Iowa Cubs update

retreadsThings are really humming down at the old retread factory!


Todd Wellemeyer returned to the scene of former mediocrity and made one more lackluster start here for old times’ sake on May 5. The next day he reported that he was right on schedule as he rehabbed a sore hip en route back to the big leagues but that was apparently a smoke screen. The day after that he decided to call it a career. Today his spot on the ever fluid roster was taken by Doug Davis who is old enough to run for president should he too decide to shift gears after he makes his I-Cub debut when the team hits the road tomorrow night at Colorado Springs. Good luck in the rarified air of the PCL, Doug. If things don’t go well remember that Iowa’s precinct caucuses are mere months away and there is no clear frontrunner yet among righties. Without knowing much about where you stand when not on the mound, I’m not sure how well a southpaw might do here right now.  


Homestand #2 wound up this afternoon with Ramon Ortiz getting cuffed up to the tune of 13 hits in six IP - so much for what I said last week about his serviceability.


Also, in case you missed it but do care, as I did and do, Max Ramirez was released last week.


It’s starting to look like there’s a detour on I-80 between Iowa and Chicago that routes through Tennessee. Des Moines is about 150 miles closer as the crow drives, but I’m not sure you can get there from here if you’re a ballplayer in the Cubs’ organization this year.


Random bits: 1] Keith Moreland’s honeymoon is over. If he has a spare personality back home in Texas I suggest he have it shipped it to him ASAP. 2] Project ≤ three million update = 32K on Mother’s Day vs. a division rival? Plenty of tickets still available for upcoming Cardinal series? I’m taking the under…


 

According to the Cubs' media guide, Todd Wellemeyer was the NL Pitcher-of-the-Month in May of 2008 for the St. Louis Cardinals. This afternoon in Des Moines he wasn't up to being the Iowa Cubs' pitcher-of-the-day as he labored through three & two thirds innings of a reclamation project that may or may not wind up with him back in the big leagues.


Wellemeyer offered about six dozen pitches, about half of them strikes. A greater portion than that looked and clocked like breaking balls despite that his spotted fastball was ringing up in the low 90's. Maybe those were what he was determined to work on. He gave up eight hits and four runs while both walking and fanning a couple. Both walks came in the fourth when his body language appeared to go from indifferent to frustrated or tired.


Not having paid much attention to him since he left the Cub organization, I'd forgotten how raw-boned Wellemeyer looks. He's listed at 6'2" and 215, but he looks bigger than that; very wide across the shoulders. His windup is full and lengthy with lots of moving parts. I leave it to the anatomists to decide if that makes rehab of a hip injury more complicated. Welington Castillo caught him today, my first chance to see him behind the plate since he joined the club, and he had no chance to throw out either of the base thieves who ran on him. It's fair to say that Wellemeyer is not here to work on holding runners close. By the way, I looked around to see if Jim Hendry was on hand to scout Wellemeyer but did not see him.


Wellemeyer told the local paper last night that he's been measured for the World Series ring he's owed for his contribution to last year's San Francisco Giants. He's just waiting for it to catch up to him for presentation. Based on what I saw today, if I were him I wouldn't have it shipped to Chicago.


Ramon Ortiz, on the other hand, has been looking serviceable. Not Gorzellanyesque, mind you, but serviceable.

It is a cold, miserable day in Des Moines. The steady rain may change to snow by the time the Iowa Cubs are scheduled to open their home season at 7:05 tonight versus the Memphis Redbirds, the team that caught them at the tape last Labor Day and squeezed past into the PCL playoffs. Ironically, that change in the form of precipitation might increase the chances of the game being played. Just in case the game tonight gets called I had a couple of hot dogs for lunch.


The I-Cubs beat the Isotopes on getaway day yesterday in Albuquerque, 10-6, behind five RBI from holdover Bobby Scales to split their season-opening road swing through Texas and New Mexico at 4-4. At the plate Tony Campana, Lou Montanez and Scales are off to hot starts. Fernando Perez has drawn eight walks and swiped three bases and Bryan LaHair has already knocked in nine runs. There hasn't yet been much pitching to which any of those responsible would sign their names. Chris Carpenter has fanned eight and walked but two so far in five innings spread over three appearances.


Here's alink to a new feature at the I-Cub website this year that's a nice one-stop daily clearinghouse for media reports: http://iowa.cubs.milb.com/news/page.jsp?ymd=20110317&content_id=16994120&vkey=news_t451&fext=.jsp&sid=t451


No doubt there are better days ahead weather-wise and this club deserves some breaks in that department. Last year the team was 4th out of 16 in the PCL in attendance despite that Des Moines is 14th in the league in population.


Weather relenting, J.R. Mathes starts for Iowa tonight. It feels like he's been here as long as Wakefield's been in Boston, maybe longer if you asked him.

logoThe season hasn’t even started and the door is already revolving.


The weather today in Des Moines is passable but the Iowa Cubs are opening the 2011 season on the road at Round Rock, TX. Thomas Diamond is supposed to oppose Express southpaw Michael Kirkman, the #6 prospect in the Ranger system who takes the mound tonight with these creds: 2010 PCL Pitcher of the Year [13-3 with a 3.09 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 131 innings for Oklahoma City]. He also won two PCL Pitcher of the Week awards and led the PCL with an .813 winning percentage. Kirkman made his Major League debut on Aug. 24, 2010, against the Baltimore Orioles, striking out the first three hitters he faced and was named the 2010 Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year.


Jim Hendry says that he is in no rush to settle on and name Lou Piniella’s successor as the Cubs’ manager. Really? Then why travel all the way to Albuquerque to have lunch with Ryne Sandberg as Hendry did last week? Just to break the news gently that Ryno wouldn’t be called up to Chicago to peer over Mike Quade’s shoulder once Iowa’s season ended? I have a feeling that Sandberg believes, whether he’s been told so or not, that his laidbackness as a player has been a perceived weakness while he’s earned his managerial chops, so he’s sought to demonstrate that he can be fiery on an as needed basis. One of the things he may have been working on during his apprenticeship is the art of the timely ejection. As for Quade’s self-serving auditional mystery tour in Chicago, I’d be more inclined to give him points for a grandstand benching of Alfonso Soriano than the recently ballyhooed one of young Mr. Castro…

The newly named Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year, Iowa's Ryne Sandberg, must be assembling his lineups at this point like Mr. Phelps uesd to put together his teams on Mission Impossible. The Phelps character would listen to the tape describing his task, should he choose to accept it, and toss 8x10 glossies on the table of the available personnel best suited to accomplish it.

Last night Sandberg was without Sam Fuld due to an injured foot in addition to all the horsepower already summoned to Chicago. His starting pitcher was Chris Carpenter, a touted prospect yet to throw well since his promotion to Triple A. The opponent was the Memphis Redbirds who arrived in town deadlocked with Sandberg's club for the top spot in the PCL American North. This weekend's games are the last four of the regular season.

Iowa scrounged a gutsy 4-2 win to nudge a game in front with three to play.

This topic doesn't really merit a full post, but the site won't allow me to reply directly to inquiries aimed my way about Marquez Smith so I took another route in.

He said he would meet the press on Wednesday afternoon but word was he jetted back to Chicago instead. Then the plan was to talk with media types after a pitching cameo Thursday night. He pitched a little but didn't talk at all, using the Iowa Cubs media relations people the way bigshot execs use secretaries to dodge phone calls. The enabling continues.

To his credit, Carlos Zambrano took it upon himself to scribble a few marks of Zorro for unaccountably adoring fans before last night's game in Des Moines. The biggest crowd of the year, nearly 13,000, had assembled, but Zambrano wasn't the only attraction. It also happened to be Casey Blake bobblehead night and Casey Blake is big in these parts. He hails from Indianola, a village not too far south of town.

Deep Threat beat Rich Harden Friday night, a guy he relieved effectively a few times in late 2008 when both were better pitchers than either of them has been in 2010...Brad Snyder mashed TWO three-run homers last night as the I-Cubs won again to preserve their one-game lead in a division where all four teams are separated by a mere one and a half games. If the Iowa record could be promoted to Chicago the Cubs would find themselves a scant half game behind the Reds...let's see, there was one other thing - oh yeah, Zambozo's coming to town on Tuesday and Wednesday on a rehab assignment before assuming his new duties as the Cubs' anger manager. I suppose it's too much to ask that the tranquilizer darts wear off while he's back in town for the first time since playing here on his way up as an allegedly teenaged man-child, but I'll try to drop in just in case.

Maybe Jim Hendry just came to Des Moines to escape the heat of the Chicago media. Maybe he dropped in to chat behind closed doors with the trim and ambitious Ryne Sandberg, though if/when Chicago comes calling Ryno back, the call probably won't come in the person of Hendry. In any case, big Jim's reason for being here almost certainly isn't to get a closer look at Sam Fuld, the scrappy leadoff hitter and center fielder. Hendry's mind is made up about Fuld, I imagine, which is tough luck for Sam.

He'd run into, if not through, a brick wall for the chance to stick in the big leagues. The problem is he's about the same height as Hack Wilson [listed at 5' 10" which means Eddie Gaedel wasn't a dwarf after all] without the pipes and the power.

Two nights ago he ended consecutive innings by throwing a tagging runner out at the plate and making a circus catch. Both times he trotted in to standing ovations.

Last night he went 4-4. Did you see that, Jim?

Plus he's smart. The guy holds an economics degree from Stanford. Maybe he could help the front office out with some payroll reduction strategies and cost-benefit analyses.

I want there to be a spot for players like Fuld. He plays at full tilt, like a winner. He's Fukudome without the bloated contract and personal hitting coach in many respects, except that he would have been hustling on the bobbled grounder that Kosuke trotted out yesterday.

Any team can use what Fuld supplies. Especially the one that flew over Des Moines on its way from Seattle to Chicago last night.

Saturday night I watched 14 innings of baseball at Principal Park, the same number it took the Iowa Cubs to sweep a doubleheader earlier in the week.The I-Cubs were down to their third-string first base coach by the time this one ended on a walk-off play at the plate with lightning crackling in the distance. Until then the highlight was my leaping grab of a hot dog burped up by the bazooka that scoots around the perimeter of the field on a golf cart between innings. I say burped because we were seated in the front row between the visiting dugout and the visiting bullpen. Maybe bunted would be a better verb.

The game broke from the box quickly before settling into a pitching duel. Sam Fuld played a first-inning single into a triple going for another highlight reel catch. Then in the bottom of the first he was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single. He plays like a kid and I enjoy watching him. The second out of that frame was a tag play at the plate after Ryne Sandberg appeared to change his mind from stop to go in the third base coaching box. Albuquerque seemed on their way to a 27- hit shutout.

The Iowa Cubs swept the Round Rock Express last night behind the strong starting pitching of Casey Coleman in the opener and Jeff Samardzija in the nightcap.

Coleman retired the last 21 men he faced after the first two got hits in going the route [PCL doubleheader games last only seven innings].

Samardzija ran his record to 5-0 with five scoreless innings in game two. It was his second straight start after pitching out of the I-Cub bullpen since his demotion from Chicago in April. His return to the rotation was brought about by the brief promotion of Mitch Atkins who's now been returned to Iowa in exchange for John Grabow.

My wife and I went to the I-Cub game tonight with friends. Free general admission for a donation to an organization that provides those in need with the "basic essentials." We got in for a can of shaving cream, a couple bars of soap, a toothbrush and a disposable razor.


It was a beautiful night with a breeze whipping out of the south @ 20-25 mph. A misty spray from the grounds crew hosing down the infield carried all the way to our seats behind the Iowa bullpen down the third baseline. My buddy and I agreed that a slugfest was in store.


The  I-Cubs are off today and on their way home to begin a binge of games in Des Moines over the next six weeks after a junket to Nevada where they cleaned up by going 7-1 in Las Vegas and Reno. Seems like a good time to check up on them.

What happens in Vegas is supposed to stay there but it’s no secret what Andrew Cashner’s been up to so what the hell… Last night the ladder-climbing right-hander pitched the Iowa Cubs to a 6-1 victory in his first start at the Triple A level, working six innings of one-run ball while surrendering five hits [four singles and a double] and a walk to go with six strikeouts [four of them swinging]. Cashner threw 89 pitches and most impressively retired the last seven hitters he faced after giving up his only run to tie the game at one in the bottom of the fourth. He left runners at second and third in that frame and then breezed through his last two innings. The win was Iowa’s third straight and the second consecutive that included a three run homer by the awakening Micah Hoffpauir. Sam Fuld and Darwin Barney have gotten hot at the top of the order and boosted their BA’s over .300. Chad Tracy went hitless last night after getting six hits in his first two games with the I-Cubs, but still drew a pair of walks and scored twice.


So what happens with Cashner? Starting pitching hasn’t exactly been the problem in Chicago. Does he settle in for a summer in Des Moines or will they start shuttling him between there and Chicago and the rotation and the bullpen a la the deep threat, among so many others?


The organization appears to be in transition in more ways than who signs the checks. Will a deadline trade of Lilly, for instance, open a spot in the rotation for Cashner. Are head games being played with Not Quite So Big Z to get him to not only waive his no-trade, but in fact demand a trade?

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