Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 07/23/10

Hayden Simpson may not see game action this summer. Carlos Zambrano makes a rehab trip to Des Moines. All four Cub affiliates are playing good baseball, including big winning streaks for the young Cubs in Daytona and Iowa. In Peoria, Hak-Ju Lee hit his first home run of the year and was a double short of the cycle. Two catchers in the organization, Robinson Chirinos and Michael Brenly, have been swinging the bats well, which is uncommon for a backstop in the hot summer months.

All that and more in today’s Down on the Farm Report.

AAA-Iowa Cubs – (54-45)
After the announcement that Lou Piniella would retire at the end of the season, Ryne Sandberg led his team to three straight victories before leaving them to travel to Cooperstown. Ryno has been hounded by questions about the job opening in Chicago, but the I-Cubs have managed to stay focused on the field. Jeff Samardzija now has seven wins on the year and has been solid in the month of July for Iowa. His team has had a great week that even included a visit from Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano on Thursday night. Iowa has a 1.5 game lead in the PCL American Northern division, but all four teams are still within two games of first.

Mitch Atkins is now officially back on the Iowa roster after being optioned from Chicago earlier in the week. To make room the organization sent Yohan Gonzalez back to Peoria. He is a young Class-A pitcher who got the chance to fill a roster spot at Triple-A, appearing in one game. Gonzalez struck out the only batter he faced in a brief stint with Iowa.

The Iowa Cubs toppled Oklahoma City 9-2 in the first of a double header on Tuesday, and then they pulled out a 4-3 victory in game two to complete a big day. Versatile Bryan LaHair got the start in left field in game one and went deep twice to raise his season home run total to 13. Micah Hoffpauir kept pace with his teammate in the power department with two homers of his own. Casey Coleman went the distance in the seven-inning contest allowing two runs. Darwin Barney went 3-for-4, driving in the only run that did not score on a homer by LaHair or Hoffpauir. Click for full box score. Hung-Wen Chen was the winning pitcher in part two of the twin bill, his first W since being promoted to Des Moines. Scott Maine nailed it down for his third save. Sam Fuld hit a two-run homer in the third that put the I-Cubs in front. Click for full box score.

The Cubs outlasted the RedHawks 8-5 on Wednesday for their third win in two days. The pitching matchup featured a couple of guys that were Chicago Cubs teammates in 2008 and 2009, Jeff Samardzija and Rich Harden. Harden, who’s rehabbing with the Rangers Triple-A affiliate, gave up six earned runs including homers to two more ex-teammates in Bobby Scales and Micah Hoffpauir. Rich got the loss in the Cub reunion to drop to 0-2, while Samardzija worked five strong innings to improve to 7-1 in the minor league ranks this season. Darwin Barney drove in three runs and is hitting .303. Click for full box score.

Oklahoma City got to the Iowa bullpen late to get an 8-4 win in the final meeting of a stretch of nine straight between the two teams. Jay Jackson didn’t have his best stuff, but it was Blake Parker who took the loss allowing four runs in two innings. Carlos Zambrano made his first of three scheduled rehab appearances. He worked a scoreless inning but did allow two hits. Ty Wright, who’s still adjusting to Triple-A with a .246 average so far, had a triple. Brad Snyder doubled and drove in two. Click for full box score.

Upcoming Games and Probable Pitchers:
*All Times CDT
Tonight @Round Rock 7:05 (J.R. Mathes)
Saturday @Round Rock 7:05 (Thomas Diamond)
Sunday @Round Rock 7:05 (Casey Coleman)

AA-Tennessee Smokies – (57-39, 14-12)
After concluding a 5-2 homestand that included a visit from Tom Ricketts on Monday, the Smokies have gotten their five-game trip to Mississippi underway. They will meet the Braves four more times looking to continue to build on their second half win total. Robinson Chirinos is smoking and now leads the club in home runs, RBI, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. The Smokies are now in first place in their division for the second half after winning the first half.

The Montgomery Biscuits, a team that Lou Piniella has minority ownership in, fell to the Smokies 4-3 in a thriller on Tuesday. Tennessee came from behind doing all of their scoring in the final three innings. Brett Jackson went 2-for-4 to up his average to .310, while Tony Thomas chipped in with two doubles and two RBI. Marcos Mateo, usually a reliever, made his first start of the year. He allowed only one hit in three innings, but it was a homer to a guy whose name seems more suited for the Cubs organization, Henry Wrigley. Click for full box score.

The Smokies took the opener in Mississippi on Thursday 5-3. They got no production from the top of their order as Tony Campana and Brett Jackson each went 0-for-5, but they pulled out the W with three in the seventh. Russ Canzler (2-for-3, 2 2B, 2 BB, R) was the only Tennessee player with a big day at the plate. Marco Carillo improved to 4-0 by tossing the first of four shutout frames from the bullpen. Click for full box score.

Upcoming Games and Probable Pitchers:
*All Times CDT
Tonight @Mississippi 7:05 (Craig Muschko)
Saturday @Mississippi 7:05 (Jeremy Papelbon)
Sunday @Mississippi 5:05 (Chris Carpenter)

Class-A Advanced Daytona Cubs – (52-46, 17-10)
The Daytona Cubs proved themselves superior to the first half FSL South Champions in a recent four game series in Port Charlotte. The winning streak, now at five games, has given them a nice boost into contention in the standings. Michael Brenly had put together a lengthy hitting streak that was snapped on Thursday by no fault of his own. D.J. LeMahieu and Kyler Burke are coming around offensively as well.

The Daytona Cubs and Charlotte Stone Crabs played a ridiculously long game on Monday night into Tuesday morning. The D-Cubs ended up earning a well-deserved W by a final of 4-3 in 19 innings! The game took 5 hours, 13 minutes to complete and ended at about 12:20am locally in Florida. The D-Cubs scored three runs in the first inning on hits by Ryan Flaherty and Kyler Burke, but then they went 17 straight innings without scoring. Burke drove in the go ahead run in the top of the 19th. Daytona scored twice against Mike Perconte in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game and cause the marathon. Matt Matulia, normally a second baseman player/coach, pitched five shutout innings and got the win! Click for full box score.

The D-Cubs scored four in the seventh and two more in the eighth to come from behind for a 6-2 win on Tuesday. As a team they pounded out 16 hits including three each from Michael Brenly and D.J. LeMahieu. The 3-for-5 day from Brenly extended his hitting streak to 20 games. Trey McNutt was knocked out early in the game, but Alex Maestri got the win in relief and David Patton sent down all nine men he faced for his second save. Click for full box score.

The Cubs polished off the four-game sweep of the Stone Crabs with a 5-2 win on Thursday. Smaily Borges got the start in left and made the most of it with three hits, all singles. Kyler Burke had a two-run single at the center of a four run sixth innings. Brooks Raley cruised through seven innings, surrendering just one run on five hits. Brenly hit safely for the 21st straight game. Click for full box score.

The winning streak extended to five on Thursday when the D-Cubs walloped the St. Lucie Mets 8-3. Junior Lake tripled to drive in two and then ended up scoring himself on an error on the play. Lake’s three-bagger highlighted a six-run fourth inning. Mark Reed went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs batted in. Michael Brenly walked three times but saw his hitting streak come to an end. Click for full box score.

Upcoming Games:
*All Times CDT
Tonight @St. Lucie 6:00
Saturday @St. Lucie 5:00
Sunday @St. Lucie Noon

Class-A Peoria Chiefs – (48-46, 10-14)
After a 5-1 homestand and an off day on Tuesday, Peoria started a daunting stretch of 13 of their next 16 games on the road. The Chiefs have had a mediocre season, but they are hoping to build on what was their first sizzling stretch of the year.

On Wednesday, Peoria got their trip started on a high note by blanking the Fort Wayne Tin Caps 10-0. Hak-Ju Lee went 4-for-5 with a homer, triple, walk, and two singles. The longball was his first of the season. The Chiefs broke things open right off the bat with a five run first inning that included a Nelson Perez three run homer. Designated hitter D.J. Fitzgerald had four hits in five trips to the plate. Nick Struck worked six smooth innings, allowing no runs and only two hits. Click for full box score.

The Chiefs lost to Fort Wayne 8-3 on Thursday in the second game of the series. Logan Watkins (2-for-4, BB) and D.J. Fitzgerald (2-for-4) were the only Chiefs to drive in runs. Ryan Searle allowed four earned runs in four innings to drop to 4-5. Jordan Latham was not effective in relief, allowing the Tin Caps to tack on three late insurance runs. Click for full box score.

Upcoming Games:
*All Times CDT
Tonight @Fort Wayne 6:05
Saturday @Lake County 6:00
Sunday @Lake County 5:00

Updates from Boise/Mesa
Carrie Muskat of Cubs.com reports that No. 1 pick Hayden Simpson is not expected to play this summer because of his mononucleosis. Even without Simpson, a lot of young talent has been on display for the Hawks this season. They held a record of 19-14 going into their game late last night. For the time being they have a narrow lead in the division. Alvaro Ramirez (.370 AVG, 29 games) and Pierre LePage (.348 AVG, 23 games) have both been tearing it up. Aaron Kurcz has had a great start to his professional career allowing just two runs (1 ER) in ten games. He already has one win and four saves. The Arizona League Cubs are 11-13 entering late action last night. They beat the Mariners 9-8 on Tuesday even though Hunter Ackerman allowed two runs over two innings in his third start since being drafted.

2010 Top Draft Pick Updates
*Listed in order they were drafted
Hayden Simpson: Out with illness
Reggie Golden: Unsigned
Micah Gibbs: .119 AVG, 17 games at Boise
Hunter Ackerman: 0-1, 5 ER, 3.1 IP, 3 games at Mesa
Matthew Szczur: .418 AVG, 13 Games at Boise
Ivan De Jesus: Unsigned
Benjamin Wells: Unsigned
Cameron Greathouse: 4 IP, 7 R, 6 ER in 2 games at Boise
Kevin Rhoderick: Unsigned
Aaron Kurcz: 11.2 IP, 1-0, 0.77 ERA, 4 Saves in 10 games at Boise
Eric Jokisch: 8.2 IP, 2-0, 7 ER in 5 games at Boise
Austin Reed: 2-0, 1.13 ERA in 4 games at Mesa
Pierre LePage: .348 AVG, 21 RBIs in 23 games at Boise
Colin Richardson: 0-1, 3 IP, 5 ER, 3 games at Mesa
Elliot Soto: After a brief stint with Peoria, back in Boise where he’s hitting .300 in 14 games

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If you have any questions or comments regarding my posts, feel free to email me at cubsblogmailbag@aol.com. All suggestions are welcome. Also, I write a blog where I post daily on the Chicago Cubs over at www.everythingcubs.blogspot.com. For more minor league updates you can follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/cubsfarmupdates.

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