Cubs Minor League Spring Training Game Recap

Cubs Pitchers Spin Intrasquad Shutout at Riverview

James Norwood, Cory Abbott, Yovanny Cruz, and Scott Effross combined to toss a four-hit shutout, Kevin Zamudio drilled a two-run HR, a single, and a double, Nelson Velazquez singled, doubled, and walked, and Chris Carrier smacked a solo HR, in Cubs Minor League Camp intrasquad game action Sunday morning on John Arguello Way at the Rivervierw Baseball Complex in Mesa, AZ.  

Donnie Dewees (acquired in a trade with KC Friday evening) played LF for four innings and collected a single and a SB. 

RHRP James Norwood came over from MLB Camp and threw an easy 1-2-3 1st inning for the winning squad. Taylor Davis also came over to Minor League Camp to serve as Norwood's "personal" catcher, and as is the case when a pitcher on an MLB 40-man roster pitches in a Minor League game, Norwood gets to use the higher-quality MLB baseball (manufactured in Costa Rica) instead of the cheaper minor league model (which is manufactured in China).  

RHSP Matt Swarmer left the game with a finger blister after warming up in the top of the 2nd (he had a 1-2-3 eleven-pitch 1st inning with two strikeouts). He was scheduled to work three innings or throw 45 pitches (whichever came first), but (as it turned out) that didn't happen.   

Here is the box score from the game: 

Cubs Newcomers Make Good First Impression at Riverview

Michael Cruz and Robel Garcia belted back-to-back home runs on consecutive pitches, Brandon Vicens drilled a bases-loaded bases-clearing double, and Derek Casey fired three innings of no run/no hit ball with five strikeouts, in Cubs Minor League Camp intrasquad game action Friday afternoon on John Arguello Way at the Riverview Baseball Complex in Mesa, AZ. 

The 23 year old Vicens was signed recently by the Cubs as a non-drafted free-agent (NDFA) out of the University of Maine, where he played both baseball (CF) and football (FB) for the Black Bears. He grew up in Hialeah, FL, and played HS ball against Cubs CF Albert Almora Jr. He attended Miami-Dade CC prior to transferring to Maine in 2016. The son of a Puerto Rican father and a Cuban-American mother, Vicens was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 35th round of the 2014 draft out of HS but decided to attend college instead. Now that he can concentrate on baseball full-time, he might be able to unlock some of the potential he displayed as a HS All-American CF at American Heritage School in Plantation. (His HS won three state championships while he was there, one in football and two in baseball).  
 
Robel Garcia (not to be confused with Cubs minor league 2B Reivaj Garcia) was signed by the Cubs last October after he starred for Team Italy in the AZ Instructional League. (The Italian team spent parts of September & October with the Oakland A's squad at Fitch Park). Soon to be 26, the switch-hitting Dominican had previously played five seasons of affiliated ball in the Cleveland Indians organization, before being released in 2014.    

Casey was the Cubs 2018 9th round draft pick out of UVA, and the 6-2 190 23-year old righthander was really sharp today, mowing down hitter-after-hitter over the course of his three innings of work as he effectively mixed a FB, CV, SL, and CH to keep hitters off-balance. Cubs 2018 2nd round compensation pick Paul Richan also threw in the game, but Casey really stood out.      

Here is the box score frrom the game: 

Pelicans Fly the Coop While Bote Bomb Leaves Smokies in the Dark

David Bote (solo HR), Christopher Morel (RBI double), Fernando Kelli (RBI single), and Luis Vazquez (RBI single) contributed run-scoring hits and LHP Bryan Hudson hurled 4.2 IP of one-run ball, leading the Iowa Cubs to a 5-2 victory over the Tennessee Smokies in Minor League Camp intrasquad game action Sunday morning on Field #6 on John Arguello Way at the Riverview Baseball Complex in Mesa, AZ.   

Kevin Zamudio (RBI double) and Joe Martarano (RBI single) drove-in the two Tennessee runs.   

Iowa relievers Randy Rosario, Rob Zastryzny, and Daury Torrez (combined) retired nine in a row.   

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans left town today, so the South Bend Cubs had a full workout (baserunning drills, fielding practice, and BP) on Field #3 but did not play a game. As a result, Myrtle Beach LHSP Bryan Hudson (who remained behind in Mesa) and South Bend RHSP Erich Uelmen pitched the latter innings of the Iowa-Tennessee game, which was extended an extra inning so that all of the pitchers who were scheduled to throw could get their work.   

Also, two pitchers who have been in the Rehab Throwing Program (RHP Erick Leal and LHP Manuel Rondon) got some work in the game as well. (Leal hadn't piched in a game since 2016).

The game was really two different games, because position players from the Eugene/Mesa (Extended Spring Training) squad replaced the Iowa and Tennessee position players after each of the I-Cubs and Smokies starters got two AB. (Christopher Morel -- who began the game as the Iowa DH and then moved to 3B in the 5th -- was the only player to play the entire game). So Uelmen faced the EXST Cubs rather than AAA hitters during his five innings of work, while Hudson faced the AA starting lineup first time through the order and then EXST guys the next time.    
 
Here is the box score from the game:

Jared Young Has Rake, Will Travel

Jared Young drilled an RBI double and a two-run HR, Cam Balego mashed a two-run HR, singled, walked, and scored three runs, Tyler Payne slugged a two-run HR and singled twice, and RHSP Javier Assad hurled five inings of one-run ball, leading the South Bend Cubs to a 6-1 victory over the Myrtle Beach Pelicans on Field #5, and LHSP Jose Paulino tossed five innings of shutout ball and Carlos Penalver belted a solo HR to help the Tennessee Smokies whitewash the Iowa Cubs 3-0 on Field #6, in Minor League Camp intrasquad game action Saturday morning on John Arguello Way at the Riverview Baseball Complex in Mesa, AZ.

Jared Young has been the hottest hitter in Cubs Minor League Camp this month, leading all Cubs minor leaguers in home runs with four. He went 5-5 at Fitch Park versus Beloit yesterday (four singles and a double), and continued to rake today with the RBI double and two-run HR. He is a hitting-machine. (A natural second-baseman, Young has been playing 1B-2B-3B-LF at Minor League Camp to help increase his player-value going forward).   

RHSP Jen-Ho Tseng threw six innings (80 pitches) and allowed two runs on four hits (one HR) and a walk with five strikeouts for the I-Cubs on Field #6, in preparation for his Opening Day start next Thursday in Des Moines against Oklahoma City.

The Defensive Gem of the Game (on Field #6) was turned in by an unexpected source, one Stephen Bruno (normally an infielder, and not known for his defense). Bruno made a spectacular leaping catch over the top of the LF fence and pulled back a near-certain HR-ball off the bat of Jesse Hodges that left the other players and the coaches in near hysterics.
 
Yeiler Peguero had an interesting day, playing 3B for South Bend on Field #5 for six innings before carrying his bat and glove across the walkway to Field #6 and playing 2B for Tennessee for the final two innings of the Iowa-Tennessee game (the two games were played simultaneously and started and ended at about the same time). 

Several pitchers were inserted into the lineups on Field #6 so that they could practice bunting in game situations.  

Although the games were ostensibly Iowa vs Tennessee and Myrtle Beach vs South Bend, the Eugene/Mesa (Extended Spring Training) squad actually contributed the lion's share of the position-players (22 to be exact) to the two games, as a number of players from the four "full-season" squads got the day off. The main purpose of the games was to get innings for pitchers who were scheduled to throw in a game today (the Cactus League minor league season concluded yesterday, so intrasquad games are the only option right now), and to allow the starting pitchers to increase their pitch-counts to where they will need to be once the minor league regular-season begins next week.  

The Opening Day rosters for the four Cubs "full-season" affiliates should be announced within the next couple of days. Collectively the four teams are 17 over the Opening Day active roster limit, but most of the trimming will involve players going onto the 7-day DL and/or being assigned to  Extended Spring Training.   

Young Quintet of Hits Highlights SB Cubs Win at Fitch Park

Jared Young (Cubs 2017 15th round draft pick - Old Dominion) collected five hits (four singles and a double), stole a base, and scored a run, Brandon Hughes (Cubs 2017 16th round draft pick - Michigan State) belted an RBI double and a single, stole a base, and scored a run, Chris Carrier (Cubs 2017 9th round draft pick - U. of Memphis) doubled, singled, reached base on an HBP, and scored a run, and Roberto Caro smacked an RBI double, walked, stole a base, and scored a run, leading the Cubs South Bend Lo-A affiliate to a 6-1 victory over the Beloit Snappers (Oakland Athletics Lo-A affiliate) on Field #3, and Luke Persico (two-run triple) and Luis Barrera (RBI single) drilled consecutive run-scoring hits to cap a five-run 6th, Will Toffey drove-in three runs with a two-run single and a FC, and SP Brendan Butler hurled four innings of shutout ball, as the Stockton Ports (A's Hi-A affiliate) drubbed the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Cubs Hi-A affiliate) 11-1 on Field #4, in Cactus League Minor League Camp doubleheader game action Friday morning at the Lew Wolff Training Complex at Fitch Park in Mesa, AZ. 

The game on Field #3 was called after eight innings of play.

Austin Upshaw (Cubs 2017 13th round draft pick - Kennesaw State) singled twice and doubled and scored the Pelicans lone run (Chris Pieters RBI single) on Field #6.

RHP Jose Albertos (2015 IFA - Mexico) is considered by most observers to be one of the Cubs top two or three pitching prospects, and he got the start for South Bend on Field #3. Albertos did not allow any runs (maybe I should just leave it at that...), but he did permit eight batters to reach base (three singles, a double, three walks, and an HBP) in just 3.2 IP. His main problem was inability to command any of his pitches (75 pitches - only 51% strikes), especially his CV, which he kept spiking into the ground in front of home plate (giving catcher Michael Cruz quite a work-out in the process). RHRP Manuel Rodriguez had a "mid-game save" in relief, stranding two runners inherited from Albertos in the 4th and retiring the side 1-2-3 in the 5th (F-8, K, K) to preserve the shutout. (The Snappers would later score their one and only run of the game with two outs in the bottom of the 8th).  

RHP Keegan Thompson (Cubs 2017 3rd round draft pick - Auburn) got the start for Myrtle Beach on Field #4 and easily retired the first eleven men he faced (4-3, 5-3, 3-U, L-8, K, 4-3, 6-3, F-8, P-6, 6-3, K) before allowing a double, a walk, an HBP, and a two-run single with two outs in the 4th. But he recovered and retired the next four batters to complete his pre-planned five innings of work (73 pitches - 68% strikes). RHP Kyle Miller followed Thompson and had a nightmare outing, walking all four men he faced (all four eventually scored). K. Miller had a similar outing a couple of weeks ago for AA Tennessee (prior to being moved-down to Myrtle Beach) when he walked six in two innings, so don't be too surprised if he is left behind at Extended Spring Training to work on his pitching mechanics/command/control a bit when his Pelican teammates leave town in the next couple or three days.    

CF Connor Myers suffered a left leg injury in the top of the 6th on Field #4 after colliding with RF Chris Pieters in right-centerfield while chasing what turned out to be a two-run triple. Myers left the game under his own power (albeit with a noticeable limp), but if you're looking for a candidate to start the season on the Myrtle Beach 7-day DL, Myers just might be your man.    
 
RHP M. T. Minacci (March 2017 non-TJS elbow injury) threw a shutout inning for South Bend in relief. He allowed a single to the first man he faced before inducing a 1-6-3 DP ball and striking out the next batter to retire the side. Minacci has been in the Rehab Throwing Program at Minor League Camp and prior to today hadn't thrown in a game in more than a year, so he will almost certainly be spending the next couple of months at Extended Spring Training while continuing his rehab and competing for a spot in the Eugene bullpen.   

As usual, several players (Caro, Donahue, Pena, and Romano) were moved-up from the Eugene/Mesa (Extended Spring Training) squad for the day to provide late-inning position-player reinforcements for South Bend and Myrtle Beach.  

Here are the abridged box scores from the two games (Cubs players only):

Little and Lange Dominate at Riverview

LLHP Brendon Little (Cubs 2017 1st round draft pick) hurled five innings of one-hit ball (a solo HR by Austin Beck with two outs in the 4th), retired fifteen of the sixteen men he faced (including six via strikeout), and threw 76% strikes, Jared Young belted a solo HR and an RBI double, and Jhonny Bethencourt knocked-in three runs with two RBI doubles, leading the South Bend Cubs (Lo-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs) to a 10-3 victory over the Beloit Snappers (Oakland Athletics Lo-A affiliate) on Field #5, and RHSP Alex Lange (the Cubs other 2017 1st round draft pick) hurled five innings of one-run two-hit ball and retired the last eleven batters he faced, Chesny Young, Ryan Court, and Tyler Alamo clubbed back-to-back-to-back home runs to highlight a four-run 2nd inning, and Aramis Ademan capped the scoring with a solo HR in the 8th, as the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Cubs Hi-A affiliate) drubbed the Stockton Ports (A's Hi-A affiliate) 9-2 on Field #6, in Cactus League Minor League Camp doubleheader game action Wednesday afternoon on John Arguello Way at the Riverview Baseball Complex in Mesa, AZ.      

Brendon Little was absolutely mesmerizing, working very fast and throwing strikes, and effectively mixing his FB, CV, and CH to maximum degree (F-7, K, K, 5-3, 4-3, F-9, K, 5-3, F-7, F-7, K, HR, F-8, P-4, K, K).

Alex Lange was almost as good as Little over his five innings, flashing both his plus-CV and a CH in addition to his solid FB (BB, P-4, 3B, K, F-7, K, 1B, K, F-8, 6-3, K, 4-3, F-8, F-7, 4-3, 6-3, F-8, 3-U).

So it was a really good day for two of the Cubs top pitching prospects.

Not to be outdone, RHP Bailey Clark (Cubs 2016 5th round draft pick) "piggy-backed" with Little and brought 97 MPH FB gas and a hard slider to Field #5, racking up three innings of one-hit one-run ball. Clark retired the side easily 1-2-3 in his first two innings of work (K, 3-U, K, 4-3, 5-3, P-3), before losing his command a bit in his 3rd inning. The A's loaded the bases on a single and two walks with no outs, but then Clark induced a 4-6-3 DP on a 1-2 pitch and struck out the next hitter to get out of the jam. Clark opted to return to college (Duke) to get his degree after being drafted and signed by the Cubs in 2016, and he lost some valuable developmental time as a result, but the 6'4 220 righthander has all the earmarks of a stud power-pitcher.  

RHRP Shae Simmons got an inning of work, producing a 1-2-3 inning (K, K, 4-3). He was pounding the lower part of the strike zone with a 95 MPH FB mixed-with an occasional hard SL. (Simmons missed much of Spring Training with a sore shoulder, and was optioned to AAA Iowa just prior to the games at Riverview).

Just back from Fort  Myers, FL, where they traveled with the big club for a two-game pre-season set with the Red Sox, Iowa Cubs infielders Ryan Court and Chesny Young served as "roving designated hitters" in the two games, moving back & forth between the two fields in order to get maximum AB in as short a time as possible. Iowa C-1B Taylor Davis got somewhat less-intense DH work in with South Bend, taking all of his AB on Field #5.

Here are the abridged box scores from the two games (Cubs players only)
 

Rockie Road for Cubs at Riverview

RHSP Ryan Castellani tossed four innings of one-run ball and Roberto Ramos and Scott Burcham hammered back-to-back RBI doubles to highlight a four-run 6th, as the Hartford Yard Goats (Colorado Rockies AA affiliate) edged the Tennessee Smokies (Cubs AA affiliate) 4-3 on Field #5, and Vince Fernandez drilled an RBI double and a two-run single and Todd Czinege belted a solo HR to help the Albuquerque Isotopes (Rockies AAA affiliate) defeat the Cubs AAA Iowa affiliate 8-3 on Field #6, in Cactus League Minor League Camp doubleheader game action Tuesday afternoon on John Arguello Way at the Riverview Baseball Complex in Mesa, AZ.    

In two starts versus Tennessee in the last week, Ryan Castellani has thrown eight innings and allowed just one run on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. (Castellani is ranked by Baseball America as the Rockies #6 prospect).
 
RHSP Duncan Robinson hurled five innings of shutout ball, Jesse Hodges drove-in two runs with an RBI single and an RBI double, and Chris Pieters singled & doubled and scored a run for Tennessee, and the Smokies had the potential tying and winning runs on base with no outs in the bottom of the 9th but were unable to plate even one of the runners. 

Stephen Bruno (RBI double) and Bijan Rademacher (RBI single) drilled consecutive two-out RBI hits in the bottom of the 3rd to provide Iowa's two runs on Field #6. 

As was mentioned here yeaterday, several Iowa Cubs players traveled to Florida with the MLB squad for the two-game pre-season set versus the Red Sox in Ft. Myers, so a number of players on the Tennessee, Myrtle Beach, and South Bend squads have been temporarily promoted to higher levels for a few days (until the I-Cubs return from Florida).
 
Iowa Cubs RHRP David Garner saw his first game action since being suspended for 50 (official) games after testing positive for a "Drug of Abuse," and he had a very poor outing, allowing three runs on two hits and three walks in 2/3 of an inning while throwing only 38% strikes. (With the approval of the MLB Commissioner and with the consent of the player's MLB organization, a player who is on the Restricted List as the result of a prohibited substance suspension can attend Minor League Camp and Extended Spring Training - without pay - and participate in Minor League Camp and EXST games while serving the suspension, although the player is not required to do so). Barring rain-outs or other postponements, Garner's suspension is scheduled to end on May 27th.   
 
Here are the abridged box scores from the two games (Cubs players only):

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