Down on the Farm: Oneri Fleita on Hart and Hill

Throughout the season, Vine Line Online will speak with players, managers and front-office personnel in the minor-league system. Today, “Down on the Farm” checks in with Oneri Fleita, Cubs Vice President of Player Personnel, about how Kevin Hart and Rich Hill will find their ways back to Chicago. Keep coming to the blog for reports, player profiles, interviews and stories during the week.

The old baseball adage “It’s harder to stay in the majors than get there” rings true even for successful players — just ask Kevin Hart and Rich Hill.

Hart was a September call up last year and was a key ingredient in the Cubs playoff run. He posted a 0.82 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 11 innings. Hill also broke out in 2007, winning 11 games, leading the Cubs in strikeouts with 183, and ranking fifth in the National League in batting average against (.235). But both have struggled this year and were optioned to Triple-A Iowa to work out their problems.

Hart.jpgFor Hart, Fleita believes, it might have been an issue of familiarity.

“[Hart’s] a young guy who was brought up and asked to throw out of the bullpen, and did a nice job,” Fleita said. “But because of his lack of experience with irregular work, it was hard for him to stay in sync….”

Fleita believes the key to getting Hart back to Chicago is by getting him back in a familiar role as a starting pitcher, something that may even lead to other opportunities for the big righty.

“Hart has been put back [into the rotation], to get him back on track,” Fleita said. “Putting him in the rotation gives us, as an organization and him individually, the opportunity to be a starter, should that need arise. And if not, it will give him the opportunity to get in sync so that the next time he comes up he will be back where he was last year throwing out of the ‘pen.”

Hill.jpgUnlike Hart, Hill was used as a starter, and instead of losing rhythm and routine, Hill seemed to lose trust in his pitches and thus his command.

“Hill has been sent [to Iowa] to gain a little confidence,” Fleita said. “He struggled to throw strikes and is kind of retracing his steps. I don’t think it will be a major overhaul. Sometimes players lose their confidence and get a little off track, but he threw here a couple nights ago and looks like he’s right back where he was.”

If that is the case then look for Hart and Hill to be back in Chicago soon, something that Fleita attributes to their team-first approach.

“The bottom line is that we are talking about two guys with great attitudes that care more about getting up there and helping us win than [they do about] themselves.”

Zach Martin

Iowa Cubs (AAA): 20-19iowa cubs.gif
Northern Division 1st Place (+1.0)

Iowa’s pitching was solid, but they could not match Round Rock as they dropped a defensive struggle, 3-1.

RHP Randy Wells (L 2-1, 3.38) 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

HOMERS – Micah Hoffpauir (3)

? RF Micah Hoffpauir provided the offense, launching a solo shot in the fourth inning, his third of the year … he is batting .323 (10-for-31) with three homers and 11 RBI in eight games since returning from injury.
? SS Luis Figueroa turned in the I-Cubs only multi-hit game, going 2-for-3.
? LHP J.R. Mathes threw 2.0 scoreless innings of relief, yielding just a hit and a walk w hile striking out one … owns a 1-1 record with a 1.29 ERA (2 ER/14.0 IP) in three May appearances (one start).

Tennessee Smokies (AA): 15-26smokies.gif
North Division 5th Place (-14.0)

Tennessee erased a five-run deficit and took a one-run lead into the bottom of the ninth, but couldn’t shut the door on Montgomery, losing 8-7.

RHP Jeff Samardzija (ND 3-3, 5.61) 4.0 IP, 10 H, 6 E, 6 ER, 5 BB, 1 K

HOMERS – Jake Fox (2)

? SS Robinson Chirinos went 3-for-4 with three triples, two runs scored and an RBI … the three triples are a Southern League record, and his first three-baggers of the year.
? LF Jake Fox hit his second home run of the season, a two-run shot in the sixth inning to cut the Biscuits lead one, 6-5 … the dinger was Fox’s eighth of the year, giving him a combined 31 RBI between Iowa-AAA and Tennessee-AA.

Daytona Cubs (A+): 19-21daytona.gif
East Division Tied 4th Place (-6.0)

Daytona snapped a three game losing streak against St. Lucie with a 5-2 victory in the series opener … the Cubs lead the season series, 4-3.

RHP Alex Maestri (W 4-1, 2.23) 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K

HOMERS – Ryan Harvey (1)

? Starter Alex Maestri improved to 4-1 on the season after allowing two runs on six hits over 6.0 innings … his 2.23 ERA is best on the team and ranks 10th in the Florida State League.
? RF Ryan Harvey went 1-for-4 with his first home run of the year, a two-run blast with two out in the eighth inning.
? Daytona’s seven hits were spread among seven different players in the lineup.

Peoria Chiefs (A-): 14-26chiefs.gif
Western Division 8th Place (-14.0)

Peoria took the early lead, but Quad Cities scratched out three runs in the fourth inning and held on to beat the Chiefs, 3-1.

RHP Hung-Wen Chen (L 0-2, 2.56) 5.0 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K

HOMERS – Cliff Andersen (3)

? CF Cliff Andersen put the Chiefs out in front with a solo home run in the third inning … he went 2-for-3 with a homer, a walk, a run and an RBI out of the leadoff spot.
? RHP Jordan Latham (2.0 IP) and LHP Dustin Sasser (2.0 IP) combined for 4.0 innings of shutout relief, allowing just a hit and two walks while striking out three.

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