Brent Lillibridge finished a triple shy of the cycle Sunday with the I-Cubs. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Iowa and Daytona both captured a win Sunday, while rain kept Tennessee and Kane County from taking the field. One of the Smokies’ doubleheader games scheduled for Sunday will now be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader Monday; the other game will not be rescheduled. The Cougars’ game, which marks their eighth postponement this season, will also be played as part of a doubleheader Monday. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action:
Iowa Cubs (8-14)
Iowa collected 13 hits, including four home runs, beating host Omaha, 10-6.
- CF Brian Bogusevic (.417) extended his hitting streak to nine games, going 3-for-4 with a walk, a home run and three RBI (8). He’s hitting .484 (15-for-31) during the streak.
- DH Brett Jackson (.232) blasted his first home run of the season, a two-run shot in the second inning. He finished 1-for-5 with a walk, the home run and a season-high three RBI (7).
- 1B Brent Lillibridge (.455) finished a triple shy of the cycle, going 3-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored, a double (2), a home run and one RBI (3).
- 3B Ian Stewart (.094) went 0-for-2 with three walks, two runs scored and one RBI (4) in the 10th game of his rehabilitation assignment.
- RF Ryan Sweeney (.369) belted his team-leading sixth homer, going 1-for-4 with a walk, the home run and two RBI (16).
Daytona Cubs (11-12)
Daytona hitters walked eight times and stole four bases in a 7-4 victory over visiting Palm Beach.
- SS Javier Baez (.263) recorded his team-leading fifth longball of the season, going 2-for-4 with the home run and two RBI (15). He has hit safely in five of his last six contests.
- 3B Ben Carhart (.289) recorded his third three-hit game of the campaign, going 3-for-4 with a season-high three RBI (11). The 2012 draftee is hitting .385 (10-for-26) with runners in scoring position.
- 2B Tim Saunders (.216) registered his third multi-hit game of the year, going 2-for-5 with two runs scored, a RBI (5) and two stolen bases (7).
- RHP P.J. Francescon earned his second win, recording his first quality start of the campaign. The righty has a 2.45 ERA (3 ER/11.0 IP) over his last two starts.
Alberto Cabrera gave up a season-low three hits during the Smokies’ Friday win. (Photo by Stephen Green)
While Iowa lost on Friday and Saturday, Daytona and Kane County split their Friday and Saturday games. Tennessee’s Saturday matchup was rained out after their Friday win solidified back-to-back victories. Here are some highlights from this weekend’s action:
Iowa Cubs (7-14)
The I-Cubs scored two runs in the ninth inning to send Friday’s game to extra innings, but Omaha notched off a walk-off victory in the tenth to win 5-4. On Saturday, Omaha used a six-run first inning to rout Iowa 13-2.
- RF Ryan Sweeney (.404) extended his hitting streak to 12 games (.391/18-for-46) Friday, with a two-run homer in the fourth inning. He went 2-for-5 with a run and two RBI (14).
- 1B Brad Nelson (.194) hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the ninth inning of Friday’s game to tie it up for extra-innings.
- 2B-CF Logan Watkins (.243) recorded two of Iowa’s five hits in their Saturday loss. He went 2-for-4 with a run scored, a triple (2) and one RBI (4).
- CF Brian Bogusevic (.397) extended his hitting streak to eight games Saturday, going 1-for-2 with a walk and a stolen base (5). He’s hitting .444 (12-for-27) during the streak.
Tennessee Smokies (13-9)
Tennessee won its second-consecutive game over visiting Pensacola 5-3 Friday, but was unable to take the field Saturday due to rain. The postponed game was rescheduled for Sunday as part of a day-night doubleheader.
- LF Rubi Silva (.303) went 2-for-4 with a triple (2), homer, a run scored, and three RBI (13).
- RF Jae-Hoon Ha (.312) walked and singled twice in four plate appearances, scoring three runs.
- RHP Alberto Cabrera allowed a season-low three hits in his 6.0 innings of work.
- RHP Trey McNutt (1.1 IP, H, K) recorded his second save of the season.
Daytona Cubs (10-12)
Daytona overcame three errors to defeat Lakeland 7-3 for their second straight victory Friday. Their short string of success ended Saturday in a 5-1 loss in the last matchup of their three-game set.
- 3B Dustin Geiger (.300) went 2-for-4 with three RBI (21) Friday. Geiger leads the team and ranks third in the Southern League in RBI.
- RHP Ben Wells allowed a season-best one hit in 5.2 innings during Friday’s game, but also walked a season-high five batters.
- CF John Andreoli (.329) recorded his seventh multi-hit game of the season Saturday, going 2-for-4 with a RBI (10).
- 1B Ben Carhart (.266) went 2-for-4 with a double (6) in Saturday’s loss. The 2012 draftee is hitting .400 (6-for-15) against left-handed pitchers this season.
- LHP Sheldon McDonald (4.22) and RHP Eduardo Figueroa (2.84) combined to toss 3.0 scoreless innings of relief Saturday. Figueroa is holding left-handed hitters to a .167 batting average (3-for-18).
Kane County Cougars (8-11)
Kane County led 5-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth Friday but surrendered four runs to tie the game, and then lost 6-5 in 10 innings to Fort Wayne. On Saturday, the Cougars scored three runs in the eighth inning to rally and earn a 5-3 win.
- C Yaniel Cabezas (.600) went 3-for-4 with a run scored and RBI (1) in his first start of the season for Kane County on Friday.
- LF Rock Shoulders (.403) walked, singled, and scored a run in four plate appearances. He leads the team in runs scored with 14, and recorded a hit in 16 of 18 games after Friday’s matchup.
- LHP Jeffry Antigua (2.1 IP, 2 H, 3 K) took the field Friday and lowered his ERA to 0.73 (1 ER/21.1 IP) in five games to start the season.
- CF Oliver Zapata (.246) extended his hitting streak to six games Saturday, going 1-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored and his team-leading third triple of the season.
- 2B Gioskar Amaya (.250) went 1-for-4 in Saturday’s win with a run scored, a RBI (3) and one stolen base (3). He’s hitting .290 (9-for-31) during his seven-game hitting streak.
- LHP Brian Smith (1-1, 4.09) allowed one run on three hits in a season-high 3.0 innings of relief to pick up his first win of the campaign Saturday. The southpaw is holding opponents to a .190 batting average (4-for-21) with runners in scoring position.
Comedian Julia Sweeney sang the seventh-inning stretch during a game earlier this month. (Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs kick off a nine-game homestand Monday, as the Padres, Reds and Cardinals come to town. If you’re headed to Wrigley Field over the next week, here’s your first pitch and seventh-inning stretch lineup:
Monday – 4/29
First Pitch & Stretch: John Egan, Rich Rochelle & Chuck Wood from the 1963 Loyola Men’s Basketball championship team (celebrating their 50th anniversary)
Tuesday – 4/30
First Pitch & Stretch: Corey Wootton (Chicago Bears)
Wednesday – 5/1
First Pitch & Stretch: Jeff Mauro (“The Sandwich King”/ Chicago Food Network star)
Thursday – 5/2
First Pitch: Emmylou Harris (12-time Grammy winner)
Stretch: Steve Trout (Cubs alumni)
Friday – 5/3
First Pitch: Shea McClellin (Chicago Bears)
Saturday – 5/4
First Pitch & Stretch: TBD
Sunday – 5/5
First Pitch & Stretch: Gary Sinise (Actor/Musician)
Monday – 5/6
First Pitch: Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky)
Tuesday – 5/7
First Pitch & Stretch: Nick Cannon (America’s Got Talent)
Wednesday – 5/8 “Pink Out”
First Pitch: Breast cancer survivor
National Anthem: Sing to Live Chorus (40 members affected by breast cancer)
Stretch: Breast cancer survivors
Reading a pitcher’s move is an essential part of facilitating the running game and jump-starting the offense. According to Cubs first base coach Dave McKay, proper execution of the skill comes down to three key elements: establishing a fixed spot to observe the pitcher, knowing the pitcher’s habits and extending the coach’s box.
“I heard it said one time, ‘This guy’s as boring as a first base coach,’ but not anymore,” McKay said. “First base coaches, they have a job to do over here.”
For the May issue of Vine Line, McKay showed us what he watches for from a pitcher and how he helps Cubs base runners. For more insider access to the team, subscribe to Vine Line. And read the complete story in the May issue, which also features articles on the Cubs core, Carlos Villanueva and the Committed campaign.
Esmailin Caridad tallied his first win in relief for the I-Cubs Thursday. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Iowa, Tennessee and Daytona all secured wins while Kane County couldn’t overcome an early deficit. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action:
Iowa Cubs (7-12)
Iowa scored six runs in the first inning, defeating Omaha 9-3 in the opener of a four-game set. The nine runs scored mark a season high for the I-Cubs.
- RF Ryan Sweeney (.404) extended his hitting streak to 11 games (.390/16-for-41) with a three-run homer in the first inning. He went 4-for-5 with a walk, a triple (2), two runs and four RBI (12), finishing a double shy of the cycle.
- LF Brent Lillibridge (.462) went 4-for-5 with a walk and two RBI (2).
- 3B Ian Stewart (.111) singled and scored a run as part of a 1-for-3 outing in the eighth game of his rehabilitation assignment.
- DH Darnell McDonald (.204) went 2-for-5 with a double (2), two runs and a RBI (5).
- RHP Esmailin Caridad (2.1 IP, 2 BB, 3 K) earned his first win of the season in relief of starter Barret Loux.
Tennessee Smokies (12-9)
Tennessee defeated Pensacola 2-1 in a pitchers’ duel, moving into a first-place tie in the Southern League North Division.
- 2B Ronald Torreyes (.344) recorded half of the Smokies hits, going 3-for-3 with a double (2), a triple (1) and a run scored.
- CF Jae-Hoon Ha (.297) went 1-for-4, recording his 10th RBI of the season.
- RHP Dallas Beeler tossed 7.0 innings for the second consecutive start, allowing no runs for the first time this season.
- RHP Brian Schlitter (1.0 IP, 1 K) converted his first save of the season. He has made eight appearances (11.1 IP) without allowing an earned run.
Daytona Cubs (9-11)
Daytona jumped to a 4-0 lead after two innings and held on for a 5-3 victory over visiting Lakeland in the opener of a three-game home series.
- SS Javier Baez (.238) blasted his fourth home run of the season in the first inning. He finished 2-for-4 with a run scored and a RBI (11).
- C Chad Noble (.295) hit his first home of the year, a solo shot to left in the second inning. He went 2-for-3 with a run scored and a RBI (3).
- RHP David Cales (2.0 IP, 2 BB, 4 K) converted his first save of the year. He has allowed no runs and one hit in two appearances (4.0 IP) to start the season.
Kane County Cougars (7-10)
Kane County allowed five runs in the third inning in a 6-4 setback at Fort Wayne.
- RF Bijan Radenmacher (.314) went 2-for-4 with a run scored and a RBI (6).
- CF Oliver Zapata (.220) hit a two-run double in the eighth inning, finishing 1-for-4.
- RHP Justin Amlung (1.0 IP, 2 K) and RHP Stephen Perakslis (1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 K) combined for 2.0 scoreless innings of relief.
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Teammates congratulate Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena after he ripped a solo shot in the top of the ninth inning to give the North Siders a 4-3 win Thursday night in Miami. The Cubs play three more games against the Marlins before heading home to Wrigley to take on the Padres April 29.
Please don’t judge me, but …
I grew up an Atlanta Braves fan. Look, there wasn’t much I could do about it. I moved a lot when I was younger and lived in Atlanta in the early ’80s. With each subsequent move, I was able to follow the Braves because of TBS.
Here’s what I remember about the Braves from my younger days—1981 was a miserable, strike-shortened year; 1982 was a blast until the postseason (a phenomenon I didn’t realize would repeat itself throughout my adulthood); 1983 was solid; and then depression set in.
The Braves were 80-82 in 1984, and that was by far the best it would get until the franchise began its unprecedented run of regular-season success in 1991. The late ’ 80s saw a wretched slide that reached its nadir in 1988, when the team went 54-106.
So why am I recounting this sad chapter from my childhood? I see a lot of similarities between what the Braves were doing in the late ’80s/early ’90s and what the Cubs are doing now.
In 1990, the Braves went 65-97, good for last place in the NL West, 26 games behind the Reds. In 1991, they shocked the baseball world by winning 94 games and getting all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. Since then, they’ve been one of the most stable and consistently excellent teams in pro sports.
But the Braves’ worst-to-first run didn’t come out of the blue. In fact, the team probably wasn’t as bad as its record in 1990. If you look back at the roster, it included names like Steve Avery, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Mike Stanton, Ron Gant and David Justice. All those players had some important things in common—they were young, untested, and between the ages of 20 and 25.
When we talked to Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein for our January issue, something he said resonated with me.
“There are two ways to really improve your team in a hurry from one year to the next,” Epstein said. “One is sign impact players or bring in impact players from outside the organization. The other is to have a wave of young talent that’s approaching their prime years at the same time.”
The Cubs might not shock the world this year, but they’re building that wave of talent—players who can grow together, win together, lose together, and ultimately figure things out together as they move into their prime years.
One of these waves is at the major league level now in Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson. Epstein calls these players the “Cubs core.” And the organization is developing another strong group in the low minor leagues with high-ceiling players like Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Pierce Johnson and Dillon Maples.
In the May issue of Vine Line, we talk to the Cubs core about what it means to them to play in Chicago and how they plan to turn potential into major league success. One thing is clear—no matter what the record said at the end of 2012 or what it says right now—these guys do not buy into the presumption that the Cubs are years away from winning.
We also check in on the new minor league affiliate that is helping develop the next wave of top talent. After eight years with the Peoria Chiefs, the Cubs switched their Midwest League affiliate to Kane County, located about 40 miles from Wrigley Field’s doorstep. There are huge benefits to having a farm team nearby, and the Cougars and Cubs both hope to take advantage of that in 2013 and beyond.
Finally, we look at the other side of the Cubs equation—the fan base. This season, the team has developed an advertising and marketing campaign based on the fierce dedication and undying passion of the best fans in the game. We talk to the stars of the new ads and the Cubs front office to find out how it all came together.
Here’s to a brighter future.
Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton will bring defensive power to the field. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty)
On the heels of yet another teardown, the Marlins host the Cubs for a four-game set beginning Thursday night. Both teams are desperately looking to get on a roll and have a good opportunity to do this series.
In constructing their roster on the absolute slimmest of budgets, the Marlins have had to piece together a lineup of pre-arbitration youngsters and aging veterans on year-to-year contracts. The former includes catcher Rob Brantly (23) and second baseman Donovan Solano (25). Center fielder Justin Ruggiano, who broke out in 2012, falls into the pre-arb category as well, despite having just turned 31. On the other end are left fielder Juan Pierre (35), third baseman Placido Polanco (37) and first baseman Greg Dobbs (34). The entire collection ranks last in the NL in every slash stat (.221/.279/.296).
There is a definite superstar on this team, in hulking—and athletic—right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. His power and arm tools are at the top of the scale, and he’s convinced many doubters who feared he would strike out far too much to succeed in the big leagues. Since he debuted as a 20-year-old in 2010, he has hit for a .268 AVG/.349 OBP/.541 SLG and set career bests in each category (along with his 37 homers) despite the move to cavernous Marlins Park. He’s hitting .200 with no homers yet this season, but he’s still contributed by making several great plays with his glove and arm.
The Cubs will miss 20-year-old phenom Jose Fernandez, who was a surprise Opening Day call-up considering he hadn’t played above A ball yet. Thursday’s starter, Kevin Slowey, heavily relies on having pinpoint command over his four- and two-seam fastballs, but he can get hit hard and spent last season in Triple-A. Wade LeBlanc and Alex Sanabia are extreme fly-ball pitchers who will benefit from playing in the Marlins’ large yard. Meanwhile, you may find yourself craning your neck when watching the back end of the bullpen. Closer Steve Cishek winds it from the side but can still touch the mid-90s with his fastball. Meanwhile, 6-foot-11 setup man Jon Rauch forces batters to look upward. He throws from over top, and gives up a giant share of fly balls and homers with his low-90s fastball.
Thursday, April 25—RHP Edwin Jackson (0-3, 4.84) vs. RHP Kevin Slowey (0-2, 1.90)
Friday, April 26—RHP Scott Feldman (0-3, 4.50) vs. LHP Wade LeBlanc (0-3, 6.27)
Saturday, April 27—LHP Travis Wood (1-1, 2.08) vs. RHP Alex Sanabia (2-2, 5.09)
Sunday, April 28—RHP Carlos Villanueva (1-0, 1.53) vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco (1-2, 3.81)
[PITCHER TO WATCH]
The Marlins’ Sunday starter has undergone a fascinating evolution over the last three years. Nolasco has gone from a fly-ball pitcher who struck out nearly a batter an inning to one who induces a good amount of grounders and K’s only about six per nine. The change can be attributed to a heavy move away from his four-seam fastball. In its place have come a good low-90s sinker and a splitter. The latter is only used against lefties, while he’ll lean on his slider versus righties. A big, slow curve rounds out the repertoire. He has very good control over it all, but the infield defense—which sorely misses the injured Hechavarria—will have to support him.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Other Pitching Profiles:
After several blown saves and countless squandered opportunities, it’s no secret that the Cubs bullpen has struggled to finish leads handed to them from the starters this season. In the first 20 games, the bullpen has recorded a 4.53 ERA. In comparison, the five starters boast a 2.97 ERA, which ranks third in MLB. With attention shifting to the late-game pitchers, the last of our pitching profiles highlight Michael Bowden and Hector Rondon, two young former prospects who earned a place in the 2013 ‘pen.
Drafted by the Red Sox in 2005, Michael Bowden stayed with the club until he was traded to the Cubs last April. The 26-year-old posted a 2.95 ERA last year, but has struggled this season, owning a 4.53 ERA in 10.1 IP this season. Though Bowden has shown some trouble on the mound, his current 1.16 WHIP is solid, even for a reliever, and the right-hander shows promise with mostly steady improvement since entering the majors.
Hector Rondon came to the Cubs via Cleveland as a Rule 5 Draft pick in December. Though injury issues and Tommy John surgery limited the 25-year-old’s appearances in the past, the Venezuelan native has proven to be a leader in the ‘pen since his April 3 debut. In 5.2 IP, Rondon has held his ERA to 1.59 with a 12.7 K/9. If recovery doesn’t interfere with his performance, Rondon could prove to be a major asset to Cubs relievers—especially after roster changes and injuries at the start of the season.
Bowden and Rondon are two of several pitchers profiled in Vine Line’s 2013 Pitching Preview, available in the April issue, on sale now.
2012 Stats: 39.2 IP, 19.4 K%, 9.7 UBB%, 1.24 WHIP, 2.95 ERA
Pitches: 4-Seam (92), Slider (83), Splitter (85)
Plan of Attack: Bowden, a Winfield, Ill., native and former top prospect, pitched effectively in 32 appearances between the Cubs and Red Sox last season. He is predominantly a fastball pitcher, but he can add or subtract a few mph when he needs it. He will also cut the pitch to get glove-side movement. His splitter is an effective weapon, but it was a take-or-whiff pitch last year. He uses his slider in all counts, particularly versus righties, and is an extreme fly ball pitcher, which could come into play when the wind is blowing out at Wrigley Field.
2012 Stats (AA/R): 7.0 IP, 9 K, 2 BB, 4 H, 1 ER
Pitches: Fastball (91), Cutter, Change (88), Slider (80)
Plan of Attack: Rondon is a former top prospect in the Indians system—he was their minor league pitcher of the year as recently as 2009—but he has had multiple elbow issues, including Tommy John surgery and a fractured elbow. He pitched well in Venezuela over the winter and has succeeded as high as Triple-A. Rondon has very good command of a four-pitch mix, including a fastball, cutter, change and short breaking ball. As a Rule 5 pick, he has to stay on the 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the Indians.
Matt Szczur leads the Southern League in runs scored. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Iowa, Daytona and Kane County were all off Wednesday, while Tennessee’s late-innings comeback was stopped short. Here are the highlights from last night’s Smokies game:
Tennessee Smokies (11-9)
Tennessee scored a run in the bottom of the ninth inning and had the winning run at the plate, but lost 5-4 to visiting Montgomery.
- RHP Matt Loosen (0-0) went 4.2 innings, striking out three and surrendered two earned runs.
- SS Arismendy Alcantara (.288) went 2-for-4 with a walk, a double (2), an RBI (14) and a stolen base (12). He leads the Southern League in stolen bases (12) and has not yet been caught stealing.
- 1B Ty Wright (.222) singled, doubled and knocked in two runs in four at-bats in his second game with Tennessee after starting the season at Iowa.
- RF Matt Szczur (.295) went 1-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored. He has scored a run in 15 of 20 games this season and leads the Southern League with 20 runs.
- C Rafael Lopez (.186) extended his hitting streak to four games (.417/5-for-12) with a fifth-inning double (4). He went 1-for-2 with two walks.