Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 04/09/12

Welcome everyone to a new minor league season. This week, timely hitting, great defense, and some fine pitching performances allowed Peoria to start out 2-1 for the season. Rubi Silva and Arismendy Alcantara came out swinging in Daytona. Nick Struck pitched an Opening Day gem in Tennessee, while Brett Jackson showed why he is the organization’s number one prospect in Iowa.

To see how your favorite teams fared … check out this week’s Down on the Farm Report.

Note: Monday’s reports will cover games from Wednesday to Saturday. Thursday’s reports cover games Sunday through Tuesday.

Low Class-A – Peoria Chiefs (2-1)
The Peoria Chiefs began the season by taking care of the Beloit Snappers 5-2 on Thursday. The scoring waited until the third inning as Wes Darvill (2-for-4), Brad Zapenas (1-for-3) and Pin-Chieh Chen (2-for-3, triple, RBI) singled to load the bases. Zeke DeVoss (1-for-5, RBI) then singled, driving in Darvill. Marco Hernandez (1-for-4, RBI) brought Zapenas home on a sacrifice fly. Paul Hoilman’s sacrifice fly plated DeVoss to cap the scoring. The Chiefs added another run in the fourth as a Pin-Chieh Chen sacrifice fly scored Taiwan Easterling.

Twenty-one year old Michael Jensen got the call as the Opening Day starter for the Chiefs, and delivered five scoreless innings and two strikeouts in his Single-A debut. Scott Weismann followed and allowed two earned runs in an inning of work. Kyler Burke returned to Peoria, reborn as a pitcher, and shutout the Snappers for an inning. Jeffrey Lorick then came on for two innings and struck out three to nail down the save.

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Peoria wasted a stellar effort by starter Patrick (PJ) Francescon on Friday, as they fell to Beloit 6-1. Francescon allowed only one earned run in 4.2 innings, while striking out nine Snappers. He was relieved by Luis Liria, who went scoreless over 1.1 innings and struck out three batters. However, after being on the verge of getting out of the seventh inning, the wheels came off for Willengton Cruz. After giving up a leadoff single, Cruz set the next two batters down before allowing Beloit to take the lead on a run-scoring double. Cruz then walked the next two batters to load the bases, and was replaced by Bryce Shafer. Shafer was then tattooed for a grand slam homer to put the Snappers ahead for good. For the Chiefs, Eduardo Gonzalez doubled home Peoria’s only run, while Reggie Golden was 1-for-4 with a stolen base.

The Chiefs closed out their opening series with a 6-2 victory over Beloit on Saturday. Peoria peppered the Snappers with ten hits, with the bottom of the order doing most of the damage. Zeke DeVoss led off the game with a double, and was singled home by Paul Hoilman. The Chiefs began the second inning with consecutive singles by Eduardo Gonzalez and Brad Zapenas, while Taylor Davis reached on an error. Pin-Chieh Chen then walked to force in a run, and DeVoss was hit by a pitch to score another. Two batters later, a Marco Hernandez sacrifice fly upped the lead to 4-1. Peoria added another run in the third, as Davis doubled home Zapenas, who had singled earlier. Gonzalez then capped off the scoring by slugging his first home run of the season in the fifth inning.

In was an all Single-A rookie effort by the pitching staff, with Jose Rosario starting things off. The 21-year old allowed two earned runs and struck out two over 5.2 innings. Yao-Lin Wang relieved, and also struck out two as he held the Snappers scoreless for 1.2 innings. Austin Reed and Andrew McKirahan followed, shutting down Beloit for an inning each.

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High Class-A – Daytona Cubs (1-2)
The season started off a little wild for Matt Loosen and the Daytona Cubs on Thursday. Loosen (0.1 innings, three earned runs, four walks) walked three of the first five Manatee batters and hit another to put the D-Cubs in a hole 3-0 after one inning. Brett Wallach (1.1 innings, four hits, four earned runs, two walks) poured gas on the fire, allowing another four runs to push the lead to 7-0 in the second inning. Making his Daytona debut, Austin Kirk restored order, somewhat, giving up three runs (two earned) in 4.1 innings, allowing Brevard County to pull ahead 10-1 after six innings. Coming back from injuries in 2011, Brian Schlitter finally set the opposition down for an inning. Another pitcher returning from injuries, AJ Morris, finished the game by letting in an unearned run as Daytona fell 11-4.

Rubi Silva paced Daytona’s offense by going 3-for-4, and Arismendy Alcantara was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Ronald Torreyes was 2-for-5 in his organizational debut.

After an Opening Day stinker, Friday’s see-saw affair finally saw Daytona flexing their muscles, as they pulled past Brevard County 6-2. Down 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth, the D-Cubs tied it up as Arismendy Alcantara singled home Greg Rohan. Alcantara wasn’t done for the evening, as his three-run homer in the eighth capped a 3-for-3, four RBI game. Rubi Silva also stayed hot, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI. In his first start, John Andreoli showed a lot of patience, walking three times, singling, and stealing a base. Matt Szczur and Nelson Perez also had an RBI apiece.

Although he rose as high as Double-A in 2011, Friday was the Daytona debut for lefty Eric Jokisch. Jokisch rang up five Manatees and allowed two earned runs over six innings. Coming back from a devastating injury, Ty’Relle Harris tossed a scoreless inning of relief. Fourth round draft pick Tony Zych then shut down Brevard County for two innings to pick up his first professional save.

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Former first round pick Hayden Simpson made only one mistake on Saturday night, and it proved to be crucial as Daytona lost to Brevard County 1-0. Simpson struck out two in 4.1 innings, but allowed a home run as the games only earned run. Casey Harman and Larry Suarez held the Manatees in check for the rest of the game, but the D-Cubs offense was nowhere to be seen. John Andreoli continued to impress, going 2-for-3 with a walk, but Sergio Burruel and Greg Rohan were the only other Daytona players to get a hit.

Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (2-1)
Concerns about the Smokies offense to start the 2012 season proved to be unfounded, as Tennessee bats thundered for 12 hits in a 4-1 victory over Chattanooga on Thursday. The top of the order was especially lethal, with leadoff hitter James Adduci (2-for-4), Logan Watkins (3-for-5 with and an RBI and stolen base), Jae-Hoon Ha (2-for-5 with a double and RBI), and Justin Bour (3-for-5, a solo home run, and two RBI). Matt Cerda also added a double, while Elliot Soto had a single and stolen base.

It looked as if pitching would carry the Smokies early in 2012, and returning starter Nick Struck answered the call. Struck went six innings and gave up only four hits and an earned run, while striking out 10 Lookouts. He was followed by another player returning to East Tennessee, Kevin Rhoderick. Last year’s set-up man was back in that role with the same effect, blanking Chattanooga and striking out two over two innings. Florida State League All-Star closer Frank Batista then came on to notch his first Double-A save.

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Following and offensive explosion the previous day, Tennessee fans were treated to a classic pitcher’s duel on Friday as the Smokies prevailed 1-0 over Chattanooga. Taking the hill for Tennessee was Trey McNutt, who went 3.2 scoreless innings and struck out three batters. McNutt was followed by a couple of hard throwers in Jeffry Antigua and Alberto Cabrera, who combined to go 4.1 innings while whiffing two apiece. Frank Batista allowed two baserunners, but hung on to pick up his second save.

The Smokies would get all the runs they needed off the bat of Michael Burgess, who slammed his first homer of the season and was 2-for-4 for the evening. Logan Watkins was also 2-for-4, with Matt Cerda picking up a hit.

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Tennessee looked as if it was in control on Saturday, but some lack of control by the bullpen gave them their first loss of the season, 10-2 to Chattanooga. Dallas Beeler started for the Smokies and allowed only one earned run over five innings, striking out two batters. Beeler was staked to a 2-1 lead as Justin Bour and Jonathan Mota drove in runs. Dan Berlind relieved Beeler in the sixth, and gave up four earned runs before recording an out. Berlind would be charged with eight earned runs as Casey Weathers replaced him and let in his own earned run. Mota then mopped up with an inning of scoreless relief. Logan Watkins remained hot at the plate, going 2-for-5 while Jae-Hoon Ha was 2-for-4.

Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (1-2)
A new season and a new way of thinking debuted in Des Moines on Thursday, as the prospect-heavy I-Cubs defeated Round Rock 5-3. The offense was in tune, as they bunched ten hits. The 1-2 combination of Tony Campana and Brett Jackson were each 2-for-4 and a stolen base, with Jackson driving in two runs. Making his organizational debut, Anthony Rizzo was also 2-for-4 and a stolen base, adding another RBI. Iowa’s only extra base hit belonged to another newcomer, Dave Sappelt (1-for-4, double). Edgar Gonzalez, Josh Vitters, and Matt Tolbert also had hits while Adrian Cardenas drove in a run.

Former big-leaguer Randy Wells took the hill to start 2012 for Iowa, and went six innings and served up two home runs, three earned runs total. Another pitcher with a Major League pedigree, Manny Corpas, was scoreless for two innings to earn a hold. After missing the final cut to “The Show“, Scott Maine struck out two batters and picked up his first save.

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A late rally fell short as the I-Cubs were done in by pitching as they lost 4-3 to the Round Rock Express on Friday. Starter Casey Coleman struck out five over five innings, but was taken deep on back-to-back homers in the fourth to put the Express ahead 4-0. Welington Castillo doubled home Ty Wright to earn back one of the runs in the bottom of the fourth. Iowa then loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the eighth, and Brett Jackson walked to drive in the I-Cubs second run. Anthony Rizzo (2-for-4, RBI) then singled in Alfredo Amezaga, but Tony Campana was thrown out trying to score the tying run, and ended the threat. Lefties Ryan Rowland-Smith and Jeff Beliveau shut out Round Rock for two innings. Esmailin Caridad showed good velocity as he struck out three over two innings to mop up.

It seemed like problems with the bullpen were affecting all levels of play in the organization on Saturday, as Iowa went down 7-2 to Round Rock. Starter Chris Rusin was doing well until the sixth inning, only allowing a solo home run while striking out three and picking off two runners. However, he got into trouble and gave up two more earned runs before giving way to Frankie De La Cruz. De La Cruz then served up back-to-back doubles to push the lead to 4-1. Nate Robertson followed and let in three more runs (two earned), while Blake Parker finished up with a scoreless inning. Brett Jackson continues to be the offensive star, going 2-for-4 with a double. Blake Lalli was also 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Anthony Rizzo also drove a run in.

News and Notes
The Chicago Cubs purchased the contract of RHP Rodrigo Lopez from Iowa and added Lopez to the 40-man roster; outrighted IF Luis Valbuena to Iowa.

According to Baseball America, the Cubs have released Marquez Smith, Matt Camp and Abner Abreu. Marco Carrillo has been outrighted to the Mexican League and Yoanner Negrin has been loaned to the Mexican League.

Justin Berg, David Cales, Marcus Hatley, Robert Whitenack, Gerardo Concepcion, Graham Hicks, Zach Rosscup, Micah Gibbs, Pierre LePage, Dustin Geiger, Junior Lake, Evan Crawford and Matt Spencer have been placed on the 7-day DL.

Note: Junior Lake is dealing with a back issue and is expected to be activated soon. Gerardo Concepcion was not able to begin the season on the active roster of the Daytona Cubs due to his long layoff. Reports from Mesa have indicated that Concepcion is fine. The Cubs wanted him to build up his arm strength in Extended Spring Training before he pitched in games.

CCO’s Prospect Watch

  • Javier Baez (IF) – is in extended Spring Training
  • Jeimer Candelario (3B) – is in extended Spring Training
  • Zeke DeVoss (2B) – .273, Double, 2 RBI (Peoria Chiefs)
  • Reggie Golden (OF) – .154, Stolen Base (Peoria Chiefs)
  • Junior Lake (IF) – is currently inactive
  • Dillon Maples (RHP) – is in extended Spring Training
  • Matt Szczur (OF) – .083, RBI (Daytona Cubs)
  • Ronald Torreyes (2B) – .182 (Daytona Cubs)
  • Josh Vitters (3B) – .333 (Iowa Cubs)
  • Dan Vogelbach (1B) – is in extended Spring Training

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