David Patton

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.

With Carlos Zambrano expected to be reactivated from the 15-day DL tomorrow, the Cubs will need to make an acompanying roster move.

Here are the three most-likely moves:

In an embarrassing conclusion to the saturday night game against the Brewers, the Cubs bullpen literally and figuratively exploded.

In a highlight on TV for Mr. Brenly, he went out on the ledge and predicted the two run HR from Micah Hoffpauir in the 5th inning as the big first baseman strode up to the plate. Brenly had given a handsignal to Hoffpauir before the game indicating his swing was just a pinch off the night before and he expected a sweet spot power shot tonight. Hoffpauir's blast to right was on the first pitch, making that a magic moment in the booth and both Len and Bob were somewhat giddy. Len Kasper couldn't recall any such prognostication from his partner in their 5 years together. It brought a game that felt like the Cubs were behind by a million runs actually back to a 3-2 defecit and made me realize that Ryan Dempster was having quite a solid outing.

Brenly the Prognosticator? Ryan Dempster deftly lasted into the 7th
inning although on TV, Len and Bob thought he was done after 6 and
they expressed their surprise to see him out on the mound beginning the 7th
after over 100 pitches. After back to back HR's to Counsell and Braun,
Dempster was done at 121 pitches. Cotts and Patton made the really ugly 7th a six spot for the Brewers.

During the disgusting 7th and 8th innings, the walkmasters paraded their stuff including walk(s) from Cotts, Patton, Fox and Heilman. I was suffering along with Ron Santo who said on the radio: "anytime you have 7 walks you don't deserve to win." Six of the nine walks the Cubs pitchers gave up came from the bullpen.

In the top of the 8th, the Cubs brought it back to  9-6 defecit with a 4 spot including back to back doubles by Fukudome and Bradley but the bullpen was yet to complete pouring kerosene on the ballgame.

The bottom of the 8th started with Chad Fox on the mound who promptly walked Braun (on 7 pitches) then blew out his right elbow on a pitch that was five feet high and wide above the strike zone. As we all know Fox's elbow has had multiple reconstructions and after his last term with the Cubs in which his usage by Dusty Baker drew criticism, he didn't get another surgery...just a miracle feeling that he could pitch on scar and duct tape. Apologies to Mr. Baker, time didn't heal that wound. In a 24 hour period the Cubs have exposed both the proximal humerus and the distal humerus. Ouch.

Chad Fox is now on the DL and the Cubs have called up Jose Ascanio from AAA Iowa as the bullpen parade continues.

Injury Delay...photo of Chad Fox after icing his elbow postgame.

Aaron Heilman replaces Chad Fox

Heilman promptly wets his pants by walking Fielder (4 pitches), Hardy (4 pitches) and Hart (6 pitches), with Hart's for the second run of the inning. Nobody to the rescue (Mets fans must be laughing their asses off). The cliche coaching visit to the mound does no good and then Duffy singles for another run and Kendall hits a sac fly for the Brewer's12th run.

As Arizona Phil has explained, Chad Fox was brought to the majors so that the Cubs will have roster flexibility if they get to the post-season. The Boy Scouts 60 day DL mastery merit badge goes to Jim Hendry.

 

Like the Cub hitters who failed to come through in the clutch, the Cub bullpen left its fingerprints all over Thursday's loss to the Cardinals.

From the Cubs.com game story:

The bullpen...is not in sync. Aaron Heilman, who came on in relief
of starter Sean Marshall, served up Greene's homer on his third pitch.
Rookie David Patton (0-1) took the loss, giving up Yadier Molina's
tie-breaking RBI single in the seventh. Albert Pujols was intentionally
walked, but the other two Cardinals who were walked both scored.

"All we can do is preach," Piniella said. "That's all we can do is say what's good for the individual."

Heilman says there's only one thing they can do.

"Pitch better," Heilman said. "There's no other way to get
around it. There's no real magic formula that you can say, 'Do this,
this and this' and everything's going to click. Sometimes it takes
days, sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes it takes longer to figure
out. We have to keep going out there, be aggressive and keep pitching,
and things will fall into place."

Game by game, here is how the Cub bullpen has fared so far in 2009.

W - Ted Lilly (1-0)
L - Brian Moehler (0-1)

Box Score

In the spirit of Passover, we begin tonight's recap by asking, why is this night different from all other nights?

The answer:

Tonight the Cubs sent nine men to the plate in each of the first two innings, building a lead so large, it allowed Ted Lilly to throw his own personal game of Home Run Derby and still win his first game of the season.

Details after the jump.

Torii Hunter crushed a lead-off first-pitch home run to ignite a seven-run 4th inning, propelling the Angels to an 8-4 victory over the Cubs at Ho Ho Kam Park this afternoon in Mesa, as the Cubs set an all-time single-season Cactus League attendance record. (It probably helped that the 2009 Cactus League season was extended by a week and a few extra home games to accomodate the WBC).   

box score

Mark DeRosa drove in four runs with two long home runs and a sacrifice fly and scored another run after reaching base on a double, as the Cleveland Indians defeated the Cubs 7-5 before 13,097 fans at sunny and breezy Dwight Patterson Field at Ho Ho Kam Park in Mesa this afternoon.

box score

Prepping for the first game of 2nd Round WBC play in San Diego on Sunday, Team Japan edged the Chicago Cubs 3-2 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park on a cool & breezy Thursday afternoon in Mesa, AZ. 

box score

Brad Snyder smacked a grand slam home run and Bobby Scales batted twice and drove in three runs with two singles to highlight a nine-run 7th, as the Cubs shutout the White Sox 13-0 before an all-time record crowd of 13,010 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park this afternoon in hot & sunny Mesa, Arizona.  

box score

UPDATE: The Cubs lost three players in the 2008 Rule 5 Draft this morning, one in the Major League Phase and two in the AAA Phase.

1. Donald Veal, LHP - selected off AAA Iowa roster by Pittsburgh Pirates with 4th overall pick in Major League Phase.

2. Yusuf Carter, OF - selected off AA Tennessee roster by Oakland A's in AAA Phase.

3. Mark Holliman, RHP - selected off AA Tennessee roster by Milwaukee Brewers in AAA Phase  

The Cubs did not select any players, but they did acquire RHP David Patton from the Cincinnati Reds in a cash transaction after the conclusion of the draft. Patton was selected from the Colorado Rockies by the Reds with the 8th pick in the 1st round of the Major League Phase, and so the Cubs will assume the Rule 5 obligations (Patton must remain on Cubs 25-man roster for the entire 2009 season--or at least 90 days on the active roster if he spends time on the DL--before he can be optioned to the minors).

The 24-year old Patton is 6'3 175, and was selected by Colorado in the 12th round of the 2004 draft out of Green River CC in Washington. He struggled as a starter his first two years in pro ball before turning his career around after a move to the bullpen in 2006. He throws a hard breaking ball and has an above average fastball, and so he could project as an MLB reliever. The only problem is, he spent the last two years pitching in the California League (Hi-A), and has yet to throw even one inning of AA ball, although he did get into nine games with the Phoenix Desert Dogs of the AFL post-2008 (an atrocious 9.24 ERA and 2.13 WHIP in 12.2 IP).  

All three of the Cubs players selected in today's Rule 5 Draft were 2005 Rule 4 Draft picks (Veal in the 2nd round out of Pima CC, Holliman in the 3rd round out of Ol' Miss, and Carter in the 12th round out of El Paso CC), and this was the first Rule 5 Draft for each player.

Veal is still only 24, and was rated one of the Cubs top pitching prospects for most of his time with the Cubs, before falling out of favor in 2008. Veal has a plus-curve and a 93 MPH fastball, but he has struggled with his mechanics throughout his pro career and tends to hit his pitch limit before he can get through five innings. To help him throw fewer pitches-per-inning, the Cubs had him junk his curve in favor of a more-pedestrian slider in 2008, and that could have led to his downfall. I suspect the Pirates will have Veal try and get back to where he was before the Cubs started messing with him. I have projected Veal as a future MLB reliever for some time now (I would compare him to Arthur Rhodes), and I believe that is his best chance to have success at the MLB level. He is very effective against left-handed hitters, and pitching more often but without a pitch limit (as will be the case if he works out of the bullpen) should help him find more consistency with his posture, release point, and arm slot.    

The 25-year old Holliman was a "Friday Night Starter" (ace) at Ole Miss in his college days, and he had some success as a rotation starter the first half  of 2006 and 2007 with the Cubs at Daytona and Tennessee. But then he would hit a wall at about 110 IP and was unable to finish strong. With it becoming increasingly obvious that Holliman lacked the stamina to throw the 180 innings per season needed to remain in the starting rotation, he was moved into a middle-relief role at AA in 2008, and that appears to be his future.

Drafted out of JC ball as a catcher, 23-year old Yusuf Carter was moved to RF his second year with the Cubs. He has a plus-arm and plus-power, but he is also a very raw hitter (226/275/409 hitter in 298 career minor league games) who strikes out a lot and rarely walks. He would have had to win a job as the 4th outfielder at Tennessee in 2009 if he had remained with the Cubs. He is the nephew of retired MLB star outfielder (and ex-Cub) Joe Carter.

When a Rule 5-eligible player is placed on a AA reserve list in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft (as was the case with Holliman and Carter), it usually means the player's club sees the player as having a 50/50 chance of getting released in Spring Training, and so the club is happy to get $12,000 for the player. And since they were selected in the AAA Phase of the Rule 5 Draft, Carter and Holliman will not be offered back to the Cubs. They are gone.

Veal's situation is a different matter, however, as he has to remain on the Pirates 25-man roster for the entire 2009 season (or a minimum of 90 days if he spends time on the DL) before he can be optioned to the minors. So it is possible that the Cubs could get Veal back, if the Pirates decide they can't afford to keep him in the big leagues for an entire season and if the other MLB clubs aren't interested in assuming the Rule 5 requirements. 

 -- AZ PHIL  

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