Roberto Vahlis

LaStella Rakes Far from the Maddon Crowd

Tommy LaStella belted a solo home run, two RBI doubles, and a single, Adonis Paula ripped a two-out two-run game-tying double in the bottom of the 7th, and Roberto Caro tripled and scored in the 7th and then drove-in what proved to be the winning run with an 8th inning sacrifice fly, as the Cubs rallied from a 5-0 deficit to edge the Athletics 7-6 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning on Field #6 at Mesa CubTown at Riverview Park. 

Gabriel Santana and Carlos Hiciano drilled RBI doubles to highlight a two-run third and Iolana Akau hammered a three-run HR in the fourth for the A's in a losing cause. 

The game was called after eight innings. 

LaStella batted six times and reached base four times (he also was retired on an F-9 fly out and a 3-U ground out). He played second-base for the first four innings and then moved to third base for the next three, and he made one really nice play in the field, coming-in fast from third-base to snatch a slow one-hopper before throwing the batter out at 1st in a "bang-bang" play.

At the plate, both of LaStella's doubles were hard-hit line-drives, one crashing off the CF fence and the other drilled into the right-centerfield gap, and the home run was a line-drive shot over the RF fence. Even the F-9 fly out his first-time up was hit to the warning track. The single was an opposite-field looper that fell between the A's left-fielder. shortstop, and third-baseman in short-left near the foul line. LaStella didn't run at first (he apparently thought it would land in foul territory), or else he might have had still another double. 

In just two Cactus League EXST rehab games (10 PA) so far, LaStella has seven hits (including four doubles and a HR) and a sacrifice fly, and six RBI. 

Two of the three Extended Spring Training position player "conversion projects" were on the hill for the Cubs in today's game. 

RHP Mark Malave (ex-C) got the start and was not effective, allowing two runs on three hits (including two doubles) and three walks in 2.1 IP. He didn't strike anyone out. Malave features a high-80's two-seam fastball that occasionally touches 90 MPH, and a curve (which is his best pitch). When he doesn't keep his fastball down in the zone, he can get hammered.

RHP Jae-Hoon Ha (ex-OF) pitched in relief and struggled with his command (as has been the case in most of his outings so far), issuing two walks in his one inning of work. (Cubs pitchers issued a combined nine walks today). Ha throws harder than Malave (he tops out at 92) and probably has more of a future as a pitcher, featuring the low-90's fastball, a curve, a slider, a change-up, and a "mystery pitch" (not sure even he knows what it is...)

Prior to the Cactus League EXST game on Field #6, RHPs Neil Ramirez (on the Cubs MLB 15-day DL with right shoulder inflammation), Santiago Rodriguez, and Pedro Araujo pitched in a two-inning "sim" game on Field #4. Rodriguez threw two innings (30 pitches) and Araujo and Ramirez each threw one inning (15 pitches a piece). Ramirez looked good, with no distress indicated by his body language or visible on his face during the course of the outing.    

In EXST Cubs roster news, RHP Trevor Graham has been released, and catcher Roberto Vahlis and SS Rafael Narea have been assigned to the VSL Cubs.

the 23-year old Graham was the Cubs 2013 13th round draft pick out of Franklin Pierce University, and he has not pitched since Minor League Camp (he has been inactive at Extended Spring Training). He began last season at Extended Spring Training and was moved up to Daytona briefly in May, before ending up at Boise. 

The 21-year old Vahlis (known affectionately as "Fuji" by his teammates) was at Minor League Camp at Riverview Park during Spring Training after spending the previous three seasons playing in Latin American summer leagues, with the DSL Blue Jays in 2012, and then with the VSL Cubs in 2013-14. (He is from Venezula).

Vahlis had three hits (all three singles) in five Cactus League EXST AB (all as a pinch-hitter or DH). He was originally signed by the Toronto Blue Jays as a 17-year old international free-agent in July 2011, and he has hit a combined 213/324/313 in 107 career minor league games (2012-14). 

Narea was signed out of Venezuela by the Cubs as a 16-year old last July ("Signed for Future Service"), and was invited to Extended Spring Training after he turned 17 the first week of April. The slick-fielding Narea was hitless in eight Cactus League EXST Plate Appearances, but was impressive in the field. (Narea is one of 27 international free-agents signed by the Cubs so far in the 2014-15 International Signing Period) 

The Venezuelan Summer League (VSL) begins play this coming Monday (5/18), and the league schedule had to be re-worked somewhat at the last minute after the Mariners suddenly and unexpectedly moved their VSL affiliate (VSL Mariners) to the Dominican Summer League (DSL) earlier this year (the affiliate will play in the DSL as DSL Mariners #2).   

When the Cubs moved their second DSL:affiliate (DSL Cubs #2) to the VSL in 2013, the VSL became a five-team league at that time, resulting in a schedule where each of the five teams would play each of the other four VSL teams once and then get a bye on the 5th day. With only four teams now in the VSL (VSL Cubs, VSL Phillies, VSL Rays, and VSL Tigers), the schedule has been altered to where the four clubs will play six days in a row and then get Sundays off (like the Arizona Fall League).

Here is the abridged box score from today's Cactus League EXST game (Cubs players only), followed by the updated Cubs Extended Spring Training roster: