Results tagged ‘ Vine Line ’
Left-handed rookie Tony Cingrani has been a star in the Reds’ rotation. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Most expect the Reds to challenge the Cardinals for supremacy in the NL Central this season, but there are concerns about whether Cincinnati has enough depth to carry them through the inevitable injuries every team endures. Despite a remarkably healthy 2012—each member of Cincy’s front five made 30 or more starts—the injury issue came to the fore early in 2013. Cleanup hitter Ryan Ludwick’s dislocated shoulder will keep him out until after the All-Star break, and ace Johnny Cueto went down on April 15 with a strained lat. As Cubs fans know from waiting out Matt Garza, lat injuries can take a while to heal. The bullpen has also been hit hard, as key set-up men Sean Marshall and Nick Masset have both spent time on the DL (Masset was transferred from the 15-day DL to the 60-day on April 21). If this injury trend continues, it remains to be seen whether the Reds can sustain another playoff run in 2013. The Reds head into Wrigley one game over .500 (15-14), but just 2.5 games behind the first-place Cardinals.
4.4 Runs Scored/Game, 6th in the NL
Power has long been this lineup’s calling card, but the Reds’ team slugging was around league average in the first month. Jay Bruce and Zack Cozart are both off to slow starts, while Chris Heisey hasn’t performed well in place of Ludwick. Former MVP Joey Votto was initially on pace to draw more than 200 walks, but some scouts fret he could be getting too selective for his own good. On the positive side, Brandon Phillips got off to a hot start, and Todd Frazier’s power numbers indicate he’s recovered from last season’s September swoon. The injury to Ludwick, combined with questions about Shin-Soo Choo’s ability to play center field regularly—despite his impressive offensive output—have fed speculation the Reds might bring up speedster Billy Hamilton. After stealing 155 bases in the minors in 2012, Hamilton is expected to be the biggest stolen-base threat in baseball since Vince Coleman.
3.6 Runs Against/Game, 3rd in the NL
The major controversy this spring was whether Cincinnati would really move the Cuban Missile, Aroldis Chapman, and his triple-digit velocity into the rotation. After considerable debate, they decided to leave him at closer, which gives them a distinct in-game advantage compared to the other relief corps in the division. But that decision could also cost them in the long haul, especially with Cueto out for an indefinite amount of time. The good news is the other rotation regulars behind Cueto have all been strong. Sunday’s starter Mat Latos and Homer Bailey look like All-Stars early on while rookie and Saturday’s starter Tony Cingrani has picked up where Cueto left off. Mike Leake (Friday’s probable pitcher) continues to pitch well, and Bronson Arroyo’s nine flavors of junk consistently chew up innings while providing winnable ballgames. The Reds will need that kind of consistency as they wait for the lineup to start producing like it should. Manager Dusty Baker is not one to make a lot of in-game moves to the ’pen, so his club’s fortunes may rest on how far his rotation can take them.
The Chicago Cubs today named Single-A Kane County infielder Rock Shoulders and Double-A Tennessee left-handed pitcher Eric Jokisch the organization’s minor league player and pitcher of the month for April, respectively.
Aside from having the best name in the organization, Shoulders, 21, batted .370 (30-for-81) with 19 runs scored, seven doubles, five home runs and 16 RBI in 22 April contests for the Cougars. He posted a .457 on-base percentage, thanks in part to 13 walks, and had a .642 slugging percentage to give him a 1.099 OPS for the month, the second-highest mark in the Midwest League. The left-handed hitter was tied for third in the league in runs scored, home runs and extra-base hits, ranked fourth in batting average and tied for fourth in hits.
Shoulders, whose real name is Roderick, was originally selected by the Cubs in the 25th round of the 2011 draft. In 94 career minor league games, he has hit .274 (89-for-325) with 24 doubles, 15 home runs, 57 RBI, a .362 on-base percentage and a .486 slugging percentage.
Jokisch, 23, went 3-1 with a 1.84 ERA (6 ER/29.1 IP) in five April starts for the Smokies, striking out 21, while walking just six and limiting opponents to a .240 batting average. In each of his first four starts of the season, he went at least 6.0 innings and allowed one or no runs. He finished the month tied for fifth in the Southern League in victories, tied for eighth in innings pitched and ninth in ERA.
Jokisch, a native of Virginia, Ill., attended Northwestern University and was selected by the Cubs in the 11th round of the 2010 draft. He began the 2011 campaign by going 9-3 with a 2.96 ERA (39 ER/118.2 IP) in 25 games (11 starts) with Single-A Peoria and was later named the team’s Pitcher of the Year. All told, he is 25-13 with a 3.37 ERA (134 ER/358.0 IP) in 75 career minor league games, including 52 starts.
Tom Ricketts and other members of Cubs management met at a City Club of Chicago breakfast Wednesday morning to unveil new drawings for the Wrigley Field restoration project they hope to start following the 2013 baseball season.
Ricketts has proposed a $300 million renovation plan for the Friendly Confines, which turns 100 years old next season, and an additional $200 million in community investment. The plan calls for improvements to the concourse and clubhouses at the Friendly Confines, but the biggest topic of discussion has been the 6,000-square-foot scoreboard planned for left-center field. Other amenities include a new hotel with a health club and dining, a two-story restaurant/retail building where the Captain Morgan Club currently stands, an open plaza just to the west of the stadium and a new team office on Waveland Avenue and Clark Street.
Click the above photos for a better view of the proposed project.
(Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty)
Celebrate Mother’s Day a little early this season by joining the Cubs and Advocate Health Care on Wednesday, May 8, for Chicago Cubs Charities’ first “Pink Out” in the Bleachers. Each fan attending the game in the Budweiser Bleachers will receive a “Pink Out” hat, which will be handed out at the gates by Cubs players’ and coaches’ wives, to celebrate survivors and promote breast cancer awareness.
Fans throughout the ballpark are also encouraged to wear pink that day. If your wardrobe is a little light on pink, the Cubs Store, located across from Wrigley Field at the corner of Clark and Addison streets, will display a “Pink Out” section with pink merchandise. Fans will notice other pink touches throughout the ballpark as well, such as a temporary pink ribbon on the outfield wall, pink hats worn by the grounds crew and more.
All fans in attendance on May 8 are encouraged to participate in the Chicago Cubs Charities 50/50 Raffle, as proceeds will benefit mammograms for under- and uninsured women through the Advocate Charitable Foundation.
The Cubs and Advocate will also honor breast cancer survivors during game ceremonies. The ceremonial first pitches will be thrown by a breast cancer survivor, as well as Major League Baseball’s 2013 Honorary Bat Girl Contest winner, who was selected after submitting a story about “Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer;” the National Anthem will be sung by 40 members of the Sing to Live Community Chorus, which is comprised of singers whose lives have been touched by breast cancer; and three breast cancer survivors will lead the afternoon’s seventh-inning stretch from the broadcast booth. In addition, Advocate will bring more than 50 survivors to enjoy the game in the stands.
Fans can purchase tickets and find more information at www.cubs.com/pink.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
A little rain wasn’t going to stop Matt Garza. With elbow and lat issues keeping the the 29-year-old out of action since July and rehab stints getting pushed back by rain and a dead arm, it’s been awhile since he’s taken the mound in a competitive atmosphere.
“I didn’t think there was anything that was going to stop me from going out there,” Garza said of his rainy Wednesday return with the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. “A long delay—I sat on a bike for a long time.”
Poor whether caused the game to be delayed for more than an hour and a half, and it was eventually called in the bottom of the fifth. But Garza had a successful, pain-free outing, going 2.2 innings (42 pitches), with one earned run on one hit and two walks. He was back at Wrigley Field on Thursday to check in with the major league squad before heading out to Iowa for his second rehab start on Monday.
“I was just glad to throw strikes, glad they were swinging. It’s a good sign,” Garza said. “I put the ball in the zone a lot, so that’s all I was looking for.”
The right-hander has been on the DL since July 21 of last season after aggravating his throwing elbow. Then early in the spring, he tweaked his lat, causing him to miss all of Spring Training. Manager Dale Sveum said the club would make some decisions about a potential return to the big league club after Garza’s third rehab start. Even though the ace can finally see the light at the end of a very long tunnel, he said his focus is solely on his Monday start.
“I’m just looking forward to [start] No. 2,” he said. “When I get to three, we’ll make those decisions. But right now, I’m just going to prep my body for No. 2, prep my mind for No. 2—going to go from there.”
Garza was 5-7 with a 3.91 ERA in 103.2 innings for the Cubs in 2012.
Second baseman Logan Watkins recorded his fourth multi-hit game in five days with the I-Cubs. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Tennessee and Kane County both secured a win Wednesday while Iowa and Daytona struggled to find power at the plate. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action:
Iowa Cubs (9-16)
Iowa mustered only four hits in a 1-0 setback vs. visiting Round Rock.
- 2B Logan Watkins (.279) went 3-for-3 with a double and a walk, reaching base all four times. He recorded his fourth multi-hit game in five days (.450/9-for-20).
- DH Ryan Sweeney (.351) went 1-for-4 and has hit safely in 17 of 21 games this season.
- 3B Ian Stewart (.091) went 0-for-4 in the 13th game of his rehabilitation assignment.
- LHP Chris Rusin struck out a season-best five batters in 7.0 innings, tying his longest outing of the season.
Tennessee Smokies (14-11)
Tennessee fell 3-0 in a rain-shortened, 5.0-inning game at Mississippi.
- RHP Matt Garza threw 42 pitches (25 strikes), facing 10 batters in his first rehab start with Tennessee. He collected six groundouts, a flyout, walked two and allowed a single.
- LF Rubi Silva (.298) went 1-for-2 with a single.
- C Rafael Lopez (.208) collected a base hit for the seventh time in eight games.
Daytona Cubs (14-12)
Daytona defeated Palm Beach 3-1, completing a four-game sweep of the Cardinals. The D-Cubs have won six of their last seven games.
- 3B Ben Carhart (.312) registered his third multi-RBI game in four days, going 2-for-3 with a run scored, two doubles (10) and two RBI (15). He extended his hitting streak to seven games (.520/13-for-25).
- 2B Tony Giansanti (.296) went 2-for-3 with a RBI (3) in his first start at second base this season.
- RF Jorge Soler (.275) doubled (5), stole a base (2) and scored a run as part of a 1-for-3 outing.
- RHP Ben Wells pitched a season-best 7.0 innings, allowing only four batters to reach base.
Kane County Cougars (10-13)
Dan Vogelbach hit a walk-off single in the 10th inning, giving Kane County a 5-4 victory over Bowling Green in the opener of a three-game set.
- Vogelbach (.309) extended his hitting streak to five games (.400/8-for-20) with the 10th-inning RBI single (1-for-5, 2 RBI).
- RF Pin-Chieh Chen (.254) recorded his second-consecutive, multi-hit game, going 2-for-5 with a double (3), a stolen base (5) and two runs scored.
- 2B Gioskar Amaya (.244) went 2-for-3 with a walk, a double (4) and a run scored.
- RHP Pierce Johnson pitched into the seventh inning for the first time this season. He has struck out 25 while walking seven in five starts (24.2 IP).
Prior to the Cubs’ home opener, starter Edwin Jackson probably could have learned a thing or two from the man taking the mound before him. Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins was on hand, along with fellow Hall of Famer and former teammate Billy Williams, to throw out the first pitch of the season at Wrigley Field. Arguably the best Cubs pitcher of all time, Jenkins tallied six consecutive 20-win seasons for the North Siders and won 284 games in his 19-year career. He talked to Vine Line about the enduring allure of Wrigley Field and getting back on the mound for the first pitch of the season.
To read the entire article, pick up the May issue of Vine Line.
Infielder Brent Lillibridge has hit safely in seven of eight games in Iowa. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Iowa, Daytona and Kane County all earned victories while Tennessee had the day off Monday. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action:
Iowa Cubs (9-15)
Iowa recorded six extra-base hits in a 7-2 victory over visiting Round Rock.
- RHP Guillermo Moscoso (1-0) started and pitched five innings, surrendering one earned run on three hits and striking out six for the win.
- CF Brian Bogusevic (.420) extended his hitting streak to 11 games, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored, two doubles (7), a triple (1) and one RBI (10). He’s hitting .475 (19-for-40) during the streak.
- 1B Brad Nelson (.244) reached base four times, going 2-for-2 with two walks, two runs, a homer and two RBI (19).
- LF Brent Lillibridge (.419) went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, a home run and one RBI (4). He has hit safely in seven of his first eight games with Iowa.
- 3B Ian Stewart (.100) went 0-for-4 in the 12th game of his rehabilitation assignment.
- RHP Casey Coleman (3.38) and RHP Rafael Dolis (3.52) each tossed a scoreless inning of relief. Dolis is holding left-handed hitters to a .118 batting average (2-for-17).
Daytona Cubs (13-12)
Daytona used a five-run seventh inning to rout visiting Palm Beach, 11-4. The D-Cubs have won three in a row and five of their last six games.
- RHP Zach Cates (3-2) didn’t surrender a hit in six innings, striking out seven and walking three. He has not allowed a run in his last 12.1 innings.
- CF Zeke DeVoss (.244) recorded his fifth multi-hit game of the campaign, going 2-for-3 with a walk, three runs scored, a double (3) and one RBI (13).
- SS Javier Baez (.262), the reigning FSL Player of the Week, extended his hitting streak to a season-high six games, going 1-for-5 with a run scored, a double (7) and two RBI (17).
- 3B Ben Carhart (.300) registered his fifth multi-RBI game of the season, going 2-for-4 with a run scored, a double (8) and two RBI (13).
Kane County Cougars (9-13)
Kane County scored nine runs in the final three innings, defeating Lake County 13-9. The two teams combined for 22 runs, 32 hits and 13 extra-base hits.
- 1B Dan Vogelbach (.315) homered for the third-straight game, going 4-for-6 with the home run (5) and two RBI (14).
- RF Pin-Chieh Chen (.242) went 4-for-6 with a run scored, a double (2) and three RBI (6).
- LF Rock Shoulders (.370) and SS Wes Darvill (.375) each scored three runs while adding two hits apiece.
- C Yaniel Cabezas (.545) recorded his second straight, three-hit game, going 3-for-6 with two RBI (3).
- DH Willson Contreras (.326) went 2-for-4 with a walk, three runs scored, a home run and one RBI (10).
- RHP Justin Amlung (3-0, 4.76) earned the win, tossing 3.0 innings of one-run relief.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
When Nate Schierholtz pulled on a Phillies uniform in mid-2012, it was the first time in his career he played for an organization other than the Giants. The third baseman turned outfielder appeared mostly as a pinch-hitter or late-inning defensive replacement in San Francisco before earning some regular playing time in 2010 and 2011. The 29-year-old veteran, who has six seasons and a World Series ring under his belt, came to Chicago in hopes of finding a more regular role in Wrigley Field’s right-field corner. If he keeps up his current pace, he should be just fine. In 23 games with the Cubs, Schierholtz has hit .284/.338/.527 (AVG/OBP/SLG) and played stellar defense. For the May issue of Vine Line, we talked to the first-year Cub about what it was like leaving the Giants, how he spends his free time and winning the big one.
GIANT CHANGE It was a little bit of a shock putting on a new uniform for the ﬁrst time [after getting traded from the Giants to the Phillies last season]. But after that, it’s still the same game, and you make new friends and settle in. I feel more comfortable this year than I did when I was traded last year. It’s a different situation, and I have a better plan than in the past. I’m looking forward to getting a better opportunity.
COMING TO CHICAGO It started with talking to Dale [Sveum] about my situation and the opportunity to play more than I have in the past. There were a lot of factors that went into it. I loved coming to Chicago. It was always a city I looked forward to coming to. I loved playing at Wrigley. There’s a lot of history behind it, and I know [the Cubs] have great fans. I just couldn’t say no.
TEAM MORALE [Sveum] basically told me the Cubs are turning things around. [He said] they had a lot of good starting pitchers, and it sounded like they were as motivated as ever to win. That’s what makes baseball fun, so I wanted to come here and help the team win.
GAME ON During the offseason, I have a lot of hobbies—ﬁshing, hiking, a lot of outdoors stuff. I also like to work on cars. But during the season, I spend most of my time with my wife. She’s kind of a video gamer, so sometimes we play video games, and we like going to movies. She actually beats me, so I probably have to spend a little bit of my spare time practicing.
IN IT TO WIN IT Winning the World Series gave me a lot of experience in high-pressure situations. Once you get there, you realize how hard and special it is to be there. What I took away was a need to get back. Even in the playoffs, the atmosphere is so different, and it’s so much fun. That’s why we play the game. Once you are there, it’s something you are dying to get back to.
To read the complete interview with Schierholtz, pick up the May issue of Vine Line, featuring the Cubs core, available now at select Jewel-Osco, Walgreens, Meijer, Barnes & Noble, and other Chicago-area retailers. Or subscribe to Vine Line today.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The first two weeks of the season were a struggle for the Cubs relief corps. Despite strong efforts from one of the NL’s best rotations in the club’s first 12 games, the bullpen blew four save opportunities, compiled a 5.82 ERA and repeatedly failed to secure victories in winnable games.
But the ‘pen’s performance in the last two weeks is making those early-season woes look like a thing of the past. In the last 13 games, the relievers have compiled a 1.85 ERA, third in the NL during that stretch. Though they still walk too many hitters (9.5 walk percentage, second highest in NL since April 16), the bullpen has found a way to get out of jams, leaving an NL-best 92.4 percent of runners on base.
The Cubs have been in every game this season—all but three have been decided by three runs or fewer and none by more than four—which means a strong bullpen is often the difference between winning and losing. What the team looks to have gained in recent weeks is a “give me the-ball” type finisher. Though manager Dale Sveum has not named a closer and prefers a bullpen-by-committee approach, the North Siders acquired veteran late-innings reliever Kevin Gregg, who was released by the Dodgers at the end of Spring Training. Since making his debut on April 19, Gregg has been lights out, surrendering no earned runs in his first six appearances and racking up four saves.
Despite Opening Day closer Carlos Marmol’s early failures, surrendering five earned runs in his first 1.2 innings pitched, he hasn’t given up a run since April 6. He has still walked eight batters in those nine innings, but he’s managed to miss a lot of bats in that time too, striking out nine.
The most consistent relief pitcher all season has been southpaw James Russell. The 26-year-old has leaned heavily on his 80 mph slider, throwing it 45 percent of the time, while mixing in a fastball and change-up. So far this season, his strikeout totals have improved dramatically. He’s now fanning 10.6 batters per nine, three K/9 better than last season. In 11 innings, he’s walked just one batter and hasn’t given up an earned run. He’s been so effective that his 0.6 wins above replacement (according to fangraphs.com) is tied for the best among relief pitchers in baseball.
To round things out, Shawn Camp looks like he might have rediscovered his 2012 form after struggling early, and waiver pickup Kameron Loe has been reliable in his five innings since being claimed off waivers from Seattle. Though the relievers’ .269 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) might indicate they’re pitching a little above their ability (an average BABIP is around .300), a solid effort from these pitchers all season long could make a big difference in 2013.