Cubs Minor League Spring Training Game Recap

Cease, Steele, and Morrison Get Their Work in Intrasquad Games

The Cubs played two three-inning Minor League Camp intrasquad games Saturday morning at the Riverview Baseball Complex in Mesa, AZ, with RHSP Dylan Cease (South Bend), LHSP Justin Steele (Myrtle Beach), and RHSP Preston Morrison (Tennessee) making their scheduled starts on a day when the Cubs had no Cactus League Minor League games scheduled against other MLB organizations. 

In addition, two pitchers who arrived late to Minor League Camp (LHP Yapson Gomez and RHP Alexander Santana) and recently-signed 28-year old "rookie" RHP Zach Rafferty saw their first game action of 2017.

OF Jose Gutierrez left the gane on Field #3 after being hit on the right ankle by a pitch. He was driven to the UAPC on a cart.

No players from the Iowa group played in either game (Iowa players were assigned as extra men in the two Cubs MLB split squad games), and eight position players from the Tennessee group were assigned to the four squads (two Smokies position players assigned to each of the four squads).   

Here are the box scores from the two abbreviated games:

D. J. Helps Pelicans Cruz to Miller Time Music at Diablo

Zack Short singled, doubled, stole a base, and scored a run, and Jose Gutierrez singled, walked, stole a base and scored two runs, helping the South Bend Cubs (Lo-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs) defeat the Burlington Bees (Lo-A affilate of the Los Angeles Angels) 7-4 on Field #3, and Trent Giambrone belted a two-run double, stole 3rd base, and then scored on a FC to highlight a three-run 2nd, D. J. Wilson smashed a tape-measure solo home run off the Angels clubhouse in the 3rd, Michael Cruz blasted a two-run HR down the RF line in the 4th, and Kyle Miller hurled three innings of shutout ball, leading the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Cubs Hi-A affiliate) to an 11-7 victory over the Inland Empire 66ers (Angels Hi-A affiliate) on Field #4, in Cactus League Minor League doubleheader action Saturday afternoon at the Diablo Stadium Complex n Tempe, AZ.

Myrtle Beach 1B Matt Rose left the game on Field #4 in the top of the 2nd inning after being hit by a pitch, and he was driven back to the UAPC in Mesa by Cubs training staff. Also, South Bend catcher Tyler Payne suffered what appeared to be a lower-body injury while sliding into 2nd base (RBI double) in the top of the 6th on Field #3.   

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

Baez Owns Lester, Apparently

Jeffrey Baez belted a solo home run leading off the game and contributed two RBI doubles later in the contest (all three run-scoring hits coming off Jon Lester), but it wasn't enough as Carlos Penalver drilled a solo HR leading off the bottom of the 1st inning, Wladmir Galindo smacked a solo shot onto the freeway berm beyond the left field fence in the bottom of the 6th, and Jonathan Sierra belted a two-run home run in the bottom of the 7th, helping the Iowa Cubs (AAA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs) rally to tie the Tennessee Smokies (Cubs AA affiliate) 7-7 on Field #6, and Carlos Sepulveda singled, doubled, and tripled, scored two runs, and drove-in two more, Trent Giambrone belted a three-run HR, walked, stole a base, and scored two runs, Connor Myers doubled, walked, stole two bases, and scored a run, and RHSP Thomas Hatch (Cubs 2016 3rd round draft pick - Oklahoma State) hurled three innings of shutout ball with five strikeouts, leading the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Cubs Hi-A affiliate) to a 9-1 victory over the South Bend Cubs (Lo-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs) on Field #5, in Minor League Camp intrasquad doubleheader game action this morning at the Riverview Baseball Complex in Mesa, AZ.   

Chicago Cubs ace LHSP Jon Lester came over to Minor League Camp to get his scheduled game work, but the Tennessee Smokies were ready for him, hammering him to the tune of six runs on nine hits (including three doubles, two triples, and a home run). Lester eventually recorded 12 outs (including three strikeouts) and did not issue any walks, but he left the game with his team trailing 6-3.  

Willson Conteras was Lester's catcher, and he batted five times in six innings, going 1-4 with a single and a walk, and two strikeouts. He also was thrown out attempting to steal a base. Defensively he was 0-1 CS.

Sometimes called the "Other Baez" by those who follow the Cubs farm system, Jeffey Baez was signed by the Cubs previous regime as a 16-year old International Free-Agent out of Venezuela in July 2010. Now 23, the "other Baez" has moved somewhat slowly (fits & starts) through the Cubs system over the past six years, only occasionally showing the five-tool package the Cubs thought they had when they signed him. But he does have skills (plus-arm, plus-power, plus-speed), and he was MVP of Cubs Extended Spring Training in both 2013 and 2014 (he led the EXST Cubs in home runs both seasons), and he tied for the league lead in stolen bases in the Carolina League in 2016 (built like an NFL running back, Baez is an excellent base stealer). But 2017 is a make-or-break year for the Jeffrey Baez Cub connection, because he is eligible to be an MLB Rule 55 six-year minor league free-agent post-2017, and so the Cubs must decide by 5 PM (Eastern) five days after the final game of the World Series whether to add him to their MLB 40-man roster, or let him walk away as a minor league free-agent (or possibly trade him before he hits free-agency). He is projected to be the starting RF at AA Tennessee in 2017 (although he can play all three outfield positions), so we will just have to wait and see how Baez performs at the AA level, and what the Cubs will choose to do with him post-2017. I'm not sure the Cubs will want to let a talent like Jeffrey Baez just walk away after investing so much time and effort in his development.

It was a "bullpen day" for both the South Bend Cubs and Tennessee Smokies, with a number of pitchers battling for pen jobs getting an inning of work. The best performance of the day among the relievers who threw in the two games was turned-in by Iowa Cubs RHRP Daniel Corcino, who threw high-octane gas past three Smokies hitters while striking out the side1-2-3  in the 7th. Tennessee RHRP Scott Effross also struck out the side 1-2-3 in his one inning of work.

Here are the box scores from the two games:

I-Cubs and Smokies Pound RockHounds and Sounds at Fitch Park

Ian Rice hammered an RBI double and a single and scored a run, Jesse Hodges belted an RBI triple and a single and scored a run, Tyler Pearson slugged a solo home run, and five pitchers combined to toss a shutout, as the Tennessee Smokies (Cubs AA affiliate) blanked the Midland RockHounds (AA affiliate of the Oakland Athletics) 5-0 on Field #3, and David Bote ripped an RBI triple and two singles, stole a base, and scored two runs, Charcer Burks drilled a triple and an RBI single, walked, stole a base, and scored a run, Jason Vosler singled, doubled, stole a base, and scored two runs, and Brandon Cummins (recently acquired from the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League) singled twice, stole two bases, scored a run, and drove-in another, leading the Iowa Cubs (AAA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs) to a 9-5 victory over the Nashville Sounds (A's AAA affiliate) on Field #4, in Cactus League Minor League game action Wednesday afternoon at the Lew Wolff Training Complex at Fitch Park in Mesa, AZ. 

The game on Field #4 was called after eight innings of play.

The A's started two of their top pitching prospects in the games, with RHSP Jharel Cotton getting the start for Nashville and RHSP Daniel Gossett the SP for Midland. Both pitchers were sent down to Minor League Camp by the A's specifically to pitch in the two games against the Cubs AA/AAA affiliates, and they are the type of high-end MLB-ready (or near-ready) arms the Cubs might target in a potential trade involving Cubs excess position-player prospects somewhere down the line. Cotton was acquired from the Dodgers as part of the Rich Hill trade last July and led the PCL in strikeouts, WHIP, and OppBA in 2016, and Gossett was the A's 2nd round draft pick out of Clemson in 2014.

As is typical for minor league Spring Training games, a few Cubs position-players were moved up to higher levels for the two games. 

Also, while Zach Hedges is assigned to the Tennessee squad at Minor League Camp, he was the starting pitcher for Iowa, and Adbert Alzolay is assigned to the Myrtle Beach squad at Minor League Camp, but he was the starting pitcher for Tennessee. (Alzolay's fastball was sitting at 95, BTW). All of the other Cubs pitchers who worked in the games pitched for their assigned squads (levels), including Jake Stinnett, who "piggy-backed" with Alzolay in the AA game but actually threw more innings and six less pitches than Alzolay.

Cubs pitchers being stretched out as starters (Alzolay, Stinnett, and Hedges) were limited to three innings or 45-50 pitches (whichever came first).  

RHP Tyler Skulina (Cubs 2013 4th round draft pick - Kent State) is being moved to the bullpen in 2017. (He was a SP at AA Tennessee last season). He threw a scoreless inning in the AAA game on Field #4 (but only 50% strikes).

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

Wilson, Cease, and Hudson Star at Minor League Camp

CF D. J. Wilson (Cubs 2015 4th round draft pick - Canton South HS - Canton, OH) tripled and singled and scored two runs, 6'8 LHP Bryan Hudson (Cubs 2015 3rd round draft pick - Alton HS - Alton, IL) tossed 4.1 IP of one hit shutout ball with a 10/1 GO/AO, and Cubs top pitching prospect fireballin' RHSP Dylan Cease (Cubs 2014 6th round draft pick - Milton HS - Milton, GA) hurled four innings of one-run/one hit ball, in Minor League Camp intrasquad game action Wednesday morning on Field #6 at the Riverview Baseball Complex in Mesa, AZ. 

The game was called after 11-1/2 innings of play with the score tied 2-2. 

Shane Victorino (calf strain) continued his rehab, playing LF for six innings and going 0-3 at the plate (4-3, 4-3, 5-3). 

Ex-KC closer RHP Aaron Crow (signed by the Cubs to a minor league contract prior to the start of Spring Training) made his first game appearance since undergoing TJS last April, throwing 1.2 IP (19 pitches - 12 strikes) and allowing one hit and an unearned run with a 4/0 GO/AO.  

Ex-HOU RHRP Jake Buchanan made his first game appearance in a Cub uniform since being signed to a minor league contract last week, throwing 1.2 IP (21 pitches) while surrendering a run (earmed) on two hits (a triple and an RBI single) and a 3/0 GO/AO.

In Minor League Camp roster news, 3B-1B  Blake Headley (Cubs 2015 20th round draft pick - U. of Nebraska) has retired. Also, INF-OF David Bote was assigned to Myrtle Beach (where either he or Erick Castillo will likely initially be inactive, but available to be reinstated when needed), and LHP Jeffry Antigua has been assigned to Extended Spring Training (he was previously with the Iowa squad at Minor League Camp) and will be available to respond whenever needed on a moment's notice to any of the Cubs four full-season afiliates.  

Here is the box score from the game: 

Victorino Continues to Rake & Run at Riverview

Shane Victorino (calf strain) drilled a line-drive double into the left-field corner and scored and blooped a single to center and stole a base, Kelly Dugan slugged a solo home run, and RHSP Kyle Miller hurled 3.1 IP of one-hit shutout ball, in a Minor League Camp intrasquad game played this morning on Field #6 at the Riverview Baseball Complex in Mesa, AZ. 

The game was called after 7-1/2 innings of play. 

Victorino played RF for four innings and batted three times (2B, 1-3, 1B). He is running OK, and in addition to stealing a base (he also stole a base yesterday), he even tried to lay down a bunt single (he was retired 1-3 on a nice play by pitcher Manny Rondon). 

No sign of Javy Baez on the field today. Baez was beaned on the helmet by a Tyler Skulina fastball yesterday (although he did not appear to be seriously injured and left the field under his own power, he did go directly to the clubhouse, presumably to be tested for a concuussion).  
 
Here is the box score from today's game:

Baez and Victorino in Action at Riverview

Shane Victorino (calf strain) singled twice and doubled and Javy Baez (thumb contusion) belted an RBI double and scored a run in Minor League Camp intrasquad game action this morning at the Riverview Baseball Complex in Mesa, AZ. 

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