johnson 2-1 in Game 3 of the "Cubs World Series." Team Johnson now leads the series, two games to one.

Here is the box score from the game:

Kyle Schwarber ripped a double and an RBI single and scored a run, Charlie White belted an RBI triple and a single and scored a run, and Mark Zagunis singled twice, scored a run, drove-in another, and stole a base, in a seven-inning AZ Instructional League Cubs intrasquad game played this morning on Field #1 at the Under Armour Performance Center at Riverview Park in Mesa, AZ.

Trevor Clifton and three relievers combined to toss a three-hit shut out, as Team Johnson blanked Team Gonzalez 7-0 to take a 2-0 lead in the "Cubs World Series." 

For some reason, Cubs coaches wanted Scott Frazier to face only LH hitters in his one inning of work, so the lineup was adjusted to accomodate the plan. Frazier has what some in the Cub organization believe to be the best pure stuff in the system, but the big right-hander from Pepperdine has struggled to throw strikes going all the way back to Minor League Camp in March. The Cubs have tried almost everything to try and fix the problem, with facing only LH hitters being the latest attempt.    

Here is the box score from today's game:

Kyle Schwarber singled, doubled, and scored a run, Mark Zagunis ripped an RBI double and scored and drove-in another run with a sacrifice fly, and Charcer Burks singled twice and walked, in a seven-inning AZ Instructional League Cubs intrasquad game played this morning on Field #1 at the Under Armour Performance Center at Riverview Park in Mesa, AZ.  

The contest was game one in a five game intrasquad "Cubs World Series" to be played at Riverview Park this week, between the "Northside Rooftops" and the "Wrigley Field Ivy," each team chosen by draft by the two managers (Jimmy Gonzalez and Mark Johnson). Team Johnson won today's game by a score of 3-1.

Gioskar Amaya got the start at catcher for Team Gonzalez, and handled himself well behind the plate for the four innings he spent there. (Amaya is in the Catcher Conversion Program at Instructs). He then moved to 3rd base for the final three innings and made the defensive play of the game, a run-saving stop & throw to end the top of the 5th. Amaya had a fine day offensively, too, with a line-drive double into the LF corner, a walk, and a stolen base.   

Kevin Encarnacion played RF for Team Johnson, his first game action since suffering a near career-ending shoulder injury and 3rd degree burns in a car crash in the Dominican Republic last December. He (understandably) looked rusty both in the field and at the plate, committing an error on a ground single to right (he bobbled the ball, allowing a baserunner to advance from 2nd to 3rd), and he went 0-3 at the plate with two strikeouts (both swinging) and a weak infield pop out. Probably because of the injuries he sustained in the car crash, Encarnacion is now hitting only left-handed (he previously had been a switch-hitter). In his one AB batting LH against a LH pitcher (Jordan Minch), Encarnacion struck out on three pitches. 

The Cubs are not playing games against other MLB organizations at Instructs this year, instead opting to spend more time on morning field instruction & afternoon classroom training. Players attending Instructs are also spending some of their off hours researching the history of the Cubs, and presenting the information they learn to the the other players. 

Most of the Cub brass are in attendance at Instructs this week, including Team President Theo Epstein, Executive VP & GM Jed Hoyer, and Senior VP & Scoutng/Player Development Director Jason McLeod.

Here is the box score from today's game:

Danny Lockhart drilled three hits (two singles and a double) and drove-in a run, Mark Zagunis doubled and tripled and scored a run, and Jeimer Candelario and Wladimir Galindo clubbed solo home runs, in a 5-1/2 inning AZ Instructional League intrasquad "sim" game played this afternoon on Field #5 at the Under Armour Performance Center at Riverview Park in Mesa, AZ.

The Arizona Instructional League (AZIL) is well under way, with all 15 MLB clubs that have Spring Training in Arizona plus two Korean (KBO) clubs (SK Wyverns and NC Dinos) fielding squads. 

Each MLB organization operates its AZIL squad as it sees fit. Some organizations (like SD and MIL) start their season early and end early, others (like KC and SF) start their season later and end later, while others (like the Colorado Rockies) have a very short AZIL season (just two weeks). Some clubs play 18-20 "league games" (just about every day), while others play only five or six league games with one or sometimes two Camp Days (instruction only or maybe morning instruction followed by a controlled "sim" game in the afternoon) on the days in between to work on issues or problems noted in the AZIL games.
   
The Cubs are taking a unique approach this year, cutting its  AZIL "season" back to three weeks (9/22 through 10/12) and starting later in September than most of the other AZIL clubs. Also, the Cubs have not scheduled any games against other MLB organizations or against the two KBO teams (first time I've ever seen that), opting instead to have Camp Days (Instruction only) for three hours every morning (sometimes followed by a "sim" game) over the first two weeks, and then a "Cubs World Series" (best 4 out of 7 mega-intrasquad match) the last week.

There are (or will be by next week) 74 Cubs minor leaguers (including 40 pitchers) at the Under Armour Performance Center at Riverview Park in Mesa (which is about 20 more players than had been the norm for Cubs "instructs" rosters in previous seasons). The ten Kane County players who are participating will report a week late because their season ran a bit long (they won the Midwest League Championship on September 13th), and the eight Cubs players who have been assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox (Arizona Fall League) will participate only during the first two weeks (AFL Opening Day is on Tuesday October 7th), and then only as preparation for the AFL season. 

Six Latin players (three from the DSL Cubs and three from the VSL Cubs) are making their U. S. debut at "instructs," another (SS Frandy de la Rosa) is returning to the U. S. after spending the 2014 season with the DSL Cubs, and still another (RHP Jose Zapata) is active and will be making his U. S. "field debut" after spending the 2014 season on the AZL Cubs 60-day DL after suffering multiple injuries in an off-season car crash in the Dominican Republic last December. Also, OF Kevin Encarnacion (who suffered third-degree burns and a shoulder injury in the same car crash) is finally back on the field and is fully participating in all baseball-related activities.


2014 CUBS ARIZONA INSTRUCTIONAL LEAGUE ROSTER
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Here are the final statistics from the Cubs 2013 AZ Instructional League (AZIL) season.


Jacob Hannemann and Kelvin Freeman belted RBI doubles and Arodys Vizcaino and five relievers combined to toss a two-hitter with 13 strikeouts while retiring the last 16 batters in a row, as the Cubs edged the Giants 2-1 in Arizona Instructional League action this morning at Indian School Park Field #1 in Scottsdale.

Yairo Munoz blasted a two-run home run, D'Arby Myers, Justin Higley, and Jesus Lopez clubbed RBI doubles, and Josh Miller and B. J. Boyd drilled RBI singles, leading the Athletics to a 6-2 victory over the Cubs in Arizona Instructional League action this morning at the Papago Park Baseball Facility Field #2 (AKA "Connie Mack Field") in Phoenix.  

Yasiel Balaguert belted a two-run double and a single for the Cubs.

The Cubs rallied for three runs in the 8th, and played the SK Wyverns (KBO) to a 3-3 tie in Arizona Instructional League action this morning at Dust Storm Field at Salt River Fields at Talkng Stick Resort east of Scottsdale.

Trey Martin laced three doubles (one line-drive into the LF corner, one line-drive off the left-field fence, and one line drive into the left-center alley), walked, drove-in two runs, and scored another, Jesse Hodges singled twice, doubled, collected two RBI, and scored twice, and Michael Wagner threw three innings of one-hit shutout ball, as the Cubs outlasted the Angels 10-8 in AZ Instructional League action this morning at Fitch Park Field #4 in Mesa. 

Four pitchers combined to toss a four-hit shutout, as the Cubs blanked the Dodgers 2-0 in AZ Instructional League action this aftenoon at Fitch Park Field #4 in Mesa.

Both Daury Torrez and Jose Rosario threw three innings of shutout ball with four strikeouts, but Rosario was especially effective, retiring nine of the ten men he faced (allowing no hits and one walk as he recorded the rare three-inning save).  

Tyler Alamo blasted a two-run home run over the LF fence and onto the roof of a house on the north side of 8th Street to give the Cubs an early 2-0 lead, and Kelvin Freeman, Shawon Dunston Jr, Jacob Hannemann, Jeimer Candelario, Yasiel Balaguert, and Jordan Hankins drilled six consecutive two-out hits to highlight a five-run 6th, as the Cubs hammered out 17 hits and drubbed the Angels 10-3 in Arizona Instructional League action this morning at Fitch Park Field #4 in Mesa.


Nataniel Delgado stroked a two-run single to tie the score and Andrew Ray laced a two-run double to give the Angels the lead, as the Angels rallied to defeat the Cubs 4-2 in Arizona Instructional League action this afternoon at Diablo Park Field #7 in Tempe. 

RF Jeffrey Baez walked twice, singled, stole two bases, scored a run, and threw out two baserunners, and RHP David Garner tossed 3-2/3 innings of one-hit shutout ball for the Cubs.

Sergio Alcantara belted a two-run triple, Daniel Palka ripped an RBI triple, and Jose Munoz laced an RBI double to highlight a five-run 8th, Chuck Taylor doubled, singled twice, stole a base, and scored three runs, and Brad Keller and four relievers combined to throw a three-hit shutout, as the Diamondbacks blanked the Cubs 7-0 in Arizona Instructional League action this morning at Ramada Field at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Resort east of Scottsdale.  

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