Down on the Farm Report – 7/27/07

It is a new year and with it comes new promise and hope for Cubs fans. It isn’t that we have old promise and hope; it just begins anew every April. This year we have the new manager in Sweet Lou Piniella instead of Dusty Baker. I remember that one of the complaints about Dusty was that he did not like to play the rookies. I did not complain about it but I did notice they did not get much playing time. With Sweet Lou at the helm that is a different story and I wanted to know how much different things are.

I looked at 2006 and then 2007 and counted as best I could, the games played by guys that came up from the minors during the season. This wasn’t easy but I counted those that started the year with one of the farm teams so guys like Ronny Cedeno weren’t included.

First, I took at look at 2006. Last year we had roughly 268 games played by guys that were called up from one of the farm teams. Of those games, 112 were played by position players. That means 156 games were put in by pitchers. This is obvious since we had many injury problems last year and had several guys filling in like Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall and Rich Hill.

Next, I moved on to 2007. According to what I found we have had roughly 254 games played by guys called up from the farm teams with 182 of those coming on offense. That means 72 games have been put in by pitchers. Of the 72, I don’t think any of those games came as a starter and I didn’t count Sean Marshall because he was technically on a rehab assignment in the minors. These were guys like Billy Petrick, Rocky Cherry, and Sean Gallagher, in relief roles.

I think everyone can see we are using many young players this year. I didn’t count Theriot’s games this year but he is another young guy that is playing well for us and has been great to have in the lineup. Mike Fontenot has been unbelievable. Felix Pie has been up a couple times and hasn’t been able to replicate his play at Iowa and so he hasn’t been able to stick but he has still helped the team when he was up. I think the young guys provide a spark and they are a must if you want to win in the majors. I think they remind the veteran guys that it is an honor to be a major league baseball player and get them playing hard.

I love the way the team is playing this year and I love to see the young guys playing and contributing in a big way. I think Lou is doing a great job of mixing in young guys and veterans. I think Jim Hendry did a great job adding Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis so we didn’t have to throw the young guys in and have to depend on them now. They have used young guys as relievers and they have done a wonderful job but it is spot work so they are used effectively. My hat goes off to both of them; I think they are the main reason the team is where they are right now. Now if you want to know who could be coming to Chicago next continue on for the updates from Down on the Farm.

Iowa Cubs – Record: 59-46

Iowa was 2-0 in their last two games and have won four in a row. They are trying to get back in the race for their division and currently sit only 4 1/2 games back after falling as far as seven games back at one point. In their last two games the offense has come on strong and scored 28 runs.

Eric Patterson was 8-of-12 with five RBI’s in the two games while Felix Pie was 5-of-12 with two stolen bases. Geovany Soto continues his hot hitting going 4-of-8 with two home runs and six RBI’s. John Nelson has also been hitting the ball well going 6-of-11 with a home run, three RBI’s and four runs scored. Josh Kroeger was 2-of-6 with both hits being home runs. He also added four RBI’s. Matt Murton was 4-of-9 with a home run and six RBI’s. That is a lot of offense this time around and in only two games but I didn’t want to overlook some strong performances.

From the mound, Neal Cotts pitched 1.1 scoreless innings of relief and gave up a hit and two walks while striking out three. It would be good to get him back pitching well so the Cubs could use him if needed. He was solid in 2005 when he helped the White Sox win it all so he could be a good guy to have available but he needs to get back to form first.

Sean Gallagher, Kevin Hart and Rocky Cherry combined to get the win on Tuesday. Gallagher started and went 4.0 innings and gave up a run on five hits and a walk while striking out four. Hart followed up with 4.0 innings of his own and gave up two runs on two hits and three walks while striking out seven, to get the win. Cherry pitched the final inning and gave up only a hit to close out the game.

Tennessee Smokies – Record: 14-18

Tennessee split the two games they played. A regular mention in the updates is Matt Craig and he is here yet again. He was 4-of-9 with a home run and two RBI’s. Jemel Spearman was also 4-of-9 with two home runs and four RBI’s. Casey McGehee was also 4-of-9 with a home run and an RBI.

Wade Miller made another rehab start and was roughed up badly to get the loss. He pitched 3.0 innings giving up seven earned runs on six hits and two walks while striking out six. This is not a good sign for Miller when you consider he did this against a Carolina team that is at .500 in their division. One step forward and two steps back for Miller it seems. He may not last much longer with the Cubs if he doesn’t show some improvement.

Donald Veal made another start and pitched well. He went 4.0 innings giving up five unearned runs on three hits and no walks while striking out seven. The defense committed three errors which accounts for the runs being unearned. It was a positive outing and the Smokies eventually won in the 9th. Veal continues to improve and that is what we want to see.

Daytona Cubs – Record: 14-19

The D-Cubs were 2-1 since the last update. Matt Camp was 5-of-12 while Brian Dopirak was 3-of-9 with a home run and three RBI’s. I think we need to keep a close eye on Steve Clevenger. In the eight games since arriving from Boise he is 10-of-28 (.357) with five RBI’s. He has also hit safely in all eight games that is he played in for Daytona. He doesn’t seem to have any power or speed since he doesn’t have any home runs or stolen bases at either level but he can sure hit. In his last three games, he is 4-of-10 with two RBI’s.

From the mound, Jesse Estrada and Mitch Atkins pitched Wednesday to help the D-Cubs take both ends of a doubleheader. Estrada pitched a complete game, going 7.0 innings giving up two earned runs on six hits and no walks while striking out seven. Estrada evened his record at 3-3 with the win.

Atkins pitched 6.0 innings giving up two unearned runs on five hits and a walk while striking out two. Atkins improved to 8-6 with the win and his ERA sits at a low 2.73.

Peoria Chiefs – Record: 20-11

The Chiefs also split their two games but still have a 2 1/2 game lead in their division. Henry Blanco is currently rehabbing in Peoria as he works to get back to Chicago. He has appeared in four games and is 3-of-9 with four RBI’s. Leon Johnson was 4-of-7 with two RBI’s while Ryne Malone was 4-of-8 with three RBI’s and three runs scored.

From the mound, Michael Bartek pitched well on Tuesday. He started his first game and went 4.0 innings giving up no runs on one hit and a walk while striking out three. Picking up the win in the same game was a new name to the updates.

Updates on Kerry Wood: Kerry Wood pitched a scoreless fifth to pick up the win on Tuesday and surrendered a lone walk. It is good to see Woody working his way back and he could be a big boost to the bullpen when he gets back to Chicago. I just hope he can stay healthy and help the team. I think all Cubs fans know what he can do and want him back. I just don’t want to hear that he has had more pain. Things are looking good now but we have been to this point so many times, you are cautiously optimistic at best. Good luck Kerry, I hope you are back soon and the injury problems become a thing of the past.

Thursday night Wood pitched another scoreless inning. He threw 12 pitches, 9 were strikes. He gave up a hit and struck out 2. Wood is scheduled to throw again today.

Boise Hawks – Record: 18-18

Boise is back to .500 after starting the season 0-8. They won two of three games since Tuesday’s update and continue to lead their division by 2 1/2 games. On offense, Dylan Johnston was 7-of-12 with a home run, three RBI’s, five runs scored and a stolen base. He was 5-of-5 in Monday’s game and added four runs and two RBI’s. Marquez Smith was 4-of-7 while Jonathon Wyatt was 5-of-15 with three RBI’s and a stolen base.

From the mound, Julio Castillo started the game on Wednesday and lasted 3.1 innings. He gave up two earned runs on only one hit but he walked five. He also struck out one batter. He seems to need work on his control since he has more walks (11) than he does strikeouts (9).

That is the latest from the Cubs farm system. Check back next week for more updates. Have a great weekend and as always, GO CUBS!!

Quote of the Day

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow." - Albert Einstein