Cubs Relievers Get Extra Work with I-Cubs

Cubs Manager Lou Pniella generally prefers to delegate pitching matters to his pitching coach (that would be Larry Rothschild), but one aspect of the pitching staff Uncle Lou believes he understands is how to get his bullpen ready for Opening Day.

And a big part of this preparation is Piniella's belief that each of his relievers need to throw on back-to-back days once or twice during the last ten days of Spring Training, and each reliever needs to throw two innings one time, too.   

That's where Minor League Spring Training games can really come in handy. 

While Ryan Dempster, Jeff Samardzija, Randy Wells, and Kevin Hart made the two-hour bus trip to Tucson to pitch against the Colorado Rockies at Hi Corbett Field, Kevin Gregg, Chad Fox, and Luis Vizcaino took the 20-minute van ride to the Papago Park Baseball Complex in Phoenix (a former WWII POW Camp) to get their work in versus the Oakland A's AAA squad in a minor league game.      

Gregg got the start and was able to throw two full innings, and Fox and Vizcaino got to  throw for the second day in a row (they both pitched at Ho Ho Kam Park yesterday).

Gregg had an excellent and efficient 1st inning (three up - three down - F-8, F-7, F-9), but really looked like a different pitcher as he struggled with his command (17 pitches, only eight strikes) in his second inning of work. And then after he finished, I could see him limping around with an ice-pack wrapped around his left knee. Given the history of tendinitis in his knee, that may be par for the course, but he did not look like he would be ready or able to pitch again tomorrow (for instance) if that were necessary. So I would think Gregg might be a one inning-only pitcher (strictly enforced).

Chad Fox had a really fine outing pitching back-to-back in a game for the first time this year, needing just 13 pitches to get an infield pop up and two punch-outs (both batters looking) in his 1-2-3 inning (P-3, Kc, Kc). His slider looked very good today, and he had some life on his fastball, too.    

Luis Vizcaino also looked OK pitching in back-to-back games. He did allow two one-out ground singles to the outfield, but otherwise he threw strikes and didn't appear to be laboring at all through his one inning of work (P-6, 1B, 1B, P-4, 3-1)

Mike Stanton and Angel Guzman also threw in the game at Ho Ho Kam Park yesterday, but neither pitcher made the trrip to Phoenix with Gregg, Fox, and Vizcaino. Whether that is significant, I don't know...

Assistant Pitching Coach Lester Strode also made the trip to Papapo Park with the three Cubs pitchers, and he could be seen intensely monitoring them from various angles and vantage points as they threw. All four of the guys left together (I'm not sure who was driving), with Strode probably riding along to make sure they didn't get into any trouble (bar fight, road rage, or drive-by shooting) while heading back to Mesa. 

But the Iowa Cubs didn't get to leave early.

They had to stay for the entire game...

Sam Fuld was on base four times and scored three runs, Doug Deeds had four hits (two singles, a double, and a two-run homer) and drove in four runs, and Jake Fox belted a solo HR, but the Sacramento River Cats (Oakland A's AAA affiliate) rallied to defeat the Iowa Cubs 8-7 with a run in the bottom of the 9th, when the Cubs were unable to turn a potential inning-ending DP that would have left the game tied.  .  

I-Cubs reliever Rocky Roquet had a very bad outing this afternoon, allowing five runs (four earned) in the bottom of the 7th, when the River Cats rallied from four runs down to take a 7-6 lead

And shortstop Matt Camp had a very bad day in the field, making one bad throw to first, one bobble on an easy grounder, and allowing another grounder to go right through the wickets.

And Bobby Scales had a bad day at the plate, grounding out 5-3 with a runner on 2nd and no outs in the top of the 1st inning (runner could not advance), striking out with runners on 1st & 3rd with nobody out in the 3rd, flying out (F-7) with a runner on second and no outs in the 4th (runner could not advance), and striking out with runners on 1st & 2nd in the top of the 6th.

And Nate Spears just had a bad day (period), getting hit on the left hand with a pitch, and it didn't look too good, either, He had to leave the game, as Luis Rivas was permitted to re-enter the game to play 3B in the bottom of the last inning (Minor League Spring Training games are a lot less-formal than MLB-type Cactus League tilts). .

On a more positive note, Sam Fuld laid-down a beautiful drag bunt and beat it out (easily) for base hit, Shawn McGill showed plus speed (at least for a catcher) when he stretched a single into a hustle-double, and Jake Fox blasted his HR so far over the LF fence that it soared past Walter Haas Drive and landed on one of the softball fields located north of the A's minor league complex.

Here is today's abridged box score (Iowa Cubs players only), Note that 18-year old Korean OF Jae-Hoon Ha (signed by Cubs Chief Asian Scout Steve Wilson last September) and Venezuelan INF George Matheus (he played at AZL Cubs last Summer) were loaned to the Iowa squad from the Boise-Mesa group (soon to be the Extended Spring Training squad) at Fitch Park, and made the trip with the I-Cubs to Papago Park. Ha has an annoying habit of double-clutching every time he has to make a throw from the outfield (and it is no laughing matter, folks).   .    

1a. Sam Fuld, CF: 2-2 (2B, 1B, BB, BB, 3 R)
1b. Jae-Hoon Ha, CF: 0-1 (4-3)
2. Bobby Scales, 1B: 1-5 (5-3, Ks, F-7, Kc, 1B, 1 R)
3. Doug Deeds, RF: 4-5 (2B, 1B, HR, 1-3, 1B, 1 R, 4 RBI)
4. Jake Fox, LF: 2-4 (Ks, 1B, 6-3, HR, BB, 1 R, 1 RBI)
5, Jason Dubois, DH: 1-3 (Ks, F-8 SF, 1B, BB, Kc, 1 RBI)
6a. Kyle Reynolds, 3B: 1-3 (Ks, 1B, F-7)
6b. George Matheus, 2B: 0-2 (FC, Kc)
7a. Luis Rivas, 2B-3B: 1-4 (F9, L-6, 3-1, 1B)  
7b. Nate Spears, 3B: 0-0 (HBP - left game with left hand injury)
8. Matt Camp, SS: 0-5 (F-9, F-9, F-7, Ks, F-9)
9a. Chris Robinson, C: 1-3 (2B, Ks, FC, 1 R)
9b. Shawn McGill, C: 1-2 (2B, 6-3)

1. Kevin Gregg - 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R (0 ER), 0 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 32 pitches -17 strikes, 0/4 GO/FO
2. Chad Fox - 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 13 pitches - 8 strikes, 0/1 GO/FO
3. Luis Vizcaino - 1.0 IP, 2 H. 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K, 16 pitches - 11 strikes, 1/2 GO/FO) 
4. Jose Ascanio - 2.0 IP, 1 H,. 1 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 33 pitches - 22 strikes, 2/2 GO/FO
5. Rocky Roquet - 1.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R (4 ER), 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP, 37 pitches - 26 strikes, 0/2 GO/FO
6. Matt Smith -1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 0 K, 25 pitches - 15 strikes, 0/4 GO/FO

Shawn McGill - 0-3 CS

SS Matt Camp (3) - one bad throw to first, one bobble, and one ground ball went right between his legs
LF Jake Fox (1) - over-ran ball in LF allowing batter to advance to 2nd base on a single to the outfield.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs were playing the Colorado Rockies in Tucson in Cactus League action, and while I was not there, I can see by the box score that Micah Hoffpauir hit a three-run HR, Aaron Miles had three hits, one RBI, and scored two runs, Geovany Soto had two hits (including a double), and Kosuke Fukudome went 0-3 with two walks.

Also, Reed Johnson had two OF assists (and Joey Gathright had one, plus a stolen base), and Ryan Dempster started and went six innings, allowing four runs on six hits (including two doubles and a Garret Atkins solo HR), three walks, and a WP, while striking out four, with a 4/6 GO/FO. (Dempster also tripled and scored a run). 

And finally RHP Randy Wells allowed five runs in the bottom of the 8th (including a three-run HR to Chris Iannetta), turning a 6-4 Cubs lead into a 10-6 Cubs deficit, while quite clearly punching his ticket to Des Moines (if it wasn't punched already).


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I kid! Great post as usual, Phil. ed: And now you've added the link. Snark rescinded.

I believe Fox makes the opening day roster in the bullpen.

I was at the game in Tucson today and here just some notes: Dempster wasn't that sharp, he got behind a lot of hitters and wasn't making people miss. He also failed rather badly to get a sac bunt down. Reed Johnson's throws were rockets, throwing out a guy trying to tag up from 2nd on a decently deep fly ball and he threw out Helton at 2nd after he hit a 340 foot rope off the top of the wall. Fontenot started at 3rd and had a nice barehanded play off of a bunt. And Hoffpauir continues to hit the ball hard, even on outs.

nice to hear about the fontenot pick/'s something i've wondered about, esp. with talk of him playing 3rd. aram's development of being able to barehand and throw while on the move has been awesome...he's gotten really accurate.

C'mon man, Ryan All-Mighty hit a triple today!

And Ha! to you for the summary. I can't decide whether this makes Gregg more or less likely to be named closer. Only one more sleepless night (on that topic, of course).

what will the Cubs do with David Patton? here is what the Twins did with their rule 5 pick: (sent a class A reliever to NY)

Link isn't going thru...

You should post your predictions on Here are my Cubs predictions. Hitting: Pitching:

Bruce Miles concurs with the Muskrat on So over Jo. According to Miles, The Hoff has made the team. That would make "enough" lefties signifying that the RH "bat" of So would have a shot. And - he's Japanese, which would surely help Fukudome's average climb above the Mendoza line (Fuku is now 1-7 in ST. But man - can he WALK!)

How many World Series rings does So have? Maybe he is a lucky charm.

don't get carried away with the So Taguchi lucky charm thing... He's been in the world series three times...2004 (Stl), 2006 (Stl) and 2008 (Phil), so he's only lucky on even years and the last time I looked, this isn't an even year.

But - do we need to replace our pitching lucky charm (Marquis),with a 39 y.o. outfielder rabbit's foot?

As much as I don't like Gathright on the team, he at least brings the ability to PR to the table, plus some SBs when he gets an odd start. Taguchi brings neither of those.

I reluctantly agree. I'd rather carry a German or Scales (or in my dreams, Durham or even Grudzie--both still free agents) than Gathright. But carrying So instead of Jo would just be another over-investment in handedness. A five years younger So might make sense, but if his ability to hit for average has dropped off and he's lost a step or two on defense, then he brings very little value to the team.

Does the fact that the Cubs are now at 37-38 on the 40 man roster make it more likely that they're looking towards snagging somebody else's late roster cut (like Reed Johnson last year) for spot 25 over either So or Jo? Thats weird. Severe enough to go on the DL and diagnosed from a blood test? I wonder what that could be.

FWIW, I know somebody who was/is treated for anxiety attacks. Part of the medication package is a thyroid med. Mood changes are part of the symptom package of (?)low thyroid. You find that through a blood test.

Maybe so. I've been wondering why he tailed off so much.

Submitted by Jackstraw on Sun, 03/29/2009 - 10:08am. Does the fact that the Cubs are now at 37-38 on the 40 man roster make it more likely that they're looking towards snagging somebody else's late roster cut (like Reed Johnson last year) for spot 25 over either So or Jo?


JACKSTRAW: Wednesday is the deadline for placing players with non-guaranteed contracts on Release Waivers so that the club owes the released player only 45 days salary (25% of his salary) as termination pay, so several players (like Reed Johnson last year) should suddenly become available this week, and the Cubs certainly have the slots open on their 40-man roster to add such a player.

As I've mentioned before, if the Cubs go with Joey Gathright and Paul Bako on the 25-man roster, they will have five LH bats on the bench (and no RH hitters, unless you include Zambrano hitting RH) on days when Miles starts at 2B and Reed Johnson starts in CF. So although the Cubs wanted to get "more left-handed," they actually probably have gone too far and now they have one too many LH bats.

I think the Cubs would probably prefer to use their final bench slot on a RH or SW hitting utility guy who can play SS and 3B, and is fast enough to PR (maybe not as fast as Gathright, but at least fast enough to make a difference). Whether that type will get released this week is still TBD.

Otherwise, the final slot will probably go to Joey Gathright (if Piniella values a late-inning PR most, but doesn't care about possibly not having a RH PH available in the late innings), or So Taguchi (if Piniella wants a veteran RH PH with just average speed who has the defensive skills to be a late-inning replacement for Soriano in LF), or Esteban German (if Piniella wants a versatile RH hitting utility IF-OF who can back-up Ramirez at 3B and MAYBE play a little SS, too, but who has lost a step and would have little value as a PR).

I wonder if one of the spots will go to Chad Fox.

Submitted by Hagsag on Sun, 03/29/2009 - 10:46am. I wonder if one of the spots will go to Chad Fox.


HAGSAG: Chad Fox has pitched well enough to make the Opening Day roster, and he showed yesterday that he could maintain the "bite" on his slider and good velocity on his fastball when throwing on back-to-back days.

Of course his arm could fall off at any time (and it probably will), but until it does, he can pitch in the big leagues, if not with the Cubs, then with somebody.

Like a lot of veterans signed to minor league contracts, he probably has the option to request his release if he gets sent down.

Plus, one of the many things I've learned reading AZ Phil and the rest of TCR, it's good to have bodies on the 60-day DL come playoff time. Fox is kind of like the ultimate team player - gives you a few solid innings in April and May, shuts it down for the year and gives you the option to add an impact bullpen arm for October.

Submitted by John Beasley on Sun, 03/29/2009 - 11:07am. Plus, one of the many things I've learned reading AZ Phil and the rest of TCR, it's good to have bodies on the 60-day DL come playoff time. Fox is kind of like the ultimate team player - gives you a few solid innings in April and May, shuts it down for the year and gives you the option to add an impact bullpen arm for October.


JOHN B: You are correct, sir. Even if Chad Fox breaks down two days into the season and has a career-ending amputation and spends the rest of the season on the DL, he would still have value as a post-season roster exemption (presuming the Cubs make it that far) that would permit the Cubs to make a roster adjustment for the NLDS and/or NLCS and/or WS and (for instance) replace a pitcher with an extra bat on the bench (like Jake Fox, maybe). that couldn't have gone better for the O's, he can go on a nice long DL rehab trip until they need him or someone gets hurt before they're forced to put him on the 25-man roster.

CUBS LF Alfonso Soriano SS Ryan Theriot 1B Derrek Lee RF Milton Bradley 3B Aramis Ramirez 2B Mike Fontenot C Geovany Soto CF Joey Gathright P Ted Lilly. INDIANS CF Grady Sizemore 3B Mark DeRosa C Victor Martinez SS Jhonny Peralta RF Ryan Garko LF Ben Francisco 2B Jamey Carroll 1B Tony Graffanino RHP Fausto Carmona

I just got done looking over Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list (again) this morning and noticed that JOSH VITTERS (#51 down from #43 in 2008) has been given an ETA with the major league Cubs of 2010 (UP from 2011 in 2008)--- next year! Do you think that's even remotely possible? I'd guess it would be something closer to 2012 -- if ever.

It's GREGG not Marmol

Submitted by navigator on Sun, 03/29/2009 - 12:14pm.

I just got done looking over Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list (again) this morning and noticed that JOSH VITTERS (#51 down from #43 in 2008) has been given an ETA with the major league Cubs of 2010 (UP from 2011 in 2008)--- next year!

Do you think that's even remotely possible? I'd guess it would be something closer to 2012 -- if ever.


NAVIGATOR: Assuming he progreses normally, sometime in 2011 seems more like it to me. To avoid becoming eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft, he will need to be added to the 40-man roster no later than 11-20-2011.

Phil, I love the minor league reports! Please keep doing them! It is the one thing that you cannot find on any other sites: info on minor league Spring Training. Do you know where I can find a schedule of the Cubs minor league Spring Training games? Thanks!

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  • crunch 9 hours 1 min ago (view)

    semi-interesting winter league note...

    trey mcnutt (yes, that guy) is having a hell of a winter league in mexico (one of the less talented winter leagues) so far as a closer.  15.2ip 8h 4bb 24k, 0.57 era.

    giants signed him to a minor league deal a couple weeks ago.  he never went anywhere.  he's been consistently playing ball in the minors and indie league ball since he was last a noteworthy player.  last season he played in the OAK minor league system.  30 years old now...


  • jdrnym 15 hours 57 min ago (view)

    Brad Brach signs with the Mets for $850K but the Cubs are paying $500K, per Ken Rosenthal. Wasn't his 2020 club only supposed to be on the hook for league minimum?


  • crunch 16 hours 34 min ago (view)

    when he got to the mets he suddenly learned how to throw with control (small sample size etc).  last year was not a fun bullpen year...


  • crunch 18 hours 51 min ago (view)

    Yeah, I've made myself familiar with a lot of the changes, but AZP's posts have both added more information and cleared up stuff I didn't fully grasp.  I appreciate the hell out of it.  Thanks Phil, thanks TCR.


  • bradsbeard 20 hours 33 min ago (view)

    Looks like Savant has his breaking pitch classified as a curve while Fangraphs calls it a slider. Suppose by ST he could have made everything over in the pitching lab, so who knows!


  • Arizona Phil 20 hours 50 min ago (view)

    Again, none of these rules (including the one that requires a pitcher to face a minimum of three batters or else record the final out of the inning) have been officially approved.  

    I think one possible caveat that might be added to the three-batter minimum rule would be that the pitcher can be replaced prior to facing three batters or recording the final out of the inning if the other team puts up a pinch-hitter. 


  • Arizona Phil 20 hours 54 min ago (view)

    Ptchers would also be treated differently under the new rules as far as the Injured list and Optional Assignment to the minors is concerned, with pitchers having to spend at least 15 days (up from 10 days) on the Injured List before being eligible to be reinstated and at least 15 days (up from 10 days) on Optional Assignment before being eligible to be recalled (inless the pitcher is being recalled to replace a pitcher on the 26-man roster who has been placed on an MLB inactive list).  


  • Arizona Phil 20 hours 54 min ago (view)

    SONICWIND: As the rule is proposed, prior to the start of each MLB regular season a club must designate all players on its Opening Day 26-man roster as either a "pitcher" or a "position player." A maximum of 13 can be designated as pitchers (14 pitchers max when rosters expand from 26 to 28 beginning on 9/1). 

    For players who come up during the season, the club must designate the player as either a pitcher or a position player when the player is placed on the MLB active list roster. 


  • Arizona Phil 21 hours 7 min ago (view)

    BRADSBEARD: Fangraphs shows the CT as his primary pitch in 2018 with the SL & FB (and an occasional CH) as his secondary pitches, with no CV at all. I guess I'll find out for sure in Spring Training. 


  • Sonicwind75 22 hours 23 min ago (view)

    AZ Phil, thank you as always for the detailed information.  How is the "cannot be a pitcher" part of the rule to be enforced?  With a few two way players and the increasing amount of mop up innings being handled by position players it seems like there could be a gray area there.  What is preventing a team from stashing an athletic relief pitcher as a "5th outfielder" that could be a pinch runner and play a passable OF when needed but could also provide them with extra relief pitcher.  Anytime I hear of a new rule I always think of how Bill Billichek would circumvent it t


  • bradsbeard 22 hours 24 min ago (view)

    AZ Phil, looking around Baseball Savant, it looks like Winkler now primarily throws a low 90s cutter, a 4-seamer that he throws a little harder (but is less effective), a curve and a sinker. The slider and change haven't been a major part of his repertoir the last two years. The cutter has been really effective the last two years but it looks like he lost command/effectiveness of his 4-seemer and curve last year For whatever reason  


  • bradsbeard 1 day 1 hour ago (view)

    They just signed this guy:


  • Hagsag 1 day 3 hours ago (view)

    There seems to be a lot of player movement so far. Too bad the Cubs aren't involved.


  • Arizona Phil 1 day 18 hours ago (view)

    Beginning in 2019, a club must wait a minimum of seven days before it can place a player who was claimed off Outtright Assignment Waivers during the off-season back onto waivers, so because he was claimed off waivers on Wednesday 11/27, yesterday (Wednesday 12/4) was the first day the Cubs could place LHRP C. D. Pelham back onto Outright Assignment Waivers, and so tomorrow (Friday 12/6) is the first day the Cubs can send Pelham outright to the minors (if he was placed back onto waivers yesterday).


  • Arizona Phil 2 days 15 hours ago (view)

    A Competitive Balance draft slot can be traded only during a period of time starting on December 2nd and extending up until two hours prior to the MLB First-Year Player Draft (MLB Rule 4 Draft), so don't be surpised if these draft picks are traded during the off-season.

    Keep in mind that the slot cannot be traded for cash unless it is a financial adjustment made to offset the salary of one or more of the players involved in the trade.


  • Arizona Phil 2 days 15 hours ago (view)

    The active list roster limit changes scheduled to go in effect in 2020 have not yet been officially approved. Same goes for the three-batter minimum (or else record the third out in the inning) for relief pitchers.