Results tagged ‘ Vine Line ’

Hot off the Presses: The August issue with Hector Rondon and the John Baker Game

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I have to admit: The first time I encountered John Baker, I didn’t know what to make of him. Or exactly who he was, for that matter.

The journeyman backup catcher, who spent parts of seven seasons in the major leagues, was in camp with the Cubs during Spring Training in 2014. I was only in Arizona for a few days, and the organization had just unveiled its new Sloan Park facility, so I spent the majority of my time exploring the flashy new digs and tracking down established players like Jake Arrieta, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Jeff Samardzija.

Still, it was hard to miss Baker. The floppy-haired, good-natured veteran seemed to be in the middle of any clubhouse antics and deftly bridged the gaps between player cliques—whether he was strumming his guitar or passing out Chicago skyline socks to the team (which, frankly, I’ve always regretted not purchasing at the time). Once I finally figured out who he was, and despite the fact that he seemed like an interesting fellow, I figured, “Well, everyone carries extra catchers in the spring to handle the workload. He’ll never break camp with the club.”

Of course, the then-33-year-old went on to spend the entire season with the Cubs, becoming a leader in the clubhouse and a folk hero in these parts for his one-man rain delay concerts and that remarkable late-July game, which he recounts for us in this issue. He’s now moved into the Cubs front office, but he’ll never forget what the marathon contest, in which he pitched one inning and scored the winning run in the longest game in Wrigley Field history, meant to his career.

The 2014 season, in hindsight, was also the turning point for a rapidly improving franchise. After dropping 96 games in 2013, the club improved in 2014, going 33-35 in the second half. These weren’t optimal results, but you could feel the tide shifting. This was before the organization made splashy free-agent moves to pick up players like Jon Lester, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist; before mastermind Joe Maddon graced the dugout steps; and before top draft picks like Albert Almora, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber progressed to Wrigley Field.

But there was something different about that team. They were tired of losing, they were oddly confident, and they were—for the first time in years—having fun. Much of this was due to a series of shrewd acquisitions most people don’t talk about anymore. Baker was certainly one of them. It helps backup catchers find and retain employment if they can both motivate young players and keep things light off the field. Baker had those qualities in spades, and he became part of a changing clubhouse culture in Chicago.

In addition, some of the Cubs’ foundational players were coming into focus. Rizzo was developing into a bona fide star, Arrieta was starting to prove he was something special, Kyle Hendricks was turning heads with his stellar second-half work, and a little-known Rule 5 pick out of Cleveland named Hector Rondon was morphing into a workhorse power reliever.

This month, we examine the development of Rondon, the former top starting prospect, turned Indians castoff, turned Cubs diamond-in-the-rough, turned dominant back-end reliever. It’s unusual for a Rule 5 pick to pan out at all—he has to stick on the major-league roster of the team that selected him for a full season or be returned to his previous club—much less turn into an impact player on a playoff-caliber team.

We also look at the other factor that has turned the once-moribund Cubs into a powerhouse—the MLB First-Year Player Draft. The 2016 event, however, was much different from the previous years’, with the Cubs not making their first selection until the third round. We talk to Senior Vice President of Player Development and Amateur Scouting Jason McLeod about this year’s draft and the development of the organization since he came aboard.

All the fruits of the Cubs’ labors have been on display this season. We’re there for every draft pick, trade, win and loss. Find us in print, here and on Twitter at @cubsvineline.

Let’s go!

—Gary Cohen

Cubs Lineup: 8/2/16 vs. Marlins

Cubs vs. Marlins — Wrigley Field
First Pitch: 7:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Jason Hammel, rhp (10-5, 3.23 ERA)
Marlins Starter: Jose Fernandez, rhp (12-5, 2.79 ERA)
TV: CSN+; Radio: 670 The Score

1. Dexter Fowler, cf
2. Willson Contreras, c
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1b
4. Ben Zobrist, 2b
5. Jason Heyward, rf
6. Addison Russell, ss
7. Chris Coghlan, lf
8. Javy Baez, 3b
9. Jason Hammel, p

Cubs Lineup: 8/1/16 vs. Marlins

Cubs vs. Marlins — Wrigley Field
First Pitch: 7:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Kyle Hendricks, rhp (9-7, 2.39 ERA)
Marlins Starter: Adam Conley, lhp (7-5, 3.38 ERA)
TV: WGN; Radio: 670 The Score

1. Dexter Fowler, cf
2. Kris Bryant, 3b
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1b
4. Javy Baez, 2b
5. Addison Russell, ss
6. Jason Heyward, rf
7. Willson Contreras, c
8. Matt Szczur, lf
9. Kyle Hendricks, p

Cubs Minor League Report: 7/31/16

Iowa, Myrtle Beach, South Bend and Eugene all racked up victories Sunday. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor-league Cubs action.

Iowa Cubs (46-63)
Pacific Coast League (Triple-A)
Fourth Place (-17.0)

Iowa scored four runs in the first and added three more in the eighth, topping Omaha, 8-3.

  • CF Albert Almora Jr. (.320) went 2 for 5 with a run scored and an RBI (35). He is 11 for 33 (.333) with five runs scored in seven games since returning to Iowa.
  • RF Juan Perez (.276) finished 2 for 4 with a walk, a run scored, an RBI (41) and two stolen bases (14). He extended his hitting streak to 10 games (.412/14 for 34).
  • 3B Jeimer Candelario (.299) and SS Munenori Kawasaki (.276) each walked twice, collected a hit and scored two runs.
  • RHP Armando Rivero (2 IP, 1 H, 5 SO) struck out five batters in two scoreless innings of relief.

Tennessee Smokies (14-21)
Southern League (Double-A)
Fifth Place (-6.5)

The Smokies outhit Birmingham, but dropped the game, 6-2.

  • 2B Ian Happ (.285) was 2 for 5 with a double (10) and a run scored.
  • 1B David Freitas (.298) went 2 for 4 with an RBI (22). He has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games.
  • LF Kelly Dugan (.209) finished 2 for 4 with a stolen base (1), his first multi-hit game since July 12.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (20-17)
Carolina League (High-A)
First Place (+0.5)

Myrtle Beach collected 12 hits in a 3-1 victory over host Salem.

  • RHP Jeremy Null (4.89 ERA) gave up one earned run in six innings of work to pick up the win. He struck out three batters.
  • 2B Bryant Flete (.522) continued his hot start with Myrtle Beach, going 3 for 4 with a two-run homer (1) and a walk. He has gone 12 for 23 in his first six games with the club and is riding an 18-game hitting streak (.431/28 for 65) spanning his last 12 games with South Bend.
  • 1B David Bote (.320) went 2 for 5 with two doubles (13). He is 5 for 9 in his last two games.
  • DH Yasiel Balaguert (.252) finished 2 for 5 with a run scored, his third straight multi-hit game.
  • SS Andrew Ely (.217) was 2 for 3 with a walk.
  • LF Charcer Burks (.245) finished 1 for 5 with a leadoff homer (9) in the first inning.

South Bend Cubs (23-13)
Midwest League (Single-A)
First Place (+0.5)

South Bend improved to 23-13 in the second half, winning a pitcher’s duel over Great Lakes, 2-1.

  • RHP Adbert Alzolay (4.58 ERA) recorded his longest scoreless outing of the season, allowing just five hits and one walk in six innings to secure the win. He also fanned seven batters.
  • RF Eddy Martinez (.269) went 2 for 4, extending his hitting streak to five games (.368/7 for 19).
  • C P.J. Higgins (.274) was 1 for 3 with a double (23), a walk and a run scored.
  • DH Alberto Mineo (.356) went 1 for 2 with two walks, a run scored and an RBI (13). He has scored a run in six straight games.
  • LF Eloy Jimenez (.342) drove in his team-leading 70th RBI on the year.

Eugene Emeralds (2-4)
Northwest League (Short-Season A)
Fourth Place (-4.0)

Eugene held on for a 7-6 win over host Boise, snapping a three-game losing streak.

  • CF D.J. Wilson (.243) was 4 for 4 with a double (6), an inside-the-park home run (2) and two runs scored. He has three straight games with at least three hits, going 10 for 13 (.769).
  • 3B Wladimir Galindo (.226) went 2 for 4 with a double (8), a solo homer (6), two runs scored and two RBI (19). He has scored six runs in his last four games.
  • SS Zack Short (.273) finished 2 for 4 with a triple (1), a run scored and an RBI (4).
  • LHP Wyatt Short (1 IP, 1 SO) has allowed just two hits and no earned runs in seven innings this season.

Mesa Cubs (1-3)
Arizona Rookie League
Fifth Place (-2.5)

Mesa surrendered a seven-run fourth inning in its 11-5 setback at the AZL Angels.

  • DH Yohan Matos (.242) reached twice, going 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored.
  • 1B Jhonny Pereda (.235) went 0 for 2 but walked twice and scored a run.
  • 3B Rafael Mejia (.207) had the team’s only extra-base hit, going 1 for 4 with a double (4) and a run scored.

Cubs Lineup: 7/31/16 vs. Mariners

Cubs vs. Mariners — Wrigley Field
First Pitch: 7:08 CST
Cubs Starter: Brian Matusz, lhp (0-0, o.00 ERA)
Mariners Starter: Felix Hernandez, rhp (5-4, 3.45 ERA)
TV: ESPN; Radio: 670 The Score

1. Dexter Fowler, cf
2. Kris Bryant, 3b
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1b
4. Ben Zobrist, 2b
5. Addison Russell, ss
6. Jason Heyward, rf
7. Willson Contreras, c
8. Chris Coghlan, lf
9. Brian Matusz, p

Cubs Lineup: 7/30/16 vs. Mariners

Cubs vs. Mariners — Wrigley Field
First Pitch: 1:20 CST
Cubs Starter: Jake Arrieta, rhp (12-4, 2.76 ERA)
Mariners Starter: Wade Miley, lhp (6-8, 5.23 ERA)
TV: CSN-Chicago; Radio: 670 The Score

1. Dexter Fowler, cf
2. Kris Bryant, 3b
3. Ben Zobrist, lf
4. Javy Baez, 2b
5. Addison Russell, ss
6. Jason Heyward, rf
7. Willson Contreras, 1b
8. Miguel Montero, c
9. Jake Arrieta, p

Cubs Lineup: 7/29/16 vs. Mariners

Cubs vs. Mariners — Wrigley Field
First Pitch: 1:20 CST
Cubs Starter: Jon Lester, lhp (10-4, 3.09 ERA)
Mariners Starter: Hisashi Iwakuma, rhp (11-6, 3.96 ERA)
TV: CSN-Chicago, MLB Network (out-of-market only); Radio: 670 The Score

1. Chris Coghlan, lf
2. Kris Bryant, 3b
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1b
4. Ben Zobrist, rf
5. Addison Russell, ss
6. Jason Heyward, cf
7. Javy Baez, 2b
8. David Ross, c
9. Jon Lester, p

Cubs activate OF Coghlan; option IF La Stella to Iowa

Chris Coghlan goes 4-for-4 with two homers, a double, three RBI and three runs—Sept. 20 vs. Los Angeles (Photo by Stephen Green)(Photo by Stephen Green)

The Chicago Cubs today activated outfielder Chris Coghlan off the 15-day disabled list and optioned infielder Tommy La Stella to Triple-A Iowa. Coghlan will be available for the Cubs this afternoon as they begin their three-game series against the Seattle Mariners at Wrigley Field.

The 31-year-old Coghlan has combined to hit .155 (30 for 194) with five home runs and 14 RBI in 70 games this season between Oakland and Chicago. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on July 3 with a right rib cage strain. Coghlan saw action in five rehab games as part of his return, batting .500 (8 for 16) with four doubles, six RBI and a 1.369 OPS with Double-A Tennessee.

Coghlan rejoined the Cubs via a trade with Oakland on June 9 after spending the 2014 and 2015 campaigns with the club, batting .265 (219 for 825) with 53 doubles, 11 triples and 25 homers in 273 games with the team. Last season, Coghlan set career marks with 16 homers, 58 walks, 47 extra-base hits and 148 games played, as he helped the Cubs to a playoff berth. He was traded from Chicago to Oakland Feb. 25 of this season for right-handed pitcher Aaron Brooks.

La Stella, 27, is batting .295 (31 for 105) with nine doubles, a triple, two home runs and eight RBI in 51 games for the Cubs this season.

Cubs Minor League Report: 7/27/16

The Cubs farm squads went 3-2 Wednesday, with Iowa, Myrtle Beach and Eugene all picking up wins. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor-league action.

Iowa Cubs (45-60)
Pacific Coast League (Triple-A)
Fourth Place (-15.5)

Iowa scored seven runs in the first three innings to defeat host New Orleans, 8-2.

  • 1B Taylor Davis (.246) went 2 for 5 with a two-run homer and three RBI (8).
  • RF Juan Perez (.272) went 2 for 4 with a double (21) and an RBI (40). He has hit safely in seven straight games (.435/10 for 23).
  • 2B Logan Watkins (.286) reached three times, going 2 for 4 with a walk, a triple (4), an RBI (30) and two runs scored.
  • SS Kristopher Negron (.240) picked up his first homer since May 14. He was 1 for 3 with a walk.
  • RHP Spencer Patton (2 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 3 SO) picked up his first win of the season with Iowa, He has not allowed a run in 10 consecutive innings at Triple-A.

Tennessee Smokies (13-18)
Southern League (Double-A)
Fifth Place (-5.5)

The Smokies were 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position and lost to Chattanooga, 8-4.

  • RF Chris Coghlan (.500) was 3 for 4 with two doubles (4), two RBI (6), a run scored and a walk in his fifth rehab game. He is 8 for 16 with four doubles and five walks during his stint with Tennessee.
  • DH Jorge Soler (.083) went 0 for 2 but drew three walks and scored once in his sixth rehab game (fourth with Tennessee).
  • LF Bijan Rademacher (.303) went 2 for 5 with a double (14) and a run scored.
  • 2B Ian Happ (.293) was 1 for 5 with a pair of RBI (15).

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (18-15)
Carolina League (High-A)
First Place (+0.5)

Every Pelicans batter reached base en route to a 10-7 victory over Carolina.

  • 1B Yasiel Balaguert (.249) slugged a pair of homers, his first career two-homer game. He was 3 for 5 with three RBI (72) and two runs scored. The Cuban-born player is batting .340 (34 for 100) with five homers and 25 RBI in July after hitting at a .182 clip (36 for 198) between May and June.
  • CF Donnie Dewees (.429) hit his first homer at Myrtle Beach. He was 1 for 3 with an RBI (1), two runs, a walk and a stolen base (2).
  • LF Charcer Burks (.244) went 2 for 5 with a triple (3), two RBI (31), a run scored and a stolen base (20).
  • C Erick Castillo (.235) went 2 for 3 with an RBI (6).

South Bend Cubs (20-12)
Midwest League (Single-A)
First Place (+0.5)

South Bend let a four-run lead slip away, losing to host Lake County, 5-4.

  • DH Alberto Mineo (.323) went 2 for 4 with a walk and a three-run homer.
  • 2B Carlos Sepulveda (.317) went 2 for 5 with an RBI (20) and a run.
  • 1B Matt Rose (.204) reached four times, going 3 for 3 with a walk, a double (5) and a run scored.
  • LHP Jose Paulino made his first start with South Bend, allowing only five hits over 5 IP.

Eugene Emeralds (1-1)
Northwest League (Short-Season A)
T-Second Place (-1.0)

Eugene scored three first inning runs in a 4-1 victory over visiting Salem-Keizer.

  • RF Robert Garcia (.299) went 2 for 4 with an RBI (14) and a stolen base (5).
  • 1B Chris Pieters (.298) went 2 for 4 with a run scored.
  • DH Jose Paniagua (.272) went 1 for 3 with a triple (2), a run scored and two RBI (12). He has scored a run in five straight games.
  • LHP Manuel Rondon improved to 4-0 on the season. He has allowed two or fewer earned runs in all seven starts, and one or fewer earned runs in four straight starts.

Cubs Lineup: 7/27/16 vs. White Sox

Cubs vs. White Sox — Wrigley Field
First Pitch: 7:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Jason Hammel, rhp (9-5, 3.35 ERA)
White Sox Starter: Anthony Ranaudo, rhp (1-0, 17.18 ERA)
TV: WGN, ESPN (out-of-market only); Radio: 670 The Score

1. Dexter Fowler, cf
2. Kris Bryant, 3b
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1b
4. Ben Zobrist, lf
5. Miguel Montero, c
6. Addison Russell, ss
7. Jason Heyward, rf
8. Javy Baez, 2b
9. Jason Hammel, p

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