Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 05/10/12

The beginning of this week experienced a bounce back for the Cubs’ system, as their combined 7-5 record was the first winning stretch of the year. Casey Coleman took things into his own hands at Iowa, while Tennessee finally welcomed back shortstop Junior Lake. Daytona appears to be on a roll, as great pitching performances by Austin Kirk and Eric Jokisch were complimented by Matt Szczur and Arismendy Alcantara. The hot-hitting Taiwan Easterling may have to take a back seat to Paul Hoilman in Peoria, as he extended his hitting streak to 22 games Wednesday night.

For the full stories, come 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 (13-19)
After being humbled the previous day, the Chiefs were not able to pick up the pieces as they lost 9-2 to Quad Cities on Sunday. Peoria’s offense managed nine hits, but they were in a hole before they could get their bats started. Michael Jensen had been among the leagues best at the beginning of the season, but has slipped in his last two starts. Jensen allowed five runs (four earned) while striking out four in 4.1 innings. Austin Reed also became a victim of the defense, as only one at the three runs he gave up was earned. Reed struck out two in 1.2 innings. Having a rough season, Bryce Shafer had a better outing. Shafer let in only one earned run in two innings with a pair of strikeouts. While being a little shaky in the field recently, Wes Darvill remains steady at the plate in going 2-for-5. Rafael Lopez joined Darvill as he went 2-for-5, while Brad Zapenas was 1-for-1 with a double and three walks.

It appears that Peoria has two budding All-Stars, as PJ Francescon and Paul Hoilman led the Chiefs to a 7-5 victory over Quad Cities on Monday. Francescon raised his record to 3-1, while lowering his ERA to 2.48 as he allowed four runs (two earned) and struck out four in six innings. Fresh up from Extended Spring Training, Sheldon McDonald tossed two scoreless innings, striking out two batters. Jeffrey Lorick, who looks like he has assumed the closer’s role, nailed down the victory by striking out a batter. Lorick shut down the River Bandits in the ninth.

Paul Hoilman extended his hitting streak to twenty games Monday. Hoilman was 3-for-4 with five RBI … and it was Hoilman’s seventh inning grand slam that put the Chiefs ahead for good. Ryan Cuneo was 2-for-3 with a double, while the hard charging Taiwan Easterling went 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI.

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Peoria managed a series split on Tuesday, as the offense continued to improve in a 7-2 win over Quad Cities. The Chiefs had eleven hits, highlighted by Paul Hoilman (1-for-6, RBI) pushing his hitting streak to twenty-one games. Taiwan Easterling continues to come on strong, as he was 2-for-6 with three RBI. Brad Zapenas was 2-for-4, while Wes Darvill went 2-for-5, including a triple.

It was the second quality start in a row for Jose Rosario, who scattered ten hits over five innings. Rosario allowed two earned runs while striking out five batters. Luis Liria followed up by striking out two and shutting down the River Bandits for two innings. Seeing his first action of the year for the Chiefs, Charles Thomas also had two scoreless innings as he struck out three batters.

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High Class-A – Daytona Cubs (12-20)
There have been signs for the past few days, but it appears that Daytona is finally beginning to put things together as they came from behind to defeat Jupiter 5-4 on Sunday. It all started with Austin Kirk, who may be the most consistent pitcher in the system at this time. Kirk went seven innings, allowed two earned runs and struck out three batters. He was followed by one of the most inconsistent pitchers, Larry Suarez, who allowed the Hammerheads to take the lead by giving up an earned run in 0.2 innings. Tony Zych was asked to bail Suarez out, but he allowed Jupiter to tie the score in the ninth. Zych ended up with the win as the D-Cubs’ offense came to the rescue.

The hitting star was Arismendy Alcantara (2-for-5, two triples, two RBI, stolen base), who’s triple drove in the winning run in the ninth. Matt Szczur was 1-for-4, and stole his league leading 16th base. Nelson Perez (1-for-4) and Elieser Bonne (0-2, walk, stolen base) each had an RBI, as did Greg Rohan (1-for-4, double) who leads the league with 30.

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Daytona took their first series of the season, as Monday’s 6-2 decision over Jupiter gave them a modest three-game win streak. Eric Jokisch had his best outing of the season, striking 11 batters in seven shutout innings. Ty’Relle Harris kept the trend going for an inning. However, Eduardo Figueroa ended up surrendering two earned runs while eventually striking out the side in the ninth.

The offense was finally able to reward good pitching with timely hitting, as Matt Szczur led the way with a 3-for-4 effort that included a double and a RBI. Nelson Perez also drove in a run, as he was 2-for-2 with a triple. Even Chad Noble got into the act, as he plated two runs (1-for-3).

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The D-Cubs continued their roll on Tuesday, as Charlotte was on the wrong end of a 12-4 victory. Two beleaguered pitchers received the benefits of the run support, as starter Matt Loosen, in his longest outing of the season, allowed an earned run and struck out four in five innings to pick up his first win. Hayden Simpson earned a save the hard way, as he gave up three runs (two earned) and struck out a batter in four innings of work.

All the runs for Daytona were driven in by four players, with Rubi Silva (2-for-6) providing the big hit in the second inning, a three-run homer. Arismendy Alcantara had two good games in consecutive days. Alcantara was 1-for-4 with three RBI. Another hitter plating three runs was Chad Noble, who was 1-for-4 with a double. Richard Jones drove in two as he was 2-for-4. Also having multi-hit games were Nelson Perez (2-for-4) and John Andreoli (2-for-3).

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Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (14-19)
Sunday saw the return of shortstop Junior Lake, but it wasn’t enough for Tennessee as they lost to Birmingham 4-2. Lake led off the game with a double, and added a triple. Lake was 2-for-4 for the afternoon. Elliot Soto moved over to second base and was 2-for-3 with an RBI. Starter Brooks Raley pitched well enough to win. Raley allowed two runs in six innings with a strikeout. Casey Weathers had been pitching well lately, but Sunday wasn’t one of those times. Weathers gave up two earned runs with a strikeout in an inning of work. Brian Schlitter threw a scoreless eighth inning.

Tennessee helped complete a system-wide sweep on Monday, as the Smokies grinded out a 4-2 victory over Birmingham. Nothing fancy on offense, as Tennessee maximized six hits with the biggest coming off the bat of Rebel Ridling (1-for-4) in the eighth inning. Ridling hit a solo homer. Michael Brenly (1-for-4) doubled in a run in the fourth that broke a 1-1 tie. James Adduci (0-for-3) drove in Michael Burgess (1-for-3) with a sacrifice fly that put the Smokies ahead for good.

Starter Nick Struck upped his record to 4-2 by striking out three while allowing two earned runs in six innings. Marcus Hatley kept the Barons off the board by tossing two scoreless innings with two strikeouts. Nailing down the win, Kevin Rhoderick set down the side in order to pick up his fourth save.

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The Smokies reverted back to early season form on Tuesday, as the lack of timely hitting and pitching combined to create a 6-3 loss to Birmingham. Trey McNutt continues to labor in his starts. McNutt threw 58 pitches in three innings with only one strikeout and four runs (three earned). Ryan Searle dealt with control issues. Searle walked three and gave up an earned run, with two strikeouts in two innings. Searle was followed by Jeffry Antigua, who held the Barons in check for two innings. However, Casey Weathers allowed the game to get out of reach. Weathers gave up one more earned run in the eighth inning. Luis Flores demonstrated that he was one of the missing links of the offense, as he was 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Two more runs came home on a homer by Justin Bour (1-for-5), his fifth longball of the season in the fourth inning. James Adduci had a fine night (2-for-4) that included a double and an outfield assist. Jae-Hoon Ha was 2-for-5 with a double.

Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (13-17)
Sunday’s loss 12-4 loss to New Orleans was a failure in both hitting and pitching for Iowa. Brett Jackson (2-for-3, home run, RBI) led off the game with a home run, the offensive highlight, and Luis Valbuena and Alfredo Amezaga each went 2-for-4. Pitching totally abandoned the I-Cubs, as Jay Jackson continued his rough season with five earned runs (two on home runs) in four innings. Veteran Nate Robertson appears to be nearing the end of the line. Robertson gave up his 13th earned run of the season (in 11.2 innings) in his one inning of work. Youngsters Jeff Beliveau and Frank Batista were each taken to the woodshed, and they each let in three earned runs in an inning. The only effective pitcher was recently promoted infielder Jonathan Mota. Mota struck out a batter in one scoreless inning.

It was the Casey Coleman Show on Monday, as the I-Cubs won their second 1-0 game over New Orleans in four days. Coleman was the whole team, as he struck out nine in seven scoreless innings and was 1-for-2 with a double at the plate, which broke up a New Orleans no-hitter. The only run came in the bottom of the eighth after Brett Jackson led off with a walk. Josh Vitters singled Jackson to third and he would score on a balk. Scott Maine relieved Coleman, and held the Zephyrs at bay for two innings while striking out a batter.

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Iowa didn’t let Fresno fans get comfortable in their seats on Tuesday, as a three run first inning gave way to a 13-2 triumph. Lightning struck as Anthony Rizzo (2-for-5, two home runs, six RBI) belted his eighth homer of the season, a three-run shot. Rizzo would strike again similarly in the sixth inning. Not to be outdone, Josh Vitters had a solo shot, as he was 3-for-5, with a double along with four RBI. Alfredo Amezaga and Luis Valbuena were each 3-for-5, as Amezaga also had an RBI. Chipping in were Matt Tolbert at 2-for-5, and Brett Jackson as he was 1-for-5 with a triple, two walks, and a stolen base.

At the top of his form was Chris Rusin, who struggled in his previous outing but bounced back to strike out five in six innings while giving up and earned run. Esmailin Caridad, Manny Corpas, and Blake Parker each contributed an inning, with Corpas allowing the only other earned run.

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News and Notes
The Chicago Cubs optioned LHP Travis Wood to Iowa; recalled IF Adrian Cardenas. The Iowa Cubs released RHP Dan Berlind. The Peoria Chiefs placed LHP Andrew McKirahan on the 7-day disabled list with a strained left elbow; RHP Charles Thomas was assigned to Peoria from Extended Spring Training.

CCO’s Prospect Watch
Note: Outfielder Reggie Golden is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Replacing Golden on the list is the next highest player available in the fan vote: pitcher Tony Zych.

  • Javier Baez (IF) – Extended Spring Training
  • Jeimer Candelario (3B) – Extended Spring Training
  • Zeke DeVoss (2B) – .252, six doubles, triple, two home runs, 11 RBI, six stolen bases (Peoria Chiefs)
  • Junior Lake (IF) – .250, double, triple, stolen base (Tennessee Smokies)
  • Dillon Maples (RHP) – Extended Spring Training
  • Matt Szczur (OF) – .254, nine doubles, two triples, seven RBI, 16 stolen bases (Daytona Cubs)
  • Ronald Torreyes (2B) – .193, three doubles, two triples, five RBI, four stolen bases (Daytona Cubs)
  • Josh Vitters (3B) – .263, four doubles, two home runs, 14 RBI (Iowa Cubs)
  • Dan Vogelbach (1B) – Extended Spring Training
  • Tony Zych (RHP) – 1-1, 3.94 ERA, 16.0 innings, 12 strikeouts, three walks, 1.25 WHIP, three saves (Daytona Cubs)

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