Jesse Hodges

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):

Two-Out 9th Inning Magic Saves the Day for I-Cubs at Fitch

Jason Vosler hammered an opposite-field game-tying two-run double off the LF fence with two out in the top of the 9th and Ian Rice followed with a two-run home run over the left-centerfield fence to give the Cubs a two-run lead, and then Ryan McNeil converted the save (albeit allowing a run and stranding the potential game-tying run on base in the bottom of the 9th), as the Iowa Cubs (AAA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs) rallied to edge the Nashville Sounds (AAA affiliate of the Oakland Athletics) 6-5 on Field #4, and Jesse Hodges belted a two-run HR over the LF fence onto Center Street to give the Tennessee Smokies (Cubs AA affiliate) a 2-0 lead in the top of the 2nd, but Skye Bolt belted an RBI triple and scored, singled, and walked, as the Midland RockHounds (A's AA affiliate) plated four runs over the next seven innings en route to a 4-2 victory on Field #3, in Cactus League Minor League doubleheader action Monday afternoon at the Lew Wolff Training Complex at Fiitch Park in Mesa, AZ.

As usual, several players were moved-up from lower-levels for the day to replace Iowa and Tennessee players assigned to the Cubs MLB game roster at Goodyear. 

It was a "bullpen day" for the Smokies, as five relievers vying for pen jobs at Tennessee got work. There were no stand-out eve-opening performances among the five (Pugliese, Skulina, Thorpe, Minch, and Norwood). 

Meanwhile, RHSP Jordan Pries (acquired from the Seattle Mariners along with LHP Mike Montgomery for 1B Dan Vogelbach and RHSP Paul Blackburn last June) got the start for the I-Cubs, in what might be his final opportinity to win a job at AAA. It will be tough for Pries to crack the Iowa starting rotation in 2017, and his 87-88 MPH fastball and OK (but not great) off-speed stuff probably don't have a whole lot of value out of the bullpen. However, he might find a job as a SP/RP "swing-man" at Iowa if he can beat-out Casey Kelly, Seth Frankoff, Williams Perez, and/or Dallas Beeler for a AAA "utility pitcher" slot. 

Veteran minor league RHRP Frank Batista saw his first game action since undergoing an elbow UCL transplant (TJS) last April, and retired the side 1-2-3 (5-3, K, F-9). The 27-year old (soon to be 28) diminutive (5'10) Batista has been around a while (he signed with the Cubs as an IFA out of the Dominican Republic in January 2009), but you could see he was stoked about his outing.    

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

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):

Underwood Sharp in Final Rehab Tune-Up at Sloan Park

Five pitchers combined to toss a one-hit shutout and Didimo Bracho belted a two-run home run and an RBI single to account for all of his team's runs, helping the Diamondbacks blank the Cubs 3-0 at Sloan Park, and D. J. Wilson (two-run triple), Luis Ayala (RBI double), Gustavo Polanco (RBI double), and Jesse Hodges (RBI single) contributed run-scoring hits to highlight a five-run Cub 3rd, as the Cubs and D'backs played to a 7-7 tie on Field #1 at the Riverview Baseball Complex, in Cactus League Extended Spring Training split-squad doubleheader action this morning in Mesa, AZ.   

Michael Foster broke up the D'backs no-hit bid in Sloan Park with a one-out single in the bottom of the 9th. 

RHSP Duane Underwood (right ebow stiffness) made his final rehab start in the game at Sloan Park and threw 5.1 IP (78 pitches) of one-run ball, retiring 13 of the first 16 men he faced before running into trouble in the top of the 6th when he allowed three singles and a HBP and surrendered his only run. But he was outstanding through the first five innings, allowing no runs on two hits and a walk with four strikeouts.  

RHRP Dallas Beeler (on Cubs 15-day DL - right shoulder inflammation) made a rehab start in the game played on Field #1 and was hit hard, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits (two singles, a double, a triple, and a home run) and a walk (plus a throwing error) in 3.1 IP (50 pitches).

RHRP Aaron Crow (ex-KC - April 2015 TJS rehab) threw in the game on Field #1, but was unable to complete his inning, allowing a single, a double, and a triple and two runs while retiring only one batter. I couldn't tell if he was lifted because of pitch count or performance issues, but his stuff was subpar today and obviously didn't fool any of the young D'backs hitters.  

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

Cubs Super-8 Overcomes Angels at Sloan Park

Kelly Dugan and Marcus Mastrobuoni belted two-run doubles and Shane Victorino, Kevonte Mitchell, and Jesse Hodges contributed RBI singles to highlight an eight-run 7th inning uprising, as the Cubs rallied from an 8-2 deficit to surprise the Angels 10-8 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training game action this morning at Sloan Park in Mesa, AZ.  

Jared Foster hammered an RBI triple, singled, walked, stole a base, and scored two runs to help the Angels build their 8-2 lead.   

The Cubs stole three more bases today, for a total of twenty SB in their last six games (only one CS). 

John Arguello has a game recap and photos from the game at Cubs Den



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

Cubs & Pelicans Pitchers Give Bees & 66ers That Sinking Feeling

Chesny Young belted a two-run triple, singled, and walked, Jason Vosler doubled twice, singled, and scored a run, Jesse Hodges ripped an RBI double and a single, Rashad Crawford roped a line-drive RBI single, drew a walk, stole a base, and scored a run, and Jeremy Null threw five innings of two-run ball with an amazing 12/1 GO/FO, as the South Bend Cubs (Lo-A  affiliate of the Chicago Cubs) rallied from a 3-0 deficit to edge the Burlington Bees (Lo-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels) 4-3 on Field #5, and Daury Torrez threw six shutout innings with four strikeouts and an 11/2 GO/FO, Kevin Brown belted a two-run triple, singled twice, and scored a run, Varonex Cuevas doubled twice, singled, and scored a run, and Danny Lockhart roped a two-run single, walked, and scored a run, as the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (the Cubs Hi-A affiliate) rallied for four runs in the bottom of the 9th to tie the Inland Empire 66ers (Angels Hi-A affiliate) on Field #6, in Cactus League Minor League game action this afternoon at Mesa CubTown at Riverview Park.    

The 66ers had just scored four runs in the top of the 9th off Myrtle Beach lefty reliever Gerardo Concepcion to take a 6-2 lead, but the Pelicans came right back with four of their own. 

Both Daury Torrez and Jeremy Null had the sinker working to perfection, combining to produce a 23/3 GO/FO ratio over 11 innings of work, one of the most extraordinary groundball heavy minor league doubleheaders I have seen in some time. Torrez will join Duane Underwood, Tyler Skulina, Paul Blackburn, and Jen-Ho Tseng in the Myrtle Beach starting rotation, and Null will be part of a South Bend rotation that will also feature Jake Stinnett, Erick Leal, Trevor Clifton, James Norwood, and/or Zach Hedges (last slot still TBD)  

The defensive play of the day was turned-in by South Bend CF Trey Martin, who made a spectacular diving catch in right-centerfield after a long run at full speed. Martin is a "long-strider" who can make long distances seem shorter than they really are, but what was especially impressive about Martin's play was that he dived onto his left (non-throwing) shoulder to complete the catch, the same shoulder that was surgically repaired about a year ago.    

With the exception of Travis Wood and Kyle Hendricks, the Chicago Cubs left town after last night's Cactus League game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field in anticipation of their MLB Opening Day game tomorrow night at Wrigley Field, leaving minor league players behind to be presented as the "Chicago Cubs" for this afternoon's MLB Cactus League finale. Most of the players assigned to the MLB game at Chase were pulled from the AAA Iowa Cubs roster, but a few came from the Tennessee and Myrtle Beach squads as well. Also, several members of the Myrtle Beach squad were moved up to the Iowa Cubs for this afternoon's Cactus League minor league game in Tempe against the Angels AAA Salt Lake City affiliate, and a number of players from the Cubs Extended Spring Training contingent filled in for the missing Pelicans at Riverview, as well as providing roster depth in the South Bend, Tennessee, and Iowa games.  

Here are the abridged box scores from the two games played today at Riverview Park (Cubs players only): 

Pelicans Gobble Nuts & Tourists Fly Past Cubs at Riverview

Jesse Hodges belted a solo HR and singled, Jordan Hankins singled twice, drove-in a run, and scored another, and Jake Stinnett tossed five innings of one-run ball as the Cubs took a 4-1 lead through five innings, but the Asheville Tourists (Colorado Rockies Lo-A affiliate) scored four in the 6th, two in the 8th, and two more in the 9th, to rally to a 9-7 victory over the South Bend Cubs (Lo-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs) on Field #5. and Jacob Rogers and Kevin Brown hammered doubles and scored, Shawon Dunston Jr and Jeimer Candelario drilled RBI singles, and Wes Darvill slugged a two-run home run to highlight a five-run 3rd, as the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Cubs Hi-A affiliate) cruised to a 6-2 victory over the Modesto Nuts (Rockies Hi-A affiliate) on Field #6, in Cactus League Minor League game action this afternoon at Mesa CubTown at Riverview Park.  

Brown (two doubles and a single) and Candelario (two singles and a double) collected three hits a piece for the Pelicans. 

Chris Denorfia (hamstring rehab) saw his first game action in a couple of weeks, serving as a DH for Myrtle Beach and going 1-3. He led-off each of the first three innings, flying out F-9 in his first AB, bouncing back to the pitcher 1-3 his second time up, and then clubbing a ringing double into the right-centerfield gap in his third Plate Appearance.

While Denorfia jogged somewhat gingerly into second base and looked to be something less than 100% on his double, a minute later he went full-tilt from second to home to score on the Dunston ground RBI single to center. 

South Bend RHP Zach Hedges had a tough outing while piggy-backing with Stinnett on Field #5. Coming in with a 4-1 lead in the top of the 6th, Hedges allowed eight run (all earned) on nine hits (including two doubles, a triple, and a home run) and two walks (plus a wild pitch) and no strikeouts in four innings of work.  

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

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