Jett Bandy laced three doubles, including a two-run two-base hit with one out in the top of the 8th that drove-in the tying and go-ahead runs, leading the AZL Angels to a 4-3 victory over the AZL Cubs in Arizona League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa this evening.
The Cubs went into the top of the 8th inning leading 2-1, thanks to a solo HR by Dustin Geiger in the 4th and a Ryan Durrence RBI ground out in the 6th. But AZL Cubs 8th inning set-up man Colin Richardson could not hold the lead, issuing a one-out four-pitch walk, followed by back-to-back doubles and consecutive singles, as the Angels took a 4-2 lead.
The Cubs did score a run in the bottom of the 8th on a leg-double by lead-off hitter Oliver Zapata, an Angels error, and a sacrifice fly, but it wasn't enough, as Angels closer Brandon Efferson threw a 1-2-3 9th for the save.
18-year old LHP Brian Smith (Cubs 2010 40th round draft pick out of Pickering, Ontario) got the start for the AZL Cubs, and threw a solid four innings (61 pitches - 40 strikes), allowing just one unearned run on five hits and a walk, while striking out three. A member of the Canadian Junior National Team prior to signing with the Cubs right at the August 16th signing deadline last year, Smith had his second quality outing in a row, especially significant since he was absolutely terrible in his pro debut at AZ Instructs last fall (30.00 ERA, 4.33 WHIP, and a .527 OppBA) and got a late start to the 2011 season, not pitching in a game until more than halfway through Extended Spring Training. But he has looked OK in AZL action so far (albeit just 7.1 IP over two games), displaying a high-quality curve and change-up, and the poise and stamina needed to throw multiple innings.
19-year old Dustin Geiger (Cubs 2010 24th round draft pick out of Merritt Island HS - Brevard County, FL) continues to be the offensive leader for the AZL Cubs. After two more hits tonight (including the 390-ft+ home run to left-center that gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead, and a picture-perfect hit & run single to right that advanced a runner from 1st to 3rd and led directly to the Cubs second run), Geiger is hitting a robust 400/423/769 (including three doubles, two triples, and a HR) through his first six AZL games, while playing adequate defense at both 3B and 1B (although he looks better at 1B). Geiger has showed tremendous improvement in his power stroke over the last few weeks (having hit 325/367/525 with three doubles, two HR, and 12 RBI over his last 13 Extended Spring Training games), and I had thought that just based on that he would get assigned to Boise, but the Cubs chose to place 3B-1B Wilson Contreras on the Boise roster instead, while keeping Geiger in Mesa. But if he keeps slugging the way he has over the last few weeks, I would expect Geiger to get a promotion to Boise (if not to Peoria) before much longer.
While Geiger has been the offensive star of the AZL Cubs, 19-year old Dominican switch-hitter Brian Inoa has struggled to find a position. Inoa was used mainly as a DH in the DSL last season where he hit 279/356/369 for DSL Cubs #2, but he was worked exclusively at catcher throughout Minor League Camp and Extended Spring Training this year. However, it became quite clear over time that Inoa did not have the defensive chops to succeed as a backstop, so he was moved to 1B, and now (more-recently) to 2B, with poor results at each stop. Inoa made two more errors (on successive plays) leading to an unearned run in tonight's game, and was pulled out of the game in the top of the 7th. Next stop? Maybe LF. But to play LF Inoa will have to show the slugging he displayed at times in Extended Spring Training, like when he hit for the cycle against the Diamondbacks on May 23rd.