Results tagged ‘ Mitch Atkins ’
Des Moines–An overcast day at Principal Park today. I was commenting to Andrea Breen, Iowa’s manager of media relations that the clouds covering Iowa will most likely meet me in Chicago when I return tomorrow.
It was business as usual for these farmhands, most of them strolling into the clubhouse around 10:00. Poker chips lay strewn across a table in case an impromptu game might just break out during a rain delay. Clubhouse manager Cleo Welch was busy cooking breakfast–big fluffy pancakes, some eggs.
Five guys were taking early cage work with hitting coach Desi Wilson. Utilityman Matt Matulia, catcher Chris Robinson, and infielders Darwin Barney and Bobby Scales were all taking their hacks.
Andrea told me that when she asked the players to fill out a questionnaire at the during the season, the player teammates voted as the “most intense” was Scales. In the cage, that was evident.
Always quick with a smile and a guy who loves to talk about college football–especially his alma mater the University of Michigan–you’d never think Scales was that intense given his usually cheery disposition when we last saw him in Chicago. But there he was, talking and muttering to himself, motivating himself, trying to talk himself into squaring up the ball better and not swing a bad pitches. He takes his job very seriously, and after getting his first taste of the big leagues this year, he desperately wants to return.
Outside, the pitchers started throwing long toss; Jeff Samardzija looked relaxed, as did lefty James Russell. Playing a different kind of long toss was Micah Hoffpauir and Matt Craig. They were throwing the pigskin around a little bit.
As a guy who was with the big-league club most of the season, Hoffpauir is in the awkward position of being a strong consideration for a call-up but he has put up mediocre numbers at Iowa.
“I don’t have any control over what happens in Chicago,” Hoffpauir said. “My numbers aren’t what they should be, but I’ve been working things out, trying to right the ship here.”
He has tried to prevent the impending Sept. 1 date from hovering in his mind, despite his eagerness to return to Chicago. Like Scales, when you get that taste, you want more. There’s something special when the skipper calls you in on that day.
“For younger guys, they probably aren’t even thinking about [Sept.1]; they’re just happy to be in Triple A,” Hoffpauir said. “But for some older guys, they might be a little more disappointed. But I remember when me and Koyie Hill went up at the same time. Pat [Listach] called us in. We both had been up once already, so he told us together. But Casey McGehee hadn’t been up yet. So when it was his turn, they called him in by himself to make it a little more special.”
It was Chris Robinson’s last game, too, chipping in a single for good measure. Afterward, he shook hands with every one of his teammates and coaches and set off to the Great White North and Team Canada. To a man, Iowa personnel and the team all said Robinson was one of their favorite players this year.
The I-Cubs took down the Redhawks again, 2-0, behind some fine pitching from Mitch Atkins, John Gaub and Blake Parker.
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It’s often a long road for a lot of minor-leaguers to travel, but they do it because playing in the major leagues has been a lifelong dream.
Today at Wrigley Field, some of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs players and coaches just soaked up their big-league surroundings before their game against the Las Vegas 51′s in the second annual Road to Wrigley game.
Last year featured the Cubs’ low Class-A affiliate, the Peoria Chiefs, including current Iowa hitting coach Desi Wilson, who served as Peoria’s hitting coach last year. He is the only repeat participant, but it doesn’t make the experience any less special.
“I just love seeing how the players respond,” Wilson said. “But it’s great for the fans to see some of the organization’s prospects.”
However, with Iowa just three and a half games out of first in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League’s North Division, the game still is a game–one they must win.
“We try to tell the guys that it is just another game,” said Iowa Cubs manager Bobby Dickerson. “But I’ll tell you what–this is special, and I am going to try my darndest to get as many guys in as I possibly can. Not everyone can make the big leagues. For some guys, this could be the closest they ever get.”
So it probably would be great for the Iowa Cubs to get out to a 14-0 lead by the third inning so Dickerson could sub guys in at will, right?
“Heh, well I wish it were that easy,” he laughed. “But there are places where I can pick and choose to bring some guys in.”
Last year featured Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg (pictured, left), who managed the Peoria Chiefs and is now the manager of the Cubs’ Double-A affiliate, the Tennessee Smokies. This year it was Dickerson’s (pictured, right) turn at the helm.
“Heck, this might be the only time I’m up here, but hopefully not,” Dickerson said. “Desi made it up to the bigs as a player. I never did. So I’m just going to enjoy the heck out of this.”
For some Iowa Cubs, being at Wrigley Field was more than de ja vu. They’ve actually been here already this year. I-Cubs like right-handers Justin Berg, Mitch Atkins and infielder Bobby Scales all have seen cups of coffee with the big club this year. Heck, first baseman Micah Hoffpauir–who was optioned Aug. 7 to make room for Geovany Soto–still has his old locker.
Clubhouse attendants Rich Rupp, Gary Stark and Tim Hellmann sheeted off the big-leaguers’ lockers with plastic and ran a steel rod the length of both walls for the minor-leaguers to hang their clothes. I patted Hoffpauir on the back to sort of “welcome” him back.
“So, Hoffy, it’s like you never left! But you can’t use your old locker?” I asked.
“Well, I didn’t want to ruin the delicate plastic sheets in front of them,” he laughed, pointing to his big-league jersey lurking just behind the I-Cubs jersey hanging on the steel rod. “But really it’s not that big a deal. And a lot of these guys have been here before earlier in the year, so for them it’s old hat. But for the new guys it’s great to see their faces as they walk out on to the field. Because [Wrigley Field] is an awe-inspiring place.”
Iowa Cubs general manager Sam Bernabe said: “For the Iowa Cubs organization, the game is extremely exciting. I’ve been in town two or three times in the past couple of weeks and to see our logo all over the place promoting the game, it’s incredible.”
The club called up right-hander Mitch Atkins today and optioned Jeff Stevens to Triple A. With the bullpen being stretched thin over the past few days, some fresh arms will be welcome.
Atkins had a lot of trouble early in the year, after adding a sinker (and thus a lower arm angle) to his repertoire: fastball, cutter, change-up and curveball. It affected his control, which generally has rated good in the organization. But by going back to basics, according to Atkins, he got himself on track to have a strong June.
Iowa Cubs manager Bobby Dickerson told Vine Line he believes Atkins could be a big-league starter some day.
“He invites contact, gets ahead of hitters and he can get deep into games because he keeps his pitch count down.”
You can read more about Atkins in our August issue.
Left-hander Mike Hampton (6-7, 4.74 ERA) pitches for the Astros.
– Sean Ahmed