Tim Saunders

Eloy, Marcano, and Sands Offer the Snake-Bite Cure at Talking Stick

Eloy Jimenez reached base four times (two doubles, a single, and a walk) in four Plate Appearances and drove-in a run, Ricardo Marcano belted a triple and a two-run double and scored a run, and LHP Carson Sands hurled four innings of shutout ball, as the Cubs defeated the Diamondbacks 5-3 on Jackrabbit Field, and Raymel Flores drilled two triples and scored two runs, Sergio Alcantara ripped a two-run inside-the-park HR, and Wei-Chieh Huang and five relievers combined to retire 25 of the first 27 men they faced, leading the D'backs to an 8-2 victory over the Cubs on Whirlwind Field, in Cactus League Extended Spring Training split-squad doubleheader action this morning at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Resort east of Scottsdale, AZ. 

Jose Paniagua singled twice, doubled, and scored a run for the Cubs in a losing cause on Whirlwind Field. 

Recently signed free-agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia went 1-3 with a single and a walk and a run scored in four PA and RHRP Matt Stites (on AZ MLB 15-day DL with right elbow inflammation) threw a shutout inning (one hit allowed, one strikeout) for the Diamondbacks squad on Whirlwind Field.  . 

In EXST Cubs roster news, INF Tommy LaStella (on Cubs 15-day DL - rib cage inflammation) has completed the Extended Spring Training portion of his rehab and has moved up to AA Tennessee, where he will begin his Article XIX-C Minor League Rehab Assignment. In just two Cactus League EXST games (10 PA), LaStella had seven hits (including four doubles and a HR) and a sacrifice fly, and six RBI. 

Also, INF Andrew Ely (Cubs 2014 32nd round draft pick - U. of Washington) has been moved-up to Lo-A South Bend, and INF Tim Saunders (Cubs 2012 32nd round draft pick - Marietta College) has been released.  

The 22 year old Ely began the season on the Hi-A Myrtle Beach roster, but he did not play for the Pelicans and was assigned to Extended Spring Training last month. In six Cactus League EXST games (21 PA), Ely hit 312/476/375, with a double, four walks, an HBP, two strikeouts, a stolen base, a run scored, and an RBI. He played both 2B and 3B while he was in Arizona. 

The left-handed hitting Ely had a fine debut professional season in 2014, hitting 298/348/479 with five HR & 16 RBI in 34 games combined between AZL Cubs and AAA Iowa. 

The speedy Saunders (48 SB in 148 career minor league games) was a two-time NCAA Division 3 All American in college and the 2012 NCAA D-3 Player of the Year, but yet he seemingly came out of nowhere to hit 381/431/536 between AZL Cubs, Peoria, and Daytona (combined 49 games - 218 PA) after being drafted in 2012. But then he suffered an elbow injury at Daytona in 2013 that required a UCL transplant (Tommy John surgery), and he was unable to regain the 2012 mojo once he returned to action.   

The 24-year old Saunders retired last June, but decided to try it again this season. He reported to Minor League Camp in March, but was left behind at Extended Spring Training. He still shows plus-speed on the bases and versatility and range in the field, and he still has a good eye at the plate, but he hit only 154/313/231 in eleven Cactus League EXST games (32 PA), with four walks and two HBP, six strikeouts, three stolen bases (one CS), five runs scored, and two RBI. He played 2B, 3B, and SS in Cactus League EXST games and intrasquad games while he was at EXST, and he has also played the outfield earlier in his career. He should be able to find a spot with an indepenedent league team if he wants to continue playing. 

It wasn't a Cactus League Extended Spring Training game, but the Cubs did play an EXST intrasquad game on Field #6 at Riverview Park yesterday afternoon.

Veteran MLB RHP Felipe Paulino was one of the starting pitchers in the intrasquad game, and he worked 3.1 IP and got his pitch count up to 63, so he may ready to join AAA Iowa sooner rather than later. He did allow three runs on four hits (two singles, a triple and a solo HR) and two walks, but he also struck out six (all six swinging). His fastball was consistently 94-95 MPH, and touched 96 at least once, so apparently there is nothing wrong with his arm (Paulino missed most of the 2014 season with a sore shoulder, and he had TJS in 2012).  

Tyler Alamo slugged a solo home run (that was the one HR allowed by F. Paulino), Yohan Matos, Carlos Jimenez, and Jose Paniagua belted triples, and LHP Jose Paulino tossed four innings of one-hit ball with six strikeouts (and a 6/0 GO/FO) in the intrasquad game. (J. Paulino is a virtual-lock to join Carson Sands, Justin Steele, and Austyn Willis in the Eugene starting rotation, when the Northwest League begins play next month). 

RHP Dillon Maples had another poor outing. Working in relief of J. Paulino in the intrasquad game, Maples allowed five runs on five hits (including two triples and a double) and two walks in just one inning of work.This is the fourth consecutive Extended Spring Training for the now 23-year old Maples (he was drafted out of a North Carolina HS in 2011, but did not sign until August of that year), and while he still throws a 94 MPH heater and a hammer curve, he has a lot of difficulty commanding his pitches. He also sometimes will lose confidence in his fastball if he's not getting good results with it, and when that happens he tends to lose focus. 

Here are the abridged box scores from today's two Cubs Cactus League EXST games (Cubs players only), followed by the abridged box score from yesterday's intrasquad game at Riverview Park: 

Gloomy Skies Produce Sunny Result for Cubs at Riverview Park

LHP Jose Paulino tossed three innings of no-run/no-hit ball, Ho-Young Son belted an RBI triple, an RBI double, and a single, Tim Saunders reached base three times (a walk, an RBI single, and a triple) and scored two runs, Ricardo Marcano hammered a solo home run and an RBI single and scored twice, and Andrew Ely stroked an RBI double and a single, stole a base, and scored a run, leading the Cubs to a 6-3 victory over the Angels in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning on Field #6 at Mesa CubTown at Riverview Park.

In EXST Cubs roster news, Jordan Hankins has completed the Catcher Conversion Program course at the Under Armour Performance Center at Riverview Park and has been assigned to Hi-A Myrtle Beach. Hankins takes the place of C-1B Alberto Mineo, who moves down to Extended Spring Training from Myrtle Beach.

The left-handed swinging Hankins was drafted by the Cubs as an infielder in the 11th round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft (MLB Rule 4 Draft) out of Austin Peay University, and after playing 3B-2B with the AZL Cubs and Boise his first year of pro ball, he received initial catcher training at Instructs post-2013, and then again at Minor League Camp in 2014. But he was moved back to 3B once the 2014 minor league regular season started, and was good enough to be selected to the Midwest League All-Star game as a third-baseman while assigned to Kane County (he hit 322/361/461 in 50 MWL games). That earned Hankins a June promotion to Daytona (he and a struggling Jeimer Candelario changed places), but he was unable to find the same success at Daytona that he had found at KC (218/323/318 in 33 games at Daytona). He got a second opportunity to try catching at Instructs last fall, continuing the process into this season, first at Minor League Camp, and then at Extended Spring Training.

The 23-year old Hankins has been the best hitter on the 2015 EXST Cubs squad, putting up a 462/481/654 line (plus an eight-game hitting streak) with three doubles and a triple, four RBI, five runs scored, and only one strikeout in nine Cactus League EXST games (27 PA), while simultaneously learning the finer points of the receiving arts. (He also hit two home runs in EXST intrasquad games). Hankins likely projects as an "offense-first" left-handed hitting 3B-2B-1B-C bench guy at the higher levels (sort of a left-handed hitting version of Ben Carhart), but adding catcher to his "tool box" should make him more valuable as he moves up through the pipeline.

Also, 24-year old RHP Jose Rosario underwent an elbow UCL transplant ("Tommy John surgery") last month and will miss the 2015 season. Rosario is the second Cub minor leaguer to undergo TJS since the start of Spring Training (catcher Will Remillard was other one).  

Born in New York City, Rosario was signed by the Cubs as a 17-year old international free-agent out of the Dominican Republic in April 2008. He was eligible to be an MLB Rule 55 minor league free-agent (so-called "six-year minor league free-agent") after the 2014 World Series, but he signed a 2015 minor league successor contract with the Cubs before being declared a free-agent. In 115 career minor league games 2008-14, Rosario has compiled a rather ugly 5.06 ERA and 1.56 WHIP, while allowing 489 hits (including 32 HR) and 192 walks in 437.2 IP, with 378 strikeouts.

Although he has plus-stuff, Rosario has been unable to harness it and has battled command issues throughout his career, He failed to reach AA in seven minor league seasons, and yet the Cubs saw enough in him to offer him a 2015 contract rather than allowing him to walk away as a free-agent. But he continued to struggle with his control at Minor League Camp this season, before being shut-down with a sore elbow the last week of Spring Training. Rosario is eligible to be a minor league 6YFA again post-2015, but since the TJS rehab process takes at least a year, I would not be surprised if he signs another minor league successor contract for 2016 so that he can continue his rehab with the same training staff.  

It wasn't a Cactus League EXST game, but the Cubs did play an EXST intrasquad game on Field #5 yesterday (Thursday). 29-year old veteran MLB and ex-Red Sox RHRP Daniel Bard threw an inning in the game, and while he continues to have difficulty throwing strikes (24 pitches - only 9 strikes, with one walk and two WP in the one IP), he did manage to retire the side without allowing a hit or a run. Known as a hard-throwing late-inning reliever, Bard didn't show it yesterday. His fastball consistently sat at 91-92 MPH, and touched 93 only once.

Cubs Minor League Infield Coordinator Jose Flores is at Extended Spring Training this week, working with the young Cub infielders on the finer points of infield play. (He also throws a mean BP).    

Here is the abridged box score from today's Cactus League EXST game (Cubs players only), followed by the box score from yesterday's EXST Cubs intrasquad game.

Cubs Use Their Bats & Their Heads to Sweep D'backs

Adonis Paula ripped a two-run double and Tyler Alamo belted a two-out RBI double to highlight a three-run 1st, Oscar de la Cruz tossed three innings of shutout ball, and Tim Saunders drove-in the winning run by getting hit on the top of the helmet with a two-strike pitch with the bases loaded, the score tied, and two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, as the Cubs edged the Diamondbacks 4-3 on Field #5, and Eloy Jimenez thumped a solo home run and an RBI triple, Yohan Matos belted a three-run inside-the-park HR, and Bryant Flete singled twice, walked, stole a base, and scored two runs, helping the Cubs defeat the D'backs 8-4 on Field #6, as the Cubs swept a Cactus League Extended Spring Training split-squad doubleheader this morning at Mesa CubTown at Riverview Park.  

Trevor Mitsui bashed a double and a two-run HR, Sergio Alcantara laced a single and a double and scored a run, Luis Veras singled, doubled, and scored two runs, and Didimo Bracho collected three singles for the Diamondbacks in a losing cause.   

LHP Patrick Corbin (on the Arizona Diamondbacks MLB 60-day DL - 2014 TJS) got the start for the D'backs on Field #6 and hurled three innings of shutout ball, allowing two singles and no walks, while striking out five (four swinging), and a 2/1 GO/FO.    

The EXST Cubs returned to action today after a weekend of rain wiped out two games. 

Prior to the Cactus League EXST game, RHPs Dylan Cease (2014 TJS), Erling Moreno (2014 TJS), Jose Zapata (post-2013 cervical fracture), and Trey Masek (2014 shoulder surgery) pitched in a five-inning "sim" game on Field #3. Cease and Moreno worked three innings (45 pitches each), Zapata pitched two innings (30 pitches), and Masek threw one inning (15 pitches).    

In roster news, 21-year old switch-hitting Dominican OF Robert Garcia has been added to the Cubs Extended Spring Training roster. Garcia signed with the Cubs in July 2013 and spent two seasons with the DSL Cubs, hitting 301/394/369 with 33 stolen bases (8 CS) in 77 games combined 2013-14.     

Here are the abridged box scores from today's games (Cubs players only):

Cubs Romp over Angels at Riverview Park

Kevin Brown ripped an RBI triple and two singles and scored a run, Varonex Cuevas drilled a two-run triple and an RBI single, Jesse Hodges reached base four times (HBP, 2B, 2B, and BB), scored two runs, and drove-in another, Alberto Mineo collected three singles and scored a run, and five pitchers combined to throw a three-hitter, as the Cubs overwhelmed the Angels 10-1 in Cactus League  Extended Spring Training action this morning on Field #1 at the Under Armour Performance Center at Riverview Park in Mesa, AZ.

19-year old 6'2 Dominican stringbean LHP Jose Paulino was the most-impressive Cub hurler today, tossing four innings of one-hit shutout ball. If any of the Cubs teenaged Latin pitchers making their U. S. debut in 2014 make the Boise Opening Day roster, it would probably be Paulino. (I'm not counting RHSP Erick Leal because he was in the U. S. last year at AZL Cubs, and although RHRP Francisco Carrillo and LHRP Alberto Diaz will be making their U. S. debut this season, both pitchers are in their 20's).

Manny Ramirez served as a DH and batted five times in the game (once in each of the first five innings), going 1-5 with three ground outs, a fly out to RF, and a single off the LF wall (ManRam can still hit, but he just doesn't run as well as he once did).

Ryan Sweeney (Cubs MLB 15-day DL - hamstring) played CF for five innings and batted four times, going 1-3 with a walk, a single and a run scored. Sweeney seems to be running just fine, so I would think he will probably get moved-up to AAA Iowa very soon to continue his rehab (just like Justin Ruggiano did a couple of weeks ago), before being reinstated from the DL sometime next week (barring any setbacks).  

RHRP Kyuiji Fujikawa (Cubs MLB 60-day DL - 2013 TJS rehab) threw an inning and allowed one run on a HBP and an RBI double. He did strike out two batters, however (both swinging). His rehab has gone kind of slow, but he really needs to get out of here ASAP, even if it's just a minor league rehab assignment at Kane County or Daytona.   

In EXST Cubs roster news, INF Tim Saunders has been sent to Extended Spring Training from Daytona and he played 2B in today's game, so expect Saunders to be on the Boise Hawks Opening Day roster. RHP Trevor Graham also was returned to Extended Spring Training from Daytona, so he should join LHP Tyler Ihrig, RHP Erick Leal, and RHP Trevor Clifton (plus one more starter TBA, could be Jose Paulino) in the Boise starting rotation. And RHP Josh Davis has been moved up to Kane County from Extended Spring Training, in what will be his second tour with the Cougars this season. (Davis has logged some time with the Daytona Cubs in 2014, too).

Cubs Pitchers No Match for A's Fast Break Offense

Oakland A's 2012 1st round draft pick (#11 overall) Addison Russell walked, tripled, and belted a two-run home run, Vicmal de la Cruz clobbered a solo home run and an RBI double, Reynaldo Mateo blasted a two-run HR, and Matt Olson singled twice and drove-in two runs, as the Athletics out-slugged the Cubs 13-8 in Arizona Instructional League action this afternoon at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa.

Meanwhile, Jesse Hodges hammered a two-run home run and a double, Jorge Soler drilled a two-run triple, Marco Hernandez roped an opposite-field two run double, and Tim Saunders doubled, walked, stole a base, and drove-in a run, to help propel the Cub offense.

A VogelBomb, a VogelTrip, and Two VogelSongs Rx for Cub Victory at HoHoKam

Dan Vogelbach homered, tripled, and singled twice, drove-in three runs, and scored two more, leading the AZL Cubs to a come-from-behind 9-7 victory over the AZL Athletics in Arizona League action this evening at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, AZ.  

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