AZL Cubs Relentless Attack too Much for A's

Robert Garcia (two singles, a double, and a home run) reached base four times, scored three runs, and drove-in three more, Wladimir Galindo and Joey Martarano collected three hits a piece and drove-in three runs between them (Martarano with a sharply-hit opposite-field RBI ground single to right through the 3.5 hole in the top of the 1st inning to get things started, and Galindo with a line-drive two-run single drilled to center to cap a five-run 3rd), and 13 of the first 15 Cubs batters reached base (although two were thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double and another was CS), helping the AZL Cubs take an 8-4 lead through three innings en route to a 10-4 victory over the AZL Athletics in Arizona League action last night at Fitch Park Field #4 in Mesa, AZ. 

Robert Garcia has been like a man possessed over the first two weeks of AZL play, hitting 400/447/557 and leading the team in BAvg, OBP, SLG, triples, runs, and RBI, running the bases with elan (albeit perhaps sometimes with just a bit too much elan), and making outstanding plays in the outfield (both in RF and CF). He's probably the fastest player on the AZL Cubs, and he usually tries to bunt for a hit at least once each game. But he also has occasional HR power (as displayed last night), and with his speed he can turn a single into a double or a double into a triple without a lot of strain.

Garcia was signed by the Cubs in July 2013, and led the DSL Cubs in hitting (.316) last season. He struggled in Extended Spring Training at the outset of this season, however, hitting just 214/250/333 with no walks and 12 K in 44 PA. Despite the EXST struggles, it appeared that the 21-year old switch-hitter would make the Eugene roster as the Emeralds "4th OF" just on the strength of his speed and outfield defense alone, but then he was left behind at the last minute when it was decided that the Emeralds would carry a third catcher (Alberto Mineo) instead of a fourth outfielder. 

RHSP Austyn Willis got the start for the Cubs and struggled to throw strikes. He worked only three innings before he was relieved, allowing four runs (all earned) on three hits (two singles and a double), four walks, and an HBP. Willis needed 72 pitches (only 50% strikes) to get through the three innings, including a 25-pitch bottom of the 1st, a 29-pitch bottom of the 2nd, and an 18-pitch bottom of the 3rd. Willis struggled similarly last Saturday night versus the Giants in Scottsdale, and the sudden diffuculty he has throwing strikes is inconsistent with the excellent strike zone command he displayed throughout Extended Spring Training and in his first AZL start on Opening Day on June 18th.

LHP Carlos Rodriguez followed Willis to the mound and worked four shutout innings, after allowing ten runs over 3.2 IP in his previous outing. Rodriguez is the classic soft-tossing lefty "dart-thrower" (mid-80's fastball  curve, and change-up) who tries to paint the corners and change the eye-level of the hitters, but always by throwing strikes. In fact, Rodriguez throws a very high-percentage of strikes (70% last night, and 73% in the game in which he allowed ten runs), and hitters often make hard contact against him. Despite not allowing a run, there were several "loud outs" last night, and it's not unusual for him to get whacked around in one inning and then sail through the next one 1-2-3. (In his last outing, Rodriguez allowed six runs on two singles, a double, a triple, and a home run and a walk in his first inning, then he retired nine men in a row, and then he allowed four more runs on three singles and a home run before being relieved),

I have seen every single outing by Mark Malave since he became a pitcher at the start of Minor League Camp ("live" BP, "sim" games, intrasquad games, Cactus League EXST games, and AZL Games), and last night's was the best I have seen so far (two shutout innings, no hits, one walk, and five strikeouts). Malave doesn't throw especially hard (his fastball tops out at 90-91 MPH), but when he can spot his fastball and use it to set-up his breaking ball, his plus-curve is a swing & miss pitch.  

Two 2015 Cub draft picks made their professional game debut last night. 

Donnie Cimino (37th round pick - Weslyan U.) got the start in LF, hit 8th, and went 1-5. He swung late and fisted an opposite-field bloop single into short-right his first time up, then flied out to center, struck out twice (both times swinging), and grounded out 4-3. Truth be told, the two-time NESCAC batting champion looked a bit overmatched. Perhaps he hasn't found his rhythm yet. He can play LF just fine, but it appears that he doesn't have enough speed to play CF or the arm to play RF (at least not from what I have seen in work-outs or in last night's game). 

After working as a bullpen catcher for the past week or so, Marcus Mastrobuoni (25th round pick - Cal State Stanislaus) finally got to play in a game, getting the start behind the plate and hitting 9th in the batting order. He went hitless in four Plate Appearances, but with two walks and two runs scored. He is a patient hitter with a good eye, and he's a fly ball hitter without HR power. He has below-average speed on the bases, so it's probably good that he tends to hit balls in the air rather than on the ground. He has a slightly above-average arm and OK receiving skills behind the plate, but nothing extraordinary.

Both Cimino and Mastrobuoni were drafted as college seniors from D-2 (Mastrobuoni) or D-3 (Cimino) schools, so while they are mature and polished, they will likely have a tough climb up the ladder.  

Speaking of Cubs 2015 draft picks, 24th round pick Sutton Whiting (U. of Louisville), who had to leave Thursday night's game after crashing into the LF fence whiling chasing a fly ball, did not lose consciousness and tested negative for a concussion. The 23-year old speedy switch-hitter was rewarded for his gritty max-effort by getting bumped-up to Eugene, so congratulations to Sutton Whiting, and try not to run into any more outfield fences.   

Here is the abridged box score (Cubs players only):

AZL CUBS LINEUP
1. Robert Garcia, RF: 4-5 (1B, 1B, 2B, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, CS)
2. Carlos Sepulveda, 2B: 2-5 (1B, 1B, E-4, F-8, L-6, 2 R, RBI, 2 SB)
3. Wladimir Galindo, 3B: 3-5 (1B, 1B, F-9, 1B, 6-3, R, 2 RBI)
4. Joey Martarano, 1B: 3-6 (1B, K, 1B, K, 1B, RBI)
5. Alex Bautista, DH: 1-5 (6-3, 1B, P-4, K, F-9, RBI)
6. Roberto Caro, CF: 1-4 (1B, BB, F-8, 6-3, 4-3) 
7. Carlos Jimenez, SS: 0-5 (E-7, P-4, 4-3, P-4, K, R)
8. Donnie Cimino, LF: 1-5 (1B, F-8, K, K, 4-3, R)
9. Marcus Mastrobuoni, C: 0-2 (BB, F-9, BB, F-8, 2 R)

AZL CUBS PITCHERS
1. Austyn Willis: 3.0 IP, 3 H, 4 R (4 ER), 4 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP, 3/5 GO/FO, 72 pitches (36 strikes) 
2. Carlos Rodriguez: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HBP, 5/4 GO/FO, 53 pitches (37 strikes) 
3. Mark Malave: 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 BALK, 0/1 GO/FO, 40 pitches (24 strikes) 

AZL CUBS ERRORS: NONE 

BASERUNNING GAFFES
1. Joey Martarano was thrown-out 9-6 trying to stretch a single into a double 
2. Robero Caro was thrown out 9-6 trying to stretch a single into a double

Comments

Does anyone know what injuries Blackburn and Skulina are dealing with?