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Cubs Minor League Recap: 4/21/14

Iowa, Tennessee and Daytona all racked up big wins, while Kane County continued its small losing streak Monday. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:

Iowa Cubs (9-9)
T-2nd Place (-1.5)

Six scoreless innings from RHP Kyle Hendricks helped Iowa beat Round Rock at home, 5-1.

  • Hendricks completed his third consecutive quality start, going six innings, giving up two hits, walking two and fanning six to pick up his third win of the season.
  • RHP Yoanner Negrin (1.86) earned his first hold with a 1-2-3 seventh, and RHP Brian Schlitter (3.60) earned his third save, allowing a run over two innings.
  • CF Matt Szczur (.246) went 3-for-4 with a run, a triple (1), one RBI (8) and a stolen base (5).
  • 2B Arismendy Alcantara (.262) went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and his first homer of the year.

Tennessee Smokies (9-9)
T-2nd Place (-2.0)

The Smokies scored a season-high 10 runs in Birmingham to beat the Barons, 10-5.

  • RHP Dae-Eun Rhee gave up two earned runs over five innings, striking out four and walking five to earn the win.
  • RF Rubi Silva (.206) notched his second straight, multi-RBI game, going 2-for-5 with a first-inning home run and a game-high three RBI (6).
  • CF Jae-Hoon Ha (.172) was 3-for-5 with three runs, a double and a solo homer, his first of the year.
  • LF John Andreoli (.234) went 2-for-6 with two runs, a triple (1), one RBI (5) and a stolen base (8).

Daytona Cubs (4-13)
5th Place (-10.0)

Daytona battled Clearwater in a contest that featured five runs for each side in the first four innings, followed by six scoreless frames. The Cubs scored in the top of the 11th inning to win, 6-5.

  • RHP Jake Arrieta made his fourth rehab start, and first with Daytona. Arrieta fanned seven hitters while allowing three home runs in 5.2 innings of work. He went 1-1 with a 0.73 ERA (1 ER/12.1 IP) in three starts with Tennessee.
  • RHP Jose Rosario (1-2, 5.19) took over in the seventh and threw four scoreless frames for the win.
  • RHP Arodys Vizcaino (1.50) earned his first save with a perfect 11th inning of work.
  • C Chadd Krist (3-for-5) doubled in the 11th to put two runners in scoring position.
  • DH Dan Vogelbach (0-for-3, 2 R, 2 BB) scored on a wild pitch in the 11th to put the Cubs ahead.
  • 3B Jeimer Candelario (.214) went 2-for-4 with a run, two doubles (3) and two RBI (5).

Kane County Cougars (11-6)
1st Place (+0.5)

Kane County lost its third straight game, falling to visiting Clearwater, 5-3.

  • RHP Josh Davis (1.69) allowed two runs on two hits in the ninth to suffer the loss, his first.
  • RF Yasiel Balaguert (.328) went 1-for-4 with two RBI. His 14 RBI are tied for second in the league.
  • 1B Jacob Rogers (1-for-4) knocked in his 11th runner of the year, tied for 12th in the league.

1000 Words: Wood is a one-man wrecking crew

Wood-Wrecking-Crew

(Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty)

In what was probably one of the easiest Player of the Game decisions of the young season, Cubs starter Travis Wood took matters into his own hands on a rainy Monday night, almost single-handedly propelling the North Siders to a 5-1 victory over the Diamondbacks. In seven innings of work, Wood gave up one run on six hits and notched nine strikeouts. But the Cubs lefty didn’t stop there. He also blasted a three-run home run high into the left-field bleachers off of D-backs starter Bronson Arroyo in the second inning and plated another run in the fourth with a double over center fielder Tony Campana’s head. Wood’s nine strikeouts and four RBI were both career highs.

Wood was so formidable with the bat that Arizona manager Kirk Gibson actually pulled Arroyo in favor of reliever J.J. Putz when the Cubs pitcher came to the plate with the bases loaded in the sixth. Putz got Wood to ground into a 1-2-3 double play.

Home Series 4 Preview: Cubs vs. Diamondbacks

Goldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt hopes to carry on from a successful 2013 for the Diamondbacks. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Diamondbacks made a series of dubious decisions heading into the 2013 season, moving Justin Upton and once-highly thought of prospect Trevor Bauer in separate deals for what most felt was less than max value. In theory, both moves should have made Arizona better in the immediate future, though the D-backs enter this week’s series as the worst team in the baseball, in part due to a league-worst -51 run differential. The team disappointed in 2013 as well, finishing right at .500 for the second year in a row, after delivering 94 wins and a playoff berth in 2011. The reshuffling continued this offseason, as GM Kevin Towers moved outfielder Adam Eaton and young pitcher Tyler Skaggs in a deal that netted power-hitting outfielder Mark Trumbo from the Angels. They also consummated a separate deal with the White Sox to nab closer Addison Reed.

2014 HITTING
(13th in NL, 3.7 R/G)

Trumbo jumped out to the early home run lead in 2014 and provides the Diamondbacks with another power bat (though an awful .298 career OBP) to team with Paul Goldschmidt. The team’s offense was already solid last season, and Trumbo should help them score even more runs—especially if catcher Miguel Montero bounces back from a 2013 in which he posted a .230/.318/.344 line after delivering back-to-back .800-plus OPS years. However, it’s Goldschmidt who makes the offense tick. After a pair of very solid seasons, the slugging first baseman took his game to another level last year, posting a gaudy .302/.401/.551 line with 36 doubles and 36 home runs, and finishing second in MVP voting. If he can continue to produce at an elite level, which he’s done so far this season (.313/.330/.518), it will be a steady boost to the Diamondbacks’ offense.

2014 PITCHING
(15th in NL, 6.1 R/G)

The D-Backs are off to a terrible 5-16 start, and much of that can be traced back to the rotation. Last season, the Diamondbacks got a strong contribution from young starter Wade Miley (2-2, 4.35 ERA in 2014), but they’ll miss Patrick Corbin, who injured his elbow in Spring Training. Trevor Cahill (0-4, 7.48) missed all of July 2013 with a hip contusion, but was strong in his return, posting a 2.70 ERA in 50 innings. With Ian Kennedy and Skaggs gone, the team added Bronson Arroyo (1-1, 9.95) for veteran leadership and consistency. The 37-year-old doesn’t flash plus stuff, but has continued to deliver strong seasons, having logged at least 200 innings in eight of the last nine years. But he’s off to an abysmal start in 2014. The hope is Brandon McCarthy (0-3, 7.11) can stay healthy and allow Randall Delgado (0-1, 6.23) to work out of the bullpen. The D-backs added closer Reed to solidify the late innings, but they still need J.J. Putz to stay healthy.

Cubs Minor League Recap: 4/20/14

Behind a big fifth inning rally and another strong outing from starter C.J. Edwards, Tennessee racked up a win, while Iowa was shut out on Sunday. Daytona and Kane County both had the day off. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:

Iowa Cubs (8-9)
T-3rd Place (-2.5)

Iowa was shut out for the third time at home this season, as they fell to Round Rock 6-0.

  • Carlos Pimentel suffered his third loss despite posting his second quality start. His 26 strikeouts tie Mike Fiers of Nashville for tops in the league.
  • CF Matt Szczur went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles.
  • SS Logan Watkins went 2-for-4 with a single and a double, raising his season average to .281.
  • 2B Arismendy Alcantara went 1-for-4 with two stolen bases (5).

Tennessee Smokies (8-9)
4th Place (-3.0)

Tennessee posted a five-run fifth inning on their way to an 8-3 victory over Birmingham at Birmingham’s Regions Field.

  • Tennessee scored eight runs with just one extra-base hit, a seventh-inning double for 2B Stephen Bruno (2-for-4, 2 R, RBI). The Smokies went 5-for-10 as a team with runners in scoring position.
  • 3B Kris Bryant (.294) went 2-for-4 with three RBI, bringing his season total to nine.
  • RF Rubi Silva added two RBI with a 2-for-5 line, his first multihit game of the season.
  • RHP C.J. Edwards earned his first win in his first quality start of 2014, giving up two earned runs over six innings and striking out four.

1000 Words: Tinker’s family on hand for first decade-themed celebration

Tinker

Friday marks the first of the decade-themed celebrations going on at Wrigley Field this season, and everything 1910′s will be on display. Fans attending the game will receive a limited-edition Joe Tinker bobblehead, while three generations of the Hall of Fame shortstop’s family will be on hand to conduct the seventh-inning stretch.

Tinker spent 15 seasons with the organization, from 1902-16. He won two World Series titles with the club in 1907 and 1908, and his middle-infield partnership with Johnny Evers is viewed as one of the best in the organization’s history.

Cubs Minor League Recap: 4/17/14

Iowa won a sloppy game, while Tennessee split its doubleheader and Kane County set a season high in runs Thursday. Daytona’s struggles continued in a loss. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action:

Iowa Cubs (8-6)
2nd Place (-1.5)

Iowa beat visiting New Orleans, 5-4, despite committing a season-high six errors. The last time Iowa had six errors in a game was July 21, 2004, at Nashville.

  • LHP Eric Jokisch got a no-decision, giving up no earned runs and striking out five in 5.2 innings.
  • 1B Chris Valaika (.361), SS Logan Watkins (.222), and C Eli Whiteside (.200) each recorded two hits and drove in a run.
  • RHP Alberto Cabrera (2-0, 1.17) tossed 1.1 scoreless innings of relief to pick up his second win.
  • RHP Brian Schlitter (3.00) earned his second save despite allowing a run in the ninth inning.

Tennessee Smokies (7-7)
T-3rd Place (-2.0)

Tennessee split a home doubleheader against Jackson, evening the ongoing five-game series at two wins apiece. The Smokies were blanked 4-0 in Game 1, managing only one hit. In Game 2, Tennessee overcame a 2-0 deficit to pull out a 3-2 win.

Game 1

  • RHP Corey Black gave up three earned runs in four innings, fanning three and walking five in the loss.
  • 1B Dustin Geiger (.289) went 1-for-2 with a single, the lone Tennessee hit.

Game 2

  • RHP Dae-Eun Rhee pitched four innings, giving up two earned runs and striking out four in the no-decision.
  • C Taylor Davis (.333) put Tennessee ahead with an RBI single in the fourth inning.
  • LHP Hunter Cervenka (1-0, 0.00) tossed two scoreless innings of relief to record his first victory.
  • RHP Armando Rivero (2.45) recorded his third save of the season, striking out the side and walking one in a scoreless seventh.

Daytona Cubs (2-12)
6th Place (-9.5)

Daytona dropped its fifth-consecutive contest, losing 6-5 at home to the Tampa Yankees.

  • 2B Tim Saunders (.306) went 2-for-4 from the leadoff spot with a run scored, a walk, a home run, two RBI (6), a stolen base (6) and a sacrifice fly.
  • DH Rock Shoulders (.213) went 3-for-4 with a walk and one RBI (6).
  • RHP Arodys Vizcaino (1.80) allowed a hit and a walk while striking out the side in the ninth.

Kane County Cougars (11-3)
1st Place (+2.5)

Kane County backed an elite start by 20-year-old Daury Torrez, recording a season-high 13 runs on 19 hits to beat host Dayton, 13-1. The Cougars have now won eight straight games.

  • RHP Daury Torrez was nearly unhittable, going eight innings, giving up one earned run on two hits and a walk, and striking out four to get his second win of the season.
  • C Will Remillard (.250) went 4-for-5 with two runs, two doubles (2) and his first five RBI of 2014.
  • RF Yasiel Balaguert went 2-for-5 to raise his batting average to .382, good for second in the Midwest League. He ranks second in hits (21) and fourth in RBI (12).
  • Remillard and Balaguert were among seven Cougars to tally multiple hits, along with Jacob Hannemann, Carlos Penalver, Ben Carhart, Jacob Rogers and Dan Lockhart.

Home Series 3 Preview: Cubs vs. Reds

Billy-Hamilton

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty)

The Reds used a balanced attack to win 90 games and snag the second Wild Card spot in 2013. Even though it was their third playoff appearance in four seasons, manager Dusty Baker was let go, as his team failed to advance in any of their three postseason trips. The organization stayed within the family to find Baker’s replacement, promoting highly respected pitching coach Bryan Price to the top spot. Price could find himself with an even stronger rotation, despite losing Bronson Arroyo to the Diamondbacks, but he must hope rookie speedster Billy Hamilton can fill a giant-sized hole at the top of the lineup created by the departure of on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo. Still, led by perennial MVP candidate Joey Votto, there’s a ton of talent on this roster.

2014 HITTING
(11th in NL, 3.8 RS/G)
The Reds likely won’t be able to replace Choo and his .423 OBP in the leadoff spot, but rookie phenom Hamilton hopes to wreak havoc on the basepaths (though he has struggled with just a .220 on-base percentage thus far). His speed is so disruptive that if he finds his way to first, it’s likely he’ll be in scoring position within a pitch or two. Votto gets dinged for not driving in runs, but there’s no debating he’s one of the most productive offensive forces in the game, with a .446 OBP and the ability to consistently hit 25-plus home runs. Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier are both good complementary run producers, but Brandon Phillips is on the downside of his career and struggled with a .310 OBP and .706 OPS last season.

2014 PITCHING
(5th in NL, 3.4 RA/G)
Despite losing Arroyo, the Reds’ rotation actually has a chance to improve from last season. After making only 11 starts in 2013, ace Johnny Cueto appears to be healthy, and though Homer Bailey is having a rough start to 2014, the right-hander finally started living up to the high expectations that come with being a top prospect last aseaon. He posted career bests in ERA (3.49), IP (209), WHIP (1.12), K% (23.4 percent) and K/BB (3.69). Add Mike Leake, Tony Cingrani and Mat Latos when he returns from a DL stint, and Cincinnati’s rotation is one of the most impressive on paper entering 2014. The bullpen is also excellent, even with closer Aroldis Chapman still recovering from a comebacker to the face in Spring Training. Sam LeCure, Alfredo Simon and J.J. Hoover all posted sub-3.00 ERAs in more than 60 innings of work last season. And the Reds still have veteran arms in Jonathan Broxton and Manny Parra.

Cubs Minor League Recap: 4/16/14

Iowa, Tennessee and Kane County all notched wins Wednesday, while Daytona continued to scuffle. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action:

Iowa Cubs (7-6)
T-2nd place (-2.5)

A three-run seventh inning and a strong start by RHP Kyle Hendricks led Iowa past New Orleans at home, 6-3, knotting the series at one win apiece.

  • 2B Arismendy Alcantara (3-for-5) was a home run shy of the cycle, picking up two RBI on a go-ahead triple in the seventh.
  • LF Josh Vitters (2-for-4) raised his season average to .293 with two RBI doubles.
  • Hendricks’ eight punchouts launched him into a tie for third place in the PCL with 19 (teammate Carlos Pimentel leads the league with 21).

Tennessee Smokies (6-6)
4th Place (-1.5)

Rehabbing RHP Jake Arrieta and Tennessee earned a 7-2 win at home over the Generals with a five-run fourth inning.

  • Arrieta allowed his first earned run since beginning his rehab stint with Tennessee. He is 1-1 with a 0.73 ERA (1 ER/12.1 IP), allowing six hits, four bases on balls and striking out nine.
  • LF John Andreoli (1-for-4) knocked in three runs from the leadoff spot.
  • CF Jae-Hoon Ha (1-for-4) recorded two RBI on his first hit of the season, a single in the fourth.

Daytona Cubs (2-11)
6th Place (-9.0)

Daytona fell at Dunedin, 5-1, failing to record a hit after the fourth inning.

  • SS Marco Hernandez (2-for-3) reached base three times, including two singles and a walk, to raise his season average to .308.
  • RHPs Michael Jensen (7.20) and Austin Reed (4.05) combined for 3.1 scoreless innings of relief, allowing just one hit and striking out three.

Kane County Cougars (10-3)
1st Place (+1.5)

Kane County completed the sweep at Bowling Green in dramatic fashion, notching five runs in the top of the ninth to win, 6-2.

  • Kane County recorded one hit from each spot in the lineup, including four-consecutive RBI base hits in the ninth from 3B David Bote, 2B Danny Lockhart, DH Shawon Dunston and LF Trey Martin, the lineup’s six-nine hitters.
  • CF Jacob Hannemann (1-for-3) stole his sixth and seventh bases, tied for fourth in the league.
  • RHP Tyler Bremer (1-0, 4.76) earned the win with 1.2 scoreless innings of relief.

From the Pages of Vine Line: April In the Dugout with Rick Renteria

RenteriaRizzo

The following Q&A appears in the April edition of Vine Line magazine.

Cubs manager Rick Renteria has certainly paid his dues. After 30 years in professional baseball, he’ll feel like a rookie again this season as he takes the managerial reins for the first time. Though the 51-year-old is unfailingly positive, he’s also tough, and he hopes to bring a new attitude to a Cubs franchise that is brimming with young talent. We sat down with Renteria during Spring Training to ask about running his first big league team and his expectations for the season.

 Vine Line: You’ve had a long coaching career, but you’re a first-time major league manager. What was your opening message to the team?

RR: That we should place high expectations upon ourselves to compete and to win. We shouldn’t be afraid to raise the bar and expect ourselves to attain that bar. If we go about doing our business with the fear that we won’t attain it—and thereby not set expectations—what’s the goal? We need to have goals, and I think they’re going about their business a certain way right now. I’m very excited about the club.

VL: Is it nice to finally get your eyes on some of the top prospects like Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Kris Bryant?

RR: It’s extremely exciting to see all the young guys that are in camp, with Almora, Baez and all the guys that are here. It’s important that we put our eyes on them to see where they end up ultimately fitting into the scheme of things. I think the skill sets are very high. Experience has to continue to play into it while they’re developing and playing in the minor leagues, so we make sure that once they get here, it’s not overwhelming.

Some guys may not make the splash that everybody expects, but that’s OK. You can work through those things. Some guys will make a big splash, and that’s great. But the reality is you’ve got to stay even keel, and that’s where we as a coaching staff and as an organization have to make sure these guys feel comfortable.

VL: You were aggressive with stealing bases, bunts, etc. in the spring. Is that an indication of how you expect the team to play?

RR: I think every skill set the players bring has to be taken into account when you’re determining what you’re going to do with them. But we do expect these guys to be able to do many things—to be able to steal a base, be able to hit and run, be able to sac bunt, be able to squeeze. If we lay the foundation right now in the spring that those are the expectations we have for them, anything is possible.

Once the season starts, the bell rings, you’ve got 40,000 people in the stands, and the lights are on, we expect that the transition to the regular season shouldn’t be as hard for us because we’re expecting to do a lot of things, and we’re doing them from Day One.

VL: You’ve talked about your coaching staff and the players sharing a family feeling. Why is that important?

RR: I think being a family-like team is extremely important. You feel like you have each other’s back. You’re willing to go out and fight for your teammate. You’re willing to defend anything that they do. You may be in the clubhouse, and you may be getting on each other, but nobody else can come in and say the same thing that you can as a teammate. That’s the family feel, you know? I grew up in a large family of nine, and maybe we could get on each other, but if somebody else came in from the outside and wanted to do the same thing, “Hey, not going to happen.”

VL: A lot of people are saying this team can’t compete this year. What do you say to that?

RR: We can compete this year. I think we have the ability to go out there and play the game. Anybody can do whatever it is they choose to do. The question is: Who do we choose to believe we are? Do we choose to believe what everybody else says—the naysayers, the doubters, whatever the case might be? Do they have a reason? Sure, but that’s not our reason. Our reason to go out here is to perform, to do well and expect to do well.

VL: There’s a new wrinkle this year with expanded instant replay. Do you have a system in place for how you’ll handle that?

RR: If my eyes tell me I should challenge something, I’m going to challenge. It’s not necessarily like I’m going to take every opportunity to go ahead and challenge every single play just because I can. … I don’t want to do it just for the sake of doing it. I think there should be a purpose. I should develop my skill set, and the bench coach and all of us on the bench should develop our skill sets.

Cubs Minor League Recap: 4/15/14

Kane County took both games of its doubleheader, but Iowa and Daytona both came up short. Tennessee was rained out Tuesday. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action:

Iowa Cubs (6-6)
T-2nd place (-2.5)

The I-Cubs fell to New Orleans, 8-4.  SS Logan Watkins was 1-for-3 with a walk. He had a two-run single in the club’s four-run second inning.

  • 1B Chris Valaika (.333) was 2-for-3 with a run scored and a double (3). He has multihit efforts in three of his last five games.
  • RHP Carlos Pimentel recorded a 1-2-3 first inning before New Orleans scored five runs in the second. The right-hander had issued just one walk in his previous two starts before allowing five last night. He also struck out five in the losing effort.
  • RHP Yoanner Negrin (2.08) allowed one run in 3.1 relief innings, walking none and striking out three.

Daytona Cubs (2-10)
T-5th Place (-8.0)

Daytona lost to Dunedin, 10-3. The team had nine hits but was just 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

  • 2B Tim Saunders (.310) paced Daytona with three hits, including two doubles (5). He has eight hits and four doubles in his last three games.
  • RF Pin-Chieh Chen (.289) was 2-for-4 with an RBI (7), while DH Rock Shoulders (.179) was 2-for-4 with two runs and a solo home run, his first of the year.
  • RHP Starling Peralta (3.86) threw 2.2 scoreless innings of relief, striking out three and walking none.

Kane County Cougars (9-3)
1st Place (+1.0)

Kane County swept a doubleheader at Bowling Green, recording shutouts in both games. In the first, a 2-0 win, RHP Jen-Ho Tseng tossed 5.1 shutout innings. In Game Two, a 1-0 victory, RHP Paul Blackburn spun six shutout innings, allowing just one hit.

Game 1

  • RHP Jen-Ho Tseng earned his first win of the season, striking out six batters.
  • RHP Zach Godley (3.60) picked up his second save of the season, throwing 1.2 scoreless innings. He allowed one hit and struck out four of the six batters he faced.
  • RF Yasiel Balaguert (.391) was 1-for-2 with a sac fly, extending his hitting streak to nine games (.389/14-for-36). He’d go 0-for-2 with a walk in the second game to snap the streak.

Game 2

  • RHP Paul Blackburn walked one and struck out six to pick up the victory.
  • RHP Jose Arias (1.69) tossed a scoreless seventh inning to pick up his first save.
  • SS Carlos Penalver (.279) was 1-for-3 with an RBI (3).
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