Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 04/30/12

Wins were hard to come by with inconsistencies in hitting, pitching, fielding, and even managing throughout the system.

Peoria has emerging performers in PJ Francescon, Andrew McKirahan, Pin-Chieh Chen, Wes Darvill, and Paul Hoilman, but still can’t find a recipe for winning games. The bats of Matt Szczur, Ronald Torreyes, and Elieser Bonne are starting to come around in Daytona. Like Peoria, the D-Cubs have not been able to translate that to wins. Tennessee ran their losing streak to five games, while Iowa’s hitting continues to be “Jekyll and Hyde”.

To see where this all leads, check inside today’s Down on the Farm Report …

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

Low Class-A – Peoria Chiefs (9-14)
The Gerardo Concepcion era got off on, well, let’s just say the wrong foot as Peoria lost to last place Lake County 6-3 on Wednesday. Concepcion wasn’t fooling anyone out of the gate, as he allowed five earned runs in the bottom of the first, including a three-run home run. He did settle down, and kept the Captains off the board for the rest of his stint, finishing with five earned runs in five innings, striking out two batters. Yao-Lin Wang followed and gave up his first run of the season, and unearned one in the seventh, as he went two innings and struck out two. Andrew McKirahan finished and kept Lake County off the board for an inning.

The Chiefs managed ten hits, but once again, timely hitting wasn’t present as they left eight runners on base. The top of the order came through and Zeke DeVoss was 2-for-5 with a solo blast in the ninth. Pin-Chieh Chen was also 2-for-5 with a double, while Wes Darvill went 2-for-4 and drove in a run. Taylor Davis was also 2-for-4 with an RBI.

The Chiefs showed what they are made of by battling back on Thursday, but ended up losing a heartbreaker 7-6 to Lake County in 11 innings. Starter Michael Jensen had his worst outing of the season, surrendering five earned runs while striking out four over five innings. Peoria came back with two runs in the third, as Wes Darvill’s (2-for-6, home run, two RBI) two-run clout put them on the board. They added a run in the fourth as Eduardo Gonzalez (1-for-4, triple, RBI) tripled home Marco Hernandez (1-for-5). Peoria took the lead in the seventh. As a Zeke DeVoss (1-for-4, stolen base, RBI) single scored Gonzalez. Ryan Cuneo (0-for-4) was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to bring in another run then Paul Hoilman (1-for-4, RBI) closed out the scoring with an RBI single. Luis Liria and Willengton Cruz held the Captains scoreless for three innings, with Liria striking out two batters. But Jeffrey Lorick couldn’t close the door, allowing Lake County to tie the game with an earned run in 1.1 innings. Austin Reed’s throwing error put a runner in scoring position in the 11th … that turned out to be the game winning run.

Peoria had the letter “P” going for them on Friday, as Paul, Pin-Cheih and PJ led them to a 3-0 victory over Lake County. Slugger Paul Hoilman (1-for-5, home run, two RBI) is starting to flex his muscles, as his two-run blast in the first inning put the Chiefs ahead for good. Pin-Chieh Chen, who was 2-for-5 in taking over the leadoff spot, was on board. Oliver Zapata continued to make his presence felt by going 2-for-4, while Taiwan Easterling was 1-for-2 with a stolen base.

Starter PJ Francescon followed up a seven-inning, five-strikeout effort by shutting out the Captains over six innings with eight strikeouts. Bryce Shafer continued throwing up “Ks” for Peoria, striking out three in two innings. An emerging pitcher, Andrew McKirahan, picked up his second save by striking out a batter with a 1-2-3 ninth.

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The best way to describe Saturday’s 6-5 loss to Fort Wayne is “frustrating“. Inconsistent performances from young players, especially at the Single-A level, can be expected. What isn’t expected is a manager actually taking a win away from a team, which is what happened. With an ERA of 5.85, Jose Rosario was pitching well, sporting a 5-3 lead after five innings. Manager Casey Kopitzke had three of his top relievers, all former starters, available. However, he chose to send Rosario back out for the sixth inning. Rosario promptly gave up two more earned runs to tie the game. The call was then made for Austin Reed, who couldn’t close out the inning without allowing another earned run after a wild pitch and a double. Reed did sit down the side in the seven, and Yao-Lin Wang pitched a scoreless eighth, but the damage had been already done. An offense that has been struggling was able to put together a three-run first and a two-run fourth inning. Paul Hoilman was 1-for-4 with a double and two RBI, and Taiwan Easterling went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

High Class-A – Daytona Cubs (7-15)
Don’t look now but Daytona won four of six games and bounced back in the Florida State League. The D-Cubs posted a 6-4 victory over Clearwater on Wednesday. The story of the day was Frank Del Valle, who was called up prior to the game. Del Valle had a decent first start, allowing four earned runs and striking out six in six innings. Brian Schlitter picked up his second hold as he pitched two shutout innings with one strikeout. With two walks in the ninth, Tony Zych was a little shaky, but managed to hang on as he struck out one and picked up his second save.

The veterans provided most of the lumber for the D-Cubs, as Nelson Perez was 2-for-3 with two doubles and two RBI. Greg Rohan slugged his fifth homer, drove in three and finished the game 2-for-4. John Andreoli got on the extra-base hit wagon. Andreoli was 2-for-3 with a double and a stolen base. Speaking of stolen bases, Ronald Torreyes (2-for-5) pilfered his first two of the season while Matt Szczur (0-3, walk) added two more to his league leading total of ten.

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After some promising efforts, Daytona reverted back to their old ways on Thursday with a 5-3 loss to Clearwater in 10 innings. While the D-Cubs are second in the Florida State League in runs scored, they always seem to come too late, and not enough. This has put immense pressure on the pitching staff, whose ERA is now last in the league. But don’t tell that to Austin Kirk, who after allowing two runs (one earned) and striking out six in six innings, who pitched well enough to win. Joe Zeller also did his job, giving up an earned run in two innings. But even though Ty’Relle Harris struck out three in 1.1 innings, he let in two earned runs to give the game to the Threshers. Daytona couldn’t get their attack going, as Ronald Torreyes was 2-for-3 and an RBI while Arismendy Alcantara was 2-for-4 with a triple. Nelson Perez (1-for-4) added a solo home run.

It was more of the same on Friday, as hitting and defense betrayed another fine pitching effort as Daytona lost to Clearwater 4-3. Eric Jokisch may have had his best outing of the season, striking out eight over seven innings, but an error by Nelson Perez and a passed ball on Chad Noble led to two unearned runs. After the D-Cubs tied the score 3-3 in the top of the eighth, Larry Suarez coughed up an earned run in an inning of work to provide the margin of victory. The only offensive player of note was Greg Rohan, who was 2-for-3 and drove in a run.

Maybe seeing Detroit’s top prospect for the second time in a week was the trick, as Daytona’s offense thoroughly took it to Jacob Turner and the Lakeland Flying Tigers 7-2 on Saturday. Leading the charge was outfielder Elieser Bonne, who was 3-for-4 with an RBI and a stolen base. Rubi Silva and Arismendy Alcantara were each 2-for-4, and Matt Szczur was 1-for-4 with a double, RBI and a stolen base. The Florida State League’s leading RBI man, Greg Rohan, added three more to his total as he was 1-for-4.

With starter Matt Loosen still working on his stamina after returning from the disabled list, it was truly a team effort from the pitching staff. Loosen did his part, striking out three and allowing an earned run in 2.2 innings. Eduardo Figueroa blanked Lakeland for 2.1 innings, while Brian Schlitter gave up an earned run and struck out three batters in two innings. Tony Zych finished off the Flying Tigers with two scoreless innings.

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Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (10-14)
In what seems to be a pattern for this early in the season, Tennessee got decent pitching and hitting on Wednesday, just not in the right combination as they fell 5-1 to Jackson. Brooks Raley had an average performance, striking out five and allowing four earned runs in 5.1 innings, but had no run support. Jeffry Antigua helped put the game out of reach by giving up an earned run in 1.2 innings. Dan Berlind mopped up and was able to get out the side in order in the eighth. Veteran minor leaguers James Adduci and Nate Samson led the Smokies, as Adduci was 3-for-4 with a double while Samson also had a double in his 2-for-3 evening. Jonathan Mota (1-for-3) drove in Tennessee’s only run.

It appears that the Smokies are swinging tired bats, as they had their 22nd game in as many days on Thursday, falling to first place Jackson 7-2. Tennessee just isn’t getting any run production, as they rank dead last in the Southern League in runs scored. The Smokies had five scattered hits, as the number two and three hitters Logan Watkins (1-for-4) and Jae-Hoon Ha (1-for-4) are already pushing one hundred plate appearances. Justin Bour (1-for-4, home run, RBI) is also rapidly approaching that mark, as the lack of depth has been hurting one of the best pitching staffs in the league.

Nick Struck had been one of the staff aces. But on an off-night, Struck allowed seven run (four earned) while striking out three in 5.1 innings. The lone bright spot was that Marcus Hatley (1.2 innings, two strikeouts) and Casey Weathers (struck out the side in the eighth) seem to be settling down and pitching well.

Tennessee’s hitting woes now appear to be affecting the pitching staff, as the dropped their fourth straight game on Friday with a 3-0 loss to Jackson. Trey McNutt was back on the mound after skipping a turn due to blisters. McNutt continued to dominate, shutting out the powerful Generals (leading the Southern League in home runs), allowing one hit and striking out two batters. However, his lack of stamina is taking its toll, as McNutt was only able to go three innings before being replaced by Ryan Searle. Searle continued to hold Jackson in check, but a sixth inning boot by Rebel Ridling opened the floodgates for three unearned runs. Searle would toss 4.2 innings before running out of gas, with Dan Berlind finishing off the eighth with a strikeout. The Smokies managed eight hits, but only Nate Samson (2-for-4) and Elliot Soto (2-for-3) had multi-hit games.

The Smokies’ losing streak hit five Saturday, as even an offensive boost from the return of Matt Cerda couldn’t even help in a 6-4 loss to Jackson. Cerda (2-for-3, double) was part of a nine hit attack. Michael Burgess was the big stick for Tennessee, as he was 2-for-4 with a double, home run and three RBI. Justin Bour went 2-for-5, while Jae-Hoon Ha drove in a run in a 2-for-4 evening. Normally, four runs would be enough for starter Dallas Beeler, but he wasn’t on top of his game. Beeler gave up four earned runs in five innings. Casey Harman also allowed an earned run while striking out three in 1.2 innings. The final 1.1 innings were pitched by Alberto Cabrera, who let in an earned run and struck out a batter.

Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (9-12)
On a warm Thursday night, Iowa put things all together to defeat Nashville 7-1. The I-Cubs got good pitching and timely hit at the same time in a game. Frankie De La Cruz was given his second start, and was effective as he limited the Sounds to an earned run in five innings. Manny Corpas had one of his better outings, shutting down Nashville for three innings. In the ninth, Blake Parker struggled to get the final out after handling the first two batters, but was able to come through after a walk and a single.

Iowa came out of the gate scoring, putting up three runs in the first on Adrian Cardenas (2-for-3, double, four RBI) three-run double. An Anthony Rizzo (2-for-4, two RBI) single in the second brought around Alfredo Amezaga (2-for-4, RBI) and Dave Sappelt (0-2, three walks, three runs scored, outfield assist). The I-Cubs added insurance runs in the sixth and seventh innings.

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Instead of looking refreshed, Iowa appeared rusty as they lost 3-0 to Nashville on Saturday after having two of the previous three days off. Against the team with the worst record in the Pacific Coast League, the I-Cubs were only able to manage three hits, with Dave Sappelt, Anthony Rizzo, and Josh Vitters doing the honors. Chris Rusin had his second consecutive impressive performance, holding the Sounds to three hits and striking out four over six shutout innings. Recently assigned Rodrigo Lopez came in for an inning and kept Nashville scoreless. But manager Dave Bialas made an unusual call in the eighth and brought in starter Casey Coleman, who promptly surrendered two earned runs. Coleman gave up another earned run in the ninth to put the game out of reach.

News and Notes
The Chicago Cubs recalled C Welington Castillo from Iowa; assigned RHP Rodrigo Lopez and C Juan Apodaca to the Iowa Cubs. The Tennessee Smokies activated IF Matt Cerda from the 7-day disabled list. The Daytona Cubs placed RHP AJ Morris on the 7-day disabled list; LHP Frank Del Valle assigned from Extended Spring Training. The Peoria Chiefs activated C Rafael Lopez from the 7-day disabled list; OF Eduardo Gonzalez assigned to Extended Spring Training.

The Cubs announced Sunday that they had released Edgar Gonzalez. Gonzalez asked for his release and will pursue opportunities to continue his career in Japan.

CCO’s Prospect Watch

  • Javier Baez (IF) – Extended Spring Training
  • Jeimer Candelario (3B) – Extended Spring Training
  • Zeke DeVoss (2B) – .263, four doubles, triple, two home runs, ten RBI, two stolen bases (Peoria Chiefs)
  • Reggie Golden (OF) – is currently on the disabled list
  • Junior Lake (IF) – is currently inactive – 7-day DL with back injury
  • Dillon Maples (RHP) – Extended Spring Training
  • Matt Szczur (OF) – .221, four doubles, triple, six RBI, twelve stolen bases (Daytona Cubs)
  • Ronald Torreyes (2B) – .246, three doubles, two triples, three RBI, two stolen bases (Daytona Cubs)
  • Josh Vitters (3B) – .262, three doubles, eight RBI (Iowa Cubs)
  • Dan Vogelbach (1B) – Extended Spring Training

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Quote of the Day

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