Danny Hultzen

Cubs Rehabbers Shut-Down D'backs at Riverview

SP Erick Leal tossed five innings of one-run ball and four relievers combined to hurl five shutout innings, leading the Cubs "B" team to a 3-1 victory over the Diamondbacks in Cactus League Extended Spring Training game action Tuesday morning on Field #1 at the Riverview Baseball Complex in Mesa, AZ. 

The game was pre-planned as a ten-inning contest. 

At one point Cub pitchers retired 14 D'backs in a row. 

Four Cubs pitchers on Active Rehab at EXST saw action in the game: 

1. Erick Leal: FB 89-90 - CV 76-78 (62 pitches - 15 swings & misses)   
2. Tony Barnette: FB 90-91 - SL 81-84 
3. Danny Hultzen: FB 94-97 - SL 85-86 (12 pitches - seven swings & misses) 
4. Chad Hockin: FB 90 - SL 84-86 

In his three EXST game outings Hultzen has been unhittable. He has thrown three shutout innings (75% strikes) with eight strikeouts while allowing no walks and just an infield single and a weak P-6. His max FB velo has increased from 92 to 96 to 97 and his SL velo increased from 84 to 86 in a span of eight days. The difference seems to be that he has changed to a lower arm-slot (a lot like Andrew Miller circa 2015-16) which apparently puts less-stress on his shoulder and has led to a stunning uptick in his velo.

Here is the abridged box score from the game (Cubs players only):

Brendon Little Throws "Live" BP & Danny Hultzen gets Game Work at EXST

Jorge Barrosa belted a two-run triple and singled twice, Jose Corpa drilled a two-run triple and scored a run, and Luvin Valbuena doubled, walked, and scored two runs, leading the Diamondbacks past the Cubs "A" team 6-4 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training game action Tuesday morning on Field #5 at the Riverview Baseball Complex on John Arguello Way in Mesa, AZ. 

Jake Slaughter laced an RBI double and a single, Edmond Americaan singled, doubled, walked, and scored a run, and Marcus Mastrobuoni drove-in two runs with an RBI single and an RBI FC, stole a base, and threw out a runner attempting to steal a base, to aid the Cubs in a losing cause. 

LHP Danny Hultzen (on AAA Iowa 60-day IL - 2016 shoulder surgery rehab) saw his first game action of 2019, getting the start and striking out the side (all three swinging, and he threw 83% strikes) in the top of the 1st inning, and RHRP Chad Hockin (on Myrtle Beach 7-day IL - May 2018 TJS) threw a 1-2-3 2nd inning (4-3, 6-3, K-swinging) as he continues to look sharp while rehabbing from May 2018 TJS.

Once one of the top pitching prospects in baseball (he was the Seattle Mariners 1st round pick and the 2nd overall pick in the 2011 draft out of UVA), the 29-year old Hultzen still has a plus-CH and a very solid breaking ball and he runs his cutter at a respectable 88-90 MPH, and he has outstanding command of all of his pitches, too, but the problem he had last year (and it remains to be seen if the issue has been resolved) was that he was unable to throw more than one inning per appearance and he was also unable to throw two days in a row. If he is going to be an MLB lefty reliever he will need to be able to either throw multiple innings or pitch at least two days in a row.    

Prior to the game on Field #5, LHP Brendon Little (Cubs 2017 1st round draft pick) and RHP John Pomeroy (ex-PIT) threw "live" BP on Field #6. This was the first time Little has faced hitters since straining his lat in his first "live" BP session of Minor League Camp the first week of March.   
 
Here is the abridged box score from the game (Cubs players only): 

Cubs Trip(le) Up Angels at Riverview

Kevin Zamudio tripled, doubled, and scored a run, Delvin Zinn tripled, singled, and scored a run, Fernando Kelli belted a two-run triple, and four pitchers combined to hurl one-hit ball with eleven strikeouts over the first 6-2/3 innings, as the Cubs withstood a late rally and edged the Angels 5-4 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training game action Tuesday morning on Field #6 on John Arguello Way at the Riverview Baseball Complex in Mesa, AZ. 

The game was called after eight innings of play. 

RHP Eury Ramos got the start for the Cubs and was outstanding, retiring the first six Angels hitters in a row (1-3, K, K, F-7, 3-U, K - all three strikeouts swinging, including Dustin Ackley on a 3-2 pitch) while mixing a high-octane 95-97 MPH FB with a plus-CV and a swing & miss CH. The Cubs still have six weeks left to decide, but it is pretty clear that Ramos has joined Brailyn Marquez, Jeremiah Estrada, Faustino Carrera, and Danis Correa as the front-runners for the five Eugene Opening Week SP slots. The 6'3 Ramos is starting to fill-out (he weighed only 150 pounds when he signed with the Cubs in 2014) and that could be at least one of the reasons behind his rather sudden and startling uptick in FB velo. 

RHP Ryan McNeil (elbow, back, hip) followed Ramos to the mound and continued his EXST rehab with two perfect innings, striking out the last four men he faced (all four swinging - including Dustin Ackley again). Although he has been used as a reliever over the four seasons since 2013 TJS, McNeil still has a four-pitch SP-type repertoire that includes a 90-92 MPH FB, a mid-80's hard-slider, a CV, and a plus-CH. The 3rd round draft pick of the Cubs in 2012 out of Nipomo HS (Nipomo, CA), McNeil is eligible to be an MLB Rule 55 minor league 6YFA post-2018, so the Cubs will need to decide sometime over the next few months whether to add McNeil to the MLB 40-man roster post-World Series, or offer him a 2019 Minor League Successsor Contract and hope that he accepts it (in which case he would be eligible for selection in next December's Rule 5 Draft), or let him walk away as a minor league FA.

Prior to the game, LHP Danny Hultzen (2016 shoulder surgery) threw "live" BP (one inning - 15 pitches) on Field #4. This was the first time the 28-year old Hultzen has faced "live" hitters in more than two years. Hultzen was the second overall pick (by the Seattle Mariners) in the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft ($6.35M signing bonus and a major league contract) out of UVA, but his career was derailed by shoulder woes and he retired after the 2016 season. But then he decided to give it one more try, signing a minor league contract with the Cubs this past February. He has been in the Rehab Throwing Program at the UAPC in Mesa for the last two months. Once he has completed the "live" BP phase and if all is proceeding according to plan, he will likely throw in an EXST intrasquad game and then perhaps in a Cactus League EXST game.    
 
In EXST Cubs roster news, C-1B-3B Cam Balego and OF Chris Carrier have been sent to EXST from South Bend, and RHSP Carlos Paula has been sent back to the Cubs Dominican Academy in Boca Chica, so he will almost certainly begin the 2018 season back in the DSL. Paula did not pitch in any Cactus League or intrasquad games while at EXST. 

Also, RHRP Aneuris Rosario was placed on the Disqualified List last week. I don't know why the Cubs did this, but the move had to be approved by the MLB Commissioner. (The Disqualified List is used when a player violates the terms of his contract, such as using a false identity, submitting fraudulent documents, circumventing a drug test, or signing with another professional baseball club before being released). Because A. Rosario has spent four seasons in the DSL he is ineligible to return there in 2018, and so he would have had to make the Opening Day roster of Eugene or one of the Cubs two AZL teams.  

Here is the abridged box score from today's game (Cubs players only):  

Cubs Re-Sign Davis

3/2 UPDATE:

The Cubs have signed 28-year old RHSP to a minor league contract and he has been assigned to AAA Iowa. Whether he will receive an NRI to Spring Training at this late date is TBD.

Webster was the 2008 18th round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers out of Dalton L. McMichael HS in Mayodan, NC, and was at one time rated by Baseball America as one of the Dodgers Top Ten prospects (2009-12) and one of the Top 100 Prospects in baseball 2013-14. He also was rated as having one of the best change-ups and one of the best sliders in the minors at that time. But he was unable to establish himself in MLB 2013-15 after being traded to the Boston Red Sox in the Adrian Gonzalez deal in 2012 and then with the Arizona Diamondbacks after being traded to the D'backs as part of a trade for Wade Miley in December 2014, and he was released post-2015 to pursue an opportunity to continue his career in South Korea.

Webster pitched for the Samsung Lions in the KBO in 2016, before returning to the U. S. and signing a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers a year ago last November. He spent the 2017 season at AAA Round Rock, where he struggled to a 6.79 ERA - 1.66 WHIP - .329 OppBA with 14 HR allowed and 20/44 BB/K in 58.1 IP (12 G - 11 GS).

Webster is out of minor league options should he be added to the Cubs MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) at some point in 2018, but he does not have Article XX-D status and so he would not have the right to elect free-agency if he is added to the 40 and then subsequently is outrighted back to the minors.

Meanwhile he will be competing for a spot on the Iowa Cubs pitching staff, probably in a RP/SP "swingman" role.    

2/26 UPDATE