Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 04/25/11

New stars Robert Whitenack and Jae-Hoon Ha are rising from the lower ranks; while Brett Jackson, Rebel Ridling and Ryan Flaherty continue making noise for the Sluggin’ Smokies.

All of this and more in this week’s Down on the Farm Report.

Low Class-A – Peoria Chiefs (7-8)
Once again, Hayden Simpson didn’t have a lot of support as Peoria opened the week with a 4-2 loss to the Quad Cities River Bandits. Simpson surrendered two earned runs in four innings, striking out three and walking two.

Midwest weather forced a doubleheader on Wednesday, as the Chiefs swept the River Bandits 4-0 and 1-0. In the opener, Austin Kirk blanked Quad Cities in five innings of work, striking out four and walking two for the victory. Yohan Gonzalez pitched the final two innings for his first save. Peoria’s two best hitters this season led the way again. Rubi Silva drove in a run on a 1-for-3 game; while Pierre LePage belted his first homer of the season, posting a 1-for-3 effort.

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The Chiefs then pounded out nine hits in the nightcap, as Dallas Beeler picked up his first victory of the season. Greg Rohan, Sergio Burruel, and Arismendy Alcantara each had two hits, while Chad Noble went 1-for-2 in his first start. Beeler went five innings, striking out five and walking one. Bryce Shafer pitched two scoreless innings for his first save.

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Peoria evened its record Thursday with a 5-4 victory over the Beloit Snappers. Arismendy Alcantara has recently come alive, stroking a three-run triple and driving in another run. Elliot Soto also chipped in two hits and an RBI. Robinson Lopez started the game and pitched four innings, allowing three earned runs. Eric Jokisch picked up his second win with two innings of relief. Jeffry Antigua earned his first save.

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Peoria played its second doubleheader of the week Saturday, losing to the Beloit Snappers 5-2 in the opener. Micah Gibbs (2-for-3, double) collected two of the Chiefs’ six hits. Starter Cameron Greathouse went 4.1 innings with two earned runs in the loss. In the nightcap, Greg Rohan (3-for-4, double and three RBI) starred in Peoria’s 3-2 win. Arismendy Alcantara also chipped in with a 2-for-3 evening. Starter Graham Hicks continues to impress, striking out eight in 4.2 innings while allowing two earned runs. Eduardo Figueroa shut out the Snappers the rest of the way for the victory.

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High Class-A – Daytona Cubs (13-5)
Nick Struck had a sub-par performance as he spotted the Clearwater Threshers six runs (five earned) in four innings, as Daytona dropped Monday’s game 7-4. The hitting highlights were provided by Matt Cerda (3-for-4, double, RBI) and Jae-Hoon Ha. Ha slugged his first home run of the season, a three-run shot.

Jae-Hoon Ha continued on his sizzling pace, going 4-for-5 and cracking another home run as Peoria defeated Clearwater 4-3 on Tuesday. Welington Castillo and Michael Burgess each had a 2-for-3 night, Castillo with two doubles and Burgess a double and an RBI.

Aaron Kurcz struggled, tossing four innings and allowing three earned runs. Jeffrey Lorick, Jordan Latham, and Frank Bautista held the Threshers scoreless the rest of the way. Lorick earned his second victory, Latham his second hold; while Bautista picked up his third save.

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The D-Cubs came out swinging Wednesday night, as every player in the line-up had at least one hit as Daytona defeated Lakeland 5-2. Once again Jae-Hoon Ha led the way. The 20-year old centerfielder was 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI, raising his season average to .414. Junior Lake, Michael Brenly, and David Macias each had two hits, while Michael Burgess blasted his fifth home run. However, Lake committed his seven error of the young season.

The treys were wild for the D-Cubs, as Brett Wallach, Kevin Rhoderick and Jeffrey Beliveau each pitched three innings. Wallach and Rhoderick yielded an earned run apiece, with Rhoderick picking up the win. Beliveau was scoreless for his first save.

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Daytona became the first team in the organization to reach double digit wins, defeating Lakeland 5-3 on Thursday. Michael Burgess provided the thunder, hitting a three-run bomb (his sixth of the season) and a double. Justin Bour got himself untracked with a 2-for-3 night, as he and Burgess paced a nine hit attack. Zachary Rosscup and Brent Ebinger combined to allow nine hits, striking out eight while walking two. Ebinger earned his second victory of the year.

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A new pitching star is rising as Robert Whitenack continued to dazzle on Friday. Whitenack lowered his ERA to 1.17 with six innings of one-run baseball. He struck out seven while walking none to run his season total to 25 strikeouts against one walk. Whitenack two-hit the Flying Tigers, as Daytona defeated Lakeland 3-1. Jeffrey Lorick picked up his second hold, while Frank Bautista earned his fourth save. Justin Bour (2-for-5, double, RBI) and Junior Lake (3-for-5) have been swinging hot bats lately. Matt Cerda (1-for-3) drove in two runs.

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Junior Lake provided the fireworks as Daytona shooed away the Dunedin Blue Jays 4-2 on Saturday. A one man wrecking crew, Lake was 4-for-5 with a double, home run, three RBI, and two stolen bases. Not to be outdone, Jake Opitz smacked three doubles. Jae-Hoon Ha and David Macias also had multi-hit games.

Nick Struck made up for a poor outing Monday by going 5.1 innings and allowing two earned runs. Struck punched out seven Blue Jays in his second victory. Ryan Searle remained perfect for the season, tossing 2.1 scoreless innings. Jeffrey Beliveau picked up his second save.

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Daytona closed out the week throttling Dunedin 5-3. Aaron Kurcz and Kevin Rhoderick combined for seven innings of one-run baseball, Rhoderick getting the win. Evan Crawford had the hot stick, posting a 3-for-4 day with a double and RBI. Jake Opitz and David Macias had multi-hit games, while Jae-Hoon Ha knocked out his third homer.

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Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (12-5)
The Tennessee Smokies were held to only three hits last Monday, as they lost to the Carolina Mudcats 5-4 in ten innings. Brett Jackson had his hitting streak snapped at ten.

On a team of big-name hitting stars, unheralded shortstop Nate Samson was the brightest star Tuesday night. Samson was 2-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI as Tennessee ended a two game skid, defeating Carolina 6-2. Six other Smokies had at least one hit, including pitcher Luke Sommer.

Rafael Dolis kept the Mudcats hitless, but struggled with his command. He was lifted with one out in the third inning with back spasms. Ty’Relle Harris came on in relief for the win, allowing only a solo home run in 3.2 innings. Luke Sommer let in one earned run in 2.2 innings and was credited with a hold. After giving up a walk-off homer the previous evening, David Cales got the last out for his fifth save.

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The offensive machine that is the Smokies continued to churn on Wednesday, stroking 13 hits as Tennessee beat Carolina 9-5. Hung-Wen Chen was the surprise starter, and delivered three innings of two-run baseball. Marco Carrillo continued to demonstrate his value, throwing four innings and allowing one run for the victory.

But the bats were the story again, as Brett Jackson had another memorable night. Jackson ended up 3-for-4 with a double, triple, and home run; as well as a walk and three RBI. James Adduci, Rebel Ridling, and Marwin Gonzalez each posted two-hit game, along with Steve Clevenger. However, one of Clevenger’s hits went for a solo home run. D.J. LeMahieu also collected his first round-tripper of the season.

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Trey McNutt was back on the mound on Thursday night after a stint on the disabled list. The Smokies defense didn’t help him out that much, committing three errors that led to three unearned runs as Tennessee fell to Carolina 5-3.

Tennessee put up four runs by the fifth inning Friday against Carolina, and held on for a 5-4 victory. Rebel Ridling (3-for-4), the Smokies’ hottest hitter not named Brett Jackson, put on a show, launching his third home run and driving in two. James Adduci (3-for-3) also had a big night, stealing two bases. Alberto Cabrera went six innings for the win, allowing four earned runs while striking out four. Ty’Relle Harris picked up his first hold, while David Cales tossed a shut out inning for his sixth save.

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The Smokies got a chance to show their high-power offense to the Jacksonville Suns Saturday, and peppered them for 13 hits. Marwin Gonzalez led the way with three knocks, including a double. Nate Samson (2-for-4) went yard for the first time this season. Blake Lalli (2-for-4, 2 doubles) also had two hits; while Josh Vitters and Matt Spencer joined Samson in going deep.

Brooks Raley struggled. Raley allowed three earned runs on two homers in 4.1 innings. Hung-Wen Chen came to the rescue again, hurling 2.2 scoreless innings for the win. Kyle Smit and Luke Sommer then came in and the slammed the door, blanking the Suns for two more innings.

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Make it four in a row for the Smokies, as Tennessee outlasted Jacksonville 4-3 on Sunday. Rebel Ridling (3-for-4) stayed hot, raising his season average to .404 while belting his fourth home run. Not to be outdone, Ryan Flaherty (2-for-4) added a solo shot for his 17th RBI.

Chris Rusin had a decent outing, letting in two earned runs in five innings work. Marco Carrillo, an emerging presence in the bullpen, went two scoreless innings for his third win. Blake Parker finished the game out to earn his first save.

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Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (9-8)
In a rare Monday matinee, the I-Cubs came from behind in the seventh on a bases-loaded double by Luis Montanez (1-for-2, double, two RBI) to defeat the Memphis Redbirds 5-2. Brad Snyder (1-for-4, two RBI) drove in Montanez and Fernando Perez for the final two runs. Starter Thomas Diamond gave Iowa six strong innings of two-run ball. Diamond struck out seven, while walking two batters. John Gaub and Scott Maine finished up with three innings of scoreless relief; Gaub was credited with the win while Maine earned his third save.

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Rain forced a doubleheader on Wednesday, as Iowa split a pair with Albuquerque, winning the opener 3-1 while dropping the second game 3-0. Luis Montanez paced the I-Cubs’ attack in game one, hitting 3-for-3 with a triple and an RBI. Bobby Scales continued to impress, smacking his tenth double of the season. Austin Bibens-Dirkx cruised through his six innings for the win, allowing an earned run on two hits while striking out nine. Chris Carpenter pitched a scoreless inning for his first save. The Isotopes would then one-hit the I-Cubs in the second game. Robert Coello gave up all three runs in the loss.

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Revenge was sweet for the I-Cubs on Thursday. After being bounced around by the Isotopes last week, Iowa returned the favor, bouncing Albuquerque 9-4. Jay Jackson took the hill for the first time his season, limiting the ‘Topes to two runs over five innings. Jackson struck out four and walked one for his first win. Polin Trinidad hurled three innings of scoreless relief for his first save.

Half of Iowa’s eight hits were accounted for by Luis Montanez, the biggest being his third inning grand slam. Welington Castillo celebrated his return to Triple-A with a double and two runs scored.

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Payback continued on Friday for Iowa, as they took full aim at Albuquerque after suffering some embarrassing losses to them last week. Tony Campana (4-for-4, triple, stolen base, RBI) was white-hot for the I-Cubs, scoring three runs in a 7-2 win. Brad Snyder (2-for-4, double, two RBI), working his way back from an injury, had his best night of the young season. J.R. Mathes went the distance in a fog-shortened game, tossing six innings with two earned runs.

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Saturday saw the I-Cubs drop a 3-2 game to the Memphis Redbirds. Ramon Ortiz tossed his longest outing of the season, going seven innings and allowing two earned runs in his first loss. Matt Camp (3-for-5) and Brad Snyder (2-for-4, RBI) paced the attack, collecting five of the team’s seven hits.

Iowa was never in the game on Sunday, as Memphis raced to a 6-0 lead before the I-Cubs could score a run. Iowa would end up losing 7-1 to the Redbirds, mustering only three hits. Thomas Diamond yielded six runs on three home runs.

News and Notes
The Tennessee Smokies activated RHP Trey McNutt from the disabled list, and placed OF Ty Wright on the 7-day disabled list. Left-handed pitcher Doug Davis and OF Nelson Perez were also placed on the 7-day disabled list. The commissioner’s office returned RHP Brian Schlitter to the Cubs because of past injury.

Minor League Transactions from Baseball America

Top Prospect Watch

  • Michael Burgess (OF) – .213, 4 Doubles, 6 HR, 14 RBI, 2 Outfield Assists (Daytona Cubs)
  • Chris Carpenter (RHP) – 1-0, 1.97 ERA, 9.1 IP, 2 ER, 12 K, 6 BB, Save (Iowa Cubs)
  • Micah Gibbs (C) – .344, Double, 2 RBI, Stolen Base (Peoria Chiefs)
  • Reggie Golden (OF) is in extended Spring Training
  • Jae-Hoon Ha (OF) – .368, 7 Doubles, Triple, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 2 SB, 3 Outfield Assists (Daytona Cubs)
  • D.J. LeMahieu (IF) – .283, 5 Doubles, HR, 9 RBI, 2 Stolen Bases (Tennessee Smokies)
  • Trey McNutt (RHP) – 0-1, 2.70 ERA, 6.2 IP, 6 K, 3 BB (Tennessee Smokies)
  • Hayden Simpson (RHP) – 0-1, 4.26 ERA, 12.2 IP, 6 ER, 12 K, 4 BB (Peoria Chiefs)
  • Matt Szczur (OF) – .250, 2 Doubles, 2 RBI, Stolen Base (Peoria Chiefs)
  • Josh Vitters (3B) -.263, 5 Doubles, 3 HR, 14 RBI (Tennessee Smokies)

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Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax
  • slamdog sadowski

    Kurcz outing vs Dunedin included two major leaguers Podsednik and Dewayne Wise who hit a home run off Kurcz to spoil his shutout effort.

  • John

    Does anyone know what Ty Wright’s injury was?

  • carmelo

    Whitenack moved up to AA—-gets start on Wed.

  • Patrick_Schaefer

    Rebel Ridling has had an impressive start to the season, last year at the end of spring training he had an appendectomy and when he came back he started really slow and though he turned it around some he never really put everything together.
    I really don’t think he has even a shot at making it to the majors, but it would be really nice if we had a homegrown first baseman. He will be 25 on May 22nd.
    Bour is struggling, Ugh! Hopefully he can turn things around.
    Vitters has played some first base this year so far I noticed. Vitters isn’t exactly of to a blistering start but is doing okay encouraging.

  • paulcatanese

    Nice report Tom, as I can see more interest is going to be spent on the minors with the Cubs playing the way they are right now.Also good that Castillo is down there as his role with the Cubs would have been mostly as a pinch hitter. Jackson continues to impress along with Rebel Ridling,a new name for me,but a good one for the box scores.Thanks Tom,nice to read news that is not depressing.

  • GrantJones7

    Looks like me putting Ha into the top 10, when no one else had him even top 15, sometimes 20. Was a great pick, he showe a ton of talent last year in peoria.

  • Jay from Samdwich

    Rebel Ridling continues to impress because he reminds me of Geace but with more power potentual lets hope he has a real good year and gets called up in Sept.
    We could use another grace

    • Richard Hood

      Rebel Ridling is a 25 year old (May 22, 1986 so close enough) that is getting his first taste at AA. Lets say his sudden development of offense is real, do you really think he is going to be an impact guy in the majors when it has taken him years to get out of A ball?

      • Jay from Samdwich

        There have been alot of Late Bloomers in recent MLB Hostory that get Chance in the Rule 5 draft and produce. 25-26 is still baseball young.
        AA is typical where the best young talent is in the Minors. It is common for players to go from AA to the Majors. Hence 25 even 26 for a placer is not bad.
        Pitcher do not reach there prim until around 28 years old. Now if you you are talking 28-30 somrthing in low A or AA than i would agree with you.
        Even 29-30 something in AAA is at best most likey a frig player / reserve player in the Majors. Please keep in mind that Jim H. is making the discions and he has been wrong recently with Sam Fluid!!!!

    • Tom U

      I’ll also remind everyone the Darwin Barney is 25 years old.

  • gocubs

    Why is Brett Jackson never listed on the CCO Top Prospect Watch?

    • Vivid_Reality

      The players in the CCO Top Prospect Watch were voted on by commenters. Brett Jackson was chosen but since he is likely to make the big league club at some point he was replaced with Ha( I think ) on the watch list.

      • gocubs

        Lets put Jackson back up there. Id think it makes lots of sense to have our top prospect (who will probably get the call up soon) to be on there. Doesnt everyone want to keep an eye on how our top prospect is doing?

    • Neil

      I will ask Tom to add Brett Jackson to the list. I hope you’ve been catching the Friday articles on Jackson. ‘The Brett Watch’ has gotten it’s own report the past two Fridays.

      • Tom U

        I’m not a genie Gocubs, but I’ll grant you your wish. Just don’t ask about a supermodel, a Ferrari, or winning the Lotto.

  • Tom U

    Thank you to everyone for your comments.