Iowa Cubs update

 

Baseball here, baseball there; baseball, baseball everywhere…

Friday night I got home from work as quick as I’m able, changed outfits and headed to the ballpark, arriving in the second inning of game one as the I-Cubs dug into the first of four games with the Nashville Sounds in barely 24 hours.

Glad tidings from breezy Principal Park where the I-Cubs climbed all over the Tacoma Rainiers and snapped a four-game skid with an 18-8 slapstick win this afternoon. Anthony (Ratso) Rizzo (who else?) paced Iowa with a record-tying performance in support of Chris Volstad's first outing for the team.

Waiting for the game to begin tonight I noticed that the pitchers would be throwing into a stiff breeze. A couple young scouts, I thought, sat down a couple rows in front of me to chart the game, one of them armed with a jugs gun. I sauntered down to ask them how the scoreboard speedometer compared to their readings since the last time I checked it was thought to generally register a couple mph slower than actual velocity. No, the gunslinger told me, the scoreboard readings run pretty true. In fact, he said, he doesn't really use the gun when he's charting; he just goes by the scoreboard numbers. Only then did I realize the "scout" was Randy Wells.

Dear Randy -

You could do a lot worse.

I bet you didn't know that Forbes Magazine ranked Des Moines the #1 city in America for young professionals. And you gotta be the only one around here pulling down $2.7M per annum. You should get out more and explore. That's probably advice you're not used to getting but since you may be here for a while...

There was a big, bad moon rising tonight over Principal Park about the time New Orleans' Luke Montz boomed a Randy Wells s(t)inker through the teeth of the brisk zephyr blowing in off the Des Moines River to break a 1-1 tie and launch the visitors to a 7-3 series-evening win.

Denied the walk-off RBI by his once-burned, twice-shy skipper, Anthony Rizzo instead scampered across with the game's only tally in the bottom of the 9th tonight at Principal Park to give the I-Cubs a 1-0 win over New Orleans.

Slowly, the infiltration has begun.

Marlon Byrd’s banishment from the nest cleared the way for Tony Campana’s
temporary custody of the roster spot reserved for Brett Jackson. If Soriano’s
reinvention as a singles hitter who doesn’t even manage many of those goes on,
how long might it be until LaHair takes his team-leading [no, it’s not saying
much] slugging totals to the outfield and defers to Raker Rizzo, the scourge of
PCL pitchers, at first base? We shall see.

In the meantime, today at Principal Park the Cubs-in waiting
wrapped up a four-game set with their Cardinal counterparts from Memphis, dropping a 4-0 yawner in front of a sun splashed crowd that couldn't have cared less. On
the mound for the Redbirds was their prized pitching prospect, Shelby Miller.
Miller’s stumbled a bit out of the PCL gate so far but remains highly touted [#8 prospect in baseball per BA last time I looked] and eagerly awaited in St. Lou as shadows lengthen on the careers of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.

Round Rock hasn't had any trouble getting into the jet stream above Principal Park. The Express have belted four homers in two games including a back-to-back pair Friday night off of Casey Coleman that were the difference in the 4-3 contest. But the home team remains homerless, having split the first half of a four-game set to open the season.

Tuesday night I endured a local school board meeting. It comes with the territory of my day job. I sat glassy-eyed in the gallery, my mind drifting ahead 48 hours at which point I would be sitting in the stands on Opening Night at Principal Park, cracking open peanut shells instead of stifling yawns.

looney logoThe weather on closing day was as perfect as it had been inclement on Opening Night. A full house was still trickling in at a leisurely holiday pace into the third inning. Enough came to nudge the season turnstile meter past the half million mark for the seventh time in the last eight seasons despite a last-place team that lost more games than it won for the first time since 2005 [for the record, the home slate was well above sea level at 40-31] and the loss of three dates, most recently on the Saturday night of a holiday weekend on the final home stand. Oddly, the franchise ended up setting an attendance record for a three-game series over the weekend, thanks in part to a rainout that nobody wished for.

The first hint that it was not a normal night at Principal Park came when the national anthem was whistled.

headshot


The street that runs behind the right-center field wall of Principal Park in Des Moines is no Sheffield Avenue. Ballhawks do not roost there nor are there rooftops from which knotholers eavesdrop on the ballgames. Beyond it runs the Des Moines River which has been known occasionally to swell up and invade the playing field.

team logoAnd we thought his range was limited! Sayonara, Bobby, and thanks for the memories.

Before yesterday the last time I saw Randy Wells start a big league game he failed to retire a batter, though he may have broken a sweat. By that low standard his outing versus the earnest young Royals of Kansas City was, I suppose, an improvement. After the first five hitters he faced hit safely and the sixth was walked, Wells' remarkable streak of futility with yours truly in attendance had reached the depth of a dozen consecutive batsmen. Might he again retire having retired no one? No, he persisted and slogged into the 7th, though it turned out that the game was already lost by the time he got around to recording an out. The sorry Wells appears more beleaguered than big leaguer these days, and so, for that matter does the team he works for.

If there were highlights from yesterday's daytrip to KC for any Cub fans in attendance, and there were thousands of us, they were these:

*Of the three balls I saw the visitors swat into the seats while watching more than a half hour of batting practice, two were swatted by Marlon Byrd. I'll check him out against live, professional pitching tomorrow afternoon here in Des Moines.

*Reed Johnson, despite three strikeouts at the plate, also banged a double off the wall in the middle of what passed for a Cub rally and also made a pair of sparkling grabs in center field, one of them a do or die diver. He always seems to make a contribution when in the lineup.

*Geo Soto was all over the game; homering, doubling, plate-blocking, down-gunning. It would be nice if he made one or more of those occasional features a habit!

*Chris Carpenter posted triple digits several times on the scoreboard speedometer. Unfortunately, his stuff looks more imposing there, to the fans, than it apparently yet does to big league hitters. He may become a serviceable piece down the road.

Randomly, I saw LaHair and Castillo go back-to-back Friday night in Des Moines and they did it again yesterday while I was on the road. LaHair is now leading the PCL in homers and hitting .350+. Ho-hum...

Welington Castillo was penciled in at DH today for the I-Cubs but he got his catching in before the game by lunging about to stop all the ceremonial first pitches from pint-sized birthday boys and lame-armed luminaries. The only one that got past him was flung by a mascot creature from some non-profit.org.

From atop the left-field wall beckoned the giant glove that homers sometimes land in, wiggling against its moorings in the breeze that slightly relieved the generally welcome heat of summer. The thing's almost as big as the one sported by Tony Campana.

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