Ramon Garcia tossed five shutout innings and Los Tres Amigos combined to reach base nine times, score three runs, and knock-in two more, leading the AZL Cubs to a 7-2 victory over the AZL Athletics in Arizona League action this morning at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa.
With 18-year old Dominican OF Oliver Zapata, 18-year old Dominican INF Marco Hernandez, and 18-year old Venezuelan INF Gioskar Amaya hitting 1-2-3 in the order most everyday, Los Tres Amigos set the standard for the AZL Cubs on a daily basis, and today was no exception. Zapata (who leads the AZL in walks and is 4th in SB) walked three more times today, singled, stole a base, scored two runs, and knocked in another, Hernandez (who is 4th in the league in RBI and 6th in doubles) singled, walked, reached base on an HBP, and scored a run, and Amaya (who is 6th in the AZL in hitting) singled twice and collected an RBI.
In addition to the Big Day from the Big Three, DH Brian Inoa (a Man in Search of a Position) doubled twice, scored twice, and drove-in one run, and super-sub Gregori Gonzalez (who played 3B today) singled three times with two RBI.
19-year old Venezuelan RHP Ramon Garcia got the start for the Cubs and was masterful, throwing five shutout innings, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out four. He did all that on just 57 pitches (41 strikes), including throwing his first 16 pitches for strikes, something rarely seen in the AZL. Garcia probably could have continued well past the 5th inning, but AZL pitchers are limited to throwing five innings or 75 pitches (whichever comes first). Garcia is now 5-0 in AZL league play, and is tied for the league-lead in victories.
Cubs 2010 #1 draft pick RHP Hayden Simpson followed Garcia to the mound, entering the game at the start of the 6th inning. Throwing nothing but fastballs (as was also the case in his previous outing), Simpson had an easy nine-pitch 6th (striking out the lead-off hitter looking), before allowing a lead-off single and a one-out Miguel Marte RBI double high off the CF "Green Monster" (Batter's Eye), just two pitches after Marte slugged a near-HR down the LF line (hooked foul at the last second before clearing the fence). Simpson was then removed from the game, after having thrown 26 pitches (17 strikes).
While he throws only fastballs in games, Simpson does throw a breaking ball and a change-up when warming-up. But he apparently is so messed up right now, the Cubs feel he needs to go back to square one and just try and command his fastball (which he was able to do today, and with perhaps a bit more velocity than he has shown previously), before adding anything else to his in-game regimen.
You can tell somebody of concern is in the game when the Fitch Park Sports Psychologist is sitting on the bench, and a Special Assignment Scout is running the radar gun from the tower (hiding the readings from the players).
Cubs 2011 21st round draft pick LHRP Andrew McKirahan (U. of Texas) had another impressive outing, throwing 1.2 IP of shutout relief, getting four of his five outs on grounders and the fifth on a strikeout (swinging), while allowing just an infield single (swinging bunt). McKirahan is a polished, tested lefty reliever from a first-class D-1 program (he pitched in the College World Series last month), and so I would not be surprised to see him maybe get a "jump promotion" to Peoria in relatively short order.