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Mesa’s struggles continued this weekend, though it wasn’t for a lack of offense. On Friday the Solar Sox were on the losing end of a 10-6 decision to Phoenix and followed that up Saturday with a 16-10 loss to Surprise.
In Friday’s contest, Rubi Silva entered the game in the sixth, and tripled to center in the eighth, scoring Gorman Erickson from second. He was ejected from the game in the ninth inning.
Matt Szczur went 0-for-5 while Baez was 0-for-4.
Nick Struck pitched 2/3 an inning, surrendering three earned runs on two hits and three walks. Kevin Rhoderick pitched a scoreless eighth inning, allowing one hit.
The Mesa bats came alive on Saturday, and despite Baez’s big day offensively, it wasn’t enough. Baez would reach on an error in the third and later score on a Rafael Ynoa single. In the top of the eighth, he hit his third home run of the season, a three-run shot to center field, scoring L.J. Hoes and Jonathan Singleton. Baez did commit two errors defensively however.
Szczur was solid at the plate Saturday also. He forced a bases-loaded walk in the second inning, and would later score on a Hoes ground out. He also drew another walk in the third. In the fifth he scored Jiovanni Mier on a single up the middle.
Tony Zych surrendered his first earned run of the season in the ninth, but also struck out a batter.
Mesa will take on Salt River Monday. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 local time.
How the Cubs have fared:
Mesa managed just four hits in an 8-3 loss to Scottsdale Thursday afternoon, extending their losing streak to four games. To make matters worse, the Solar Sox committed three errors, two by Cubs shortstop Javier Baez, adding to his defensive struggles this fall.
The bats didn’t show up either on Thursday. Baez finished 0-for-4 with a run scored on an error. Rubi Silva was hitless in three at-bats.
No Cubs prospects pitched for the Solar Sox.
Today, Mesa travels to Phoenix to take on the Desert Dogs. First pitch is scheduled for 12:35 local time.
How the Cubs have fared:
Welington Castillo had a solid season both behind and at the plate this season. (Photo by Stephen Green)
2012 Positions Played: C (100%)
2012 Batting (AVG/OBP/SLG): .265/.337/.418 in 190 PA
2012 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs): 1.2
2013 Contract Status: Signed (Pre-Arbitration)
Welington Castillo is known for having some impressive tools, including pop in his bat and a cannon arm. Putting the offense and defense together has been the challenge during his developmental path.
And now, eight years after Castillo signed as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Republic, he received high praise for doing just that this season. In late September, Manager Dale Sveum said Castillo “made probably the biggest progress of anyone on the team right now.”
“On the whole, the changes he’s made on his defense, and calling a game and the preparation he’s been going through, his whole attitude has changed dramatically into an everyday catcher’s mindset right now,” Sveum told the media.
Castillo shows off a strong arm to throw out the Astros’ Tyler Greene on Aug. 14.
While the 2013 job is still open—and offseason moves could always change plans—Castillo made a strong case for the starting catcher job this year. Even after a late slump in the power department, his .265/.337/.418 slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) was more than adequate for the position. Catchers as a whole batted .247/.319/.399 in 2012, as compared to the (non-pitchers) major league rates of .259/.335/.423. No surprise there: Offense is scarce behind the plate outside of a couple superstars. Of catchers that had at least 200 plate appearances, the line was a slight bit better at .253/.326/.412.
Lowering his strikeout rate (26.8%) will be important to Castillo’s long-term success. Strikeouts aren’t all that bad in themselves, but approach is important to getting on and base and seeing good pitches to hit. Castillo had issues chasing pitches low and away from him this year, particularly from lefties. He did, however, walk 8.6 percent of plate appearances, higher than his 7.2 percent career rate in the minors and ranking behind just Luis Valbuena, David DeJesus and Bryan LaHair of active Cubs with at least 150 plate appearances this year.
Although Castillo also had big league stints in 2010 and 2011, he’s still in his first year of major league service time. He heads into next spring having the opportunity to solidify his role on the Cubs for years to come.