Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 05/21/12

The mid-May shuffle is now having an impact on all levels of the organization. Unfortunately, it is injuries, and not performance that is causing the shake-up. However, that doesn’t mean that some players haven’t deserved some consideration. Anthony Rizzo is posting MVP-type numbers, while Matt Szczur and Jae-Hoon Ha are bouncing back from rough stretches at Daytona and Tennessee respectively. And the organization has gotten excellent pitching from PJ Francescon, Frank Del Valle, Travis Wood and Frankie De La Cruz.

To see how this all came about; a trip inside today’s Down on the Farm Report will set you straight.

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

Low Class-A – Peoria Chiefs (19-24)
Peoria’s climb in the standing hit a bump on Wednesday, as they fell 5-4 to Clinton. Michael Jensen looked to have clear sailing, holding the Lumber Kings scoreless through four innings while striking out three batters. But a Wes Darvill (2-for-4) error led to four unearned runs in the fifth inning, wiping out a 3-0 lead for the Chiefs. Darvill would help make up for the error by singling and coming home on a Ryan Cuneo (3-for-4, double, three RBI) RBI single in the sixth. But Sheldon McDonald surrendered the lead for good in the bottom half of the inning with an earned run, as he pitched two innings. Luis Liria tried to keep the Chiefs close by shutting down Clinton in the eighth inning, but the offense couldn’t rally. Taylor Davis joined Darvill and Cuneo in having a multi-hit game. Davis was 2-for-4 with an RBI.

The Chiefs inched closer to being the first team in the organization to 20 wins on Thursday with a 4-3 win over Clinton. Staff ace PJ Francescon was on the mound and continued his success, only allowing an unearned run over six innings while striking out three batters. In his return to Peoria, Larry Suarez was the victim of two unearned runs in his two innings. Lefty closer Jeffrey Lorick struck out two in the ninth to pick up his sixth save.

One of the hottest hitters for the Chiefs is Marco Hernandez, who has a .356 average over his last ten games. Hernandez was the focal point on Thursday, as he was 2-for-3 with a triple and two runs scored. Pin-Chieh Chen was moved back into the leadoff spot and was 2-for-5, including a stolen base and an RBI. Wes Darvill and Oliver Zapata were each 1-for-4 with a stolen base.

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The race for 20 wins had a setback on Friday, as Peoria fell to Clinton 8-2. Jose Rosario had another good outing, allowing two earned runs and striking out nine batters in 5.1 innings. But newly acquired Hunter Cervenka wasn’t able to pitch around a Wes Darvill (1-for-3, double, RBI) error in the seventh, giving up four runs (one earned) in 1.2 innings. Austin Reed came on to pitch the last two innings, but the usually reliable Reed had an off-night, letting in another two earned runs. Rafael Lopez was 2-for-4, while Ryan Cuneo drove in the other run with a sacrifice fly.

The elusive 20-win mark will have to wait another day, as the Chiefs defense abandoned them in a 7-6 loss to Cedar Rapids on Saturday. Starter Kyler Burke did well enough, allowing only three earned runs in five innings, but three unearned runs also crossed the plate while he was pitching. Sheldon McDonald was also a victim, as another unearned run scored in his two innings. While Yao-Lin Wang finished up with a scoreless eighth, the damage had been already done. Pin-Chieh Chen (1-for-3) topped a four-run second inning by belting his first home run of the season, a three-run shot. Taylor Davis was 2-for-2 with a double and triple, while Paul Hoilman was 2-for-3, including a double and an RBI.

High Class-A – Daytona Cubs (16-24)
The now streaking Daytona Cubs were only able to get in the first half of a doubleheader on Wednesday, just ahead of the weather, but were able to prevail against Brevard County 6-2. After a few games rest, Matt Szczur (2-for-4) tripled to lead off the game and came home on a Nelson Perez (1-for-3) RBI single. Perez came around as an Elieser Bonne (2-for-4) single brought him in. That’s how things stayed until the Manatees were able to tie the score in the bottom of the sixth. The D-Cubs put on the winning kick in the top of the ninth, as Sergio Burruel (1-for-3) doubled to lead things off. Burruel touched home on a Arismendy Alcantara (2-for-4) RBI single. Alcantara promptly stole two bases and was able to walk home on a single by Greg Rohan (1-for-3). Rohan would eventually come home on Bonne’s second RBI single of the game.

After starting the year on the disabled list, Matt Loosen looks as if he is finally rounding into form as he went 5.2 innings while giving up and earned run and striking out six batters. Tony Zych relieved Loosen, but allowed Brevard County to tie the score with an earned run in 1.1 innings. However, Zych was awarded the win after Ty’Relle Harris slammed the door with a scoreless eighth.

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While the D-Cubs were four-hit by the Palm Beach Cardinals on Thursday, the pitching staff can take the bulk of the blame for an 8-2 loss. It’s time to tell it like it is, and Zach Cates appears to be totally overmatched by the level of play in the Florida State League. Cates wasn’t able to complete three innings, as he allowed four runs (three earned) on four hits and two walks. Hayden Simpson was asked to try and bail Cates out, and gave up another two earned runs in 2.1 innings. Eduardo Figueroa and Joe Zeller were able to restore order for an inning apiece, but Ryan Searle let in the final two earned runs in his return to Daytona. Nelson Perez (1-for-4) got the D-Cubs on the board with a solo home run in the second, while Greg Rohan (2-for-3) tripled in Matt Szczur for the other run.

Daytona’s offensive attack now seems to be kicking into high gear as they defeated Palm Beach 8-4 on Friday. However, Frank Del Valle posted another impressive outing, striking out eight while allowing four runs (one earned) in six innings. AJ Morris also has done well this season, as he pitched a scoreless inning and struck out two batters. Scott Weismann finished things off with two perfect innings to get his first save.

The D-Cubs’ first baseman Richard Jones has scuffled all year, but broke out in a big way as he was 3-for-4 including a double and three RBI. The Florida State League leader in RBI, Greg Rohan, also added to his total as he drove in two by going 3-for-4 with two doubles. Joining Jones and Rohan, Arismendy Alcantara was also 3-for-4 while Matt Szczur was 2-for-5 and added two more stolen bases to his league leading 18.

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The usually reliable effort of Daytona starter Eric Jokisch just wasn’t there on Saturday, as the D-Cubs lost to Palm Beach 5-3. Jokisch was staked to an early lead, thanks to Matt Szczur (2-for-3, double, home run, two RBI), who hit a solo home run in the first inning. Daytona would add two more runs, as Szczur and Richard Jones (1-for-4) were able to bring runners home. But as Jokisch was sailing through four innings, striking out four batters, he was unusually wild in the fifth, allowing five earned runs that could have been more, if not for a nifty 1-2-3 double play. Ty’Relle Harris got Daytona out of the fifth without any further damage, and was able to toss another scoreless inning. Ryan Searle shutout the Cardinals the rest of the way, but the offense could not rally.

Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (19-23)
An off-day and reshuffled roster brought good results on Thursday, as Tennessee opened a series against Mississippi with a 3-2 win. Brooks Raley has displayed improved command this season, as his home run rate has dropped dramatically. Raley went five innings, striking out three while allowing two earned runs. Returning from Iowa, Frank Batista picked right where he left off by firing a scoreless inning. Casey Harman followed suite, while Kevin Rhoderick earned save number five the hard way by keeping the Braves off the board for two innings. The offensively challenged Smokies made the most out of five hits, with James Adduci going 2-for-4 with two runs scored, while Logan Watkins drove in two and was 1-for-4.

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A new batting order still failed to produce a consistent offense, as Tennessee dropped a 4-2 loss to Mississippi on Friday. Junior Lake was moved down to the three spot in the order, while Logan Watkins and Jae-Hoon Ha move up a spot. The positive effect was that Ha went 2-for-4 in a spot he’s comfortable hitting in, while Watkins and Lake were hitless. Luis Flores drove in both runs as he was 1-for-2. Michael Burgess was 1-for-3 with a double. Starter Nick Struck did his best to keep the Smokies in the game, but ended up allowing four earned runs in 6.1 innings while striking out four batters. Brian Schlitter went scoreless the rest of the way, but the offense was never able to get on track.

As the Smokies swapped starters on Saturday night, their ten hits were enough to produce a 3-2 victory over Mississippi. Trey McNutt had been listed as Saturday’s starter, but he was pushed back a day and Dallas Beeler came in a day early. Beeler gave a solid effort, allowing two earned runs and striking out two in two innings. The bullpen then did their work, as Marcus Hatley shut down the Braves for two innings and struck out two batters. After Jeffry Antigua walked a batter, Alberto Cabrera came in and had things going for him, striking out three batters in two innings to record the long save, his third of the season.

Jae-Hoon Ha returned to the third spot in the order and was instrumental in jump starting the Tennessee offense, going 2-for-4 with two doubles and a run scored. Rebel Ridling was 2-for-3 with an RBI, while Justin Bour drove in the other two runs and was 2-for-4, including a double.

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Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (18-23)
The I-Cubs could be referred to as the “Cardiac Cubs“, giving fans a scare on Thursday by once again nearly throwing one away as they outlasted Salt Lake City 7-5. Moved to the sixth spot in the order, Brett Jackson displayed some of the offense that becomes a top prospect by going 3-for-4 with a triple, home run, and an RBI. Anthony Rizzo also slugged his 14th homer, as he was 1-for-3 with two driven in. Also plating two was Ty Wright, whose two doubles were part of a 2-for-4 night. Dave Sappelt was also 2-for-4, including a double and a stolen base.

Travis Wood continues to work his ERA down, as he went seven innings, allowing two earned runs while striking out three batters. Jeff Beliveau stung the Bees for two strikeouts in a scoreless inning. However, Manny Corpas helped make a game of it, giving up three earned runs in the ninth before finally slamming the door.

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As the shuttle from Chicago to Iowa remained in high gear, the I-Cubs weren’t able to sustain any offense and received shoddy relief work in a 5-4 loss to Salt Lake City on Friday. While seven Iowa players collected hits, none were able to have more than one, with Alfredo Amezaga’s (1-for-4, RBI) third inning solo homer being the biggest. Anthony Rizzo and Josh Vitters each had doubles, while Dave Sappelt, Ty Wright, and Juan Apodaca drove in runs. Frankie De La Cruz may be the next player the parent club turns to if they continue to have problems with their starting rotation, as he allowed two runs (one earned) and struck out four in 6.2 innings. Nate Robertson showed that in small doses, he might still be able to contribute as he struck out the only batter he faced. Jay Jackson, on the other hand, continues to baffle as he allowed the Bees to tie things up in the eighth inning. After Scott Maine set down Salt Lake in the ninth, the offense couldn’t come through. In the tenth, Maine gave up two earned runs to let the Bess walk away a winner.

After posting a run in the first inning, the Iowa bats fell silent as they lost 6-1 to Salt Lake City on Saturday. Brett Jackson (1-for-3) tripled to lead off the game, and scored on an Anthony Rizzo (1-for-3, double) fielder’s choice. Josh Vitters (1-for-4) would be the only other I-Cub to record a hit. Chris Rusin wasn’t as overpowering as he had been in his previous two starts, but allowing three earned runs and striking out four in six innings placed Iowa in a good enough position to win, if his teammates had come through. Mike MacDougal followed Rusin and served up two home runs in two innings, while Esmailin Caridad tossed another gopher ball in the ninth.

News and Notes
The Chicago Cubs recalled LHP Scott Maine from the Iowa Cubs; outrighted IF Blake DeWitt to the Iowa Cubs. The Chicago Cubs selected RHP Blake Parker from the Iowa Cubs; optioned LHP Scott Maine to the Iowa Cubs. The Chicago Cubs selected C Blake Lalli from the Iowa Cubs; optioned RHP Chris Volstad to the Iowa Cubs. Infielder Nate Samson was assigned to the Iowa Cubs from the Tennessee Smokies; RHP Frank Batista was assigned to the Tennessee Smokies; IF Gioskar Amaya was assigned to the Boise Hawks. The Chicago Cubs recalled RHP Randy Wells from the Iowa Cubs; assigned C Brian Esposito to the Iowa Cubs from Extended Spring Training.

The Tennessee Smokies assigned RHP Ryan Searle to the Daytona Cubs. Catcher Micah Gibbs was assigned to the Daytona Cubs from Extended Spring Training. The Daytona Cubs assigned RHP Larry Suarez to the Peoria Chiefs. The Peoria Chiefs released RHP Charles Thomas; LHP Hunter Cervenka was acquired from the Greenville Drive; RHP Bryce Shafer was assigned to Extended Spring Training.

CCO’s Prospect Watch

  • Javier Baez (IF) – Extended Spring Training
  • Jeimer Candelario (3B) – Extended Spring Training
  • Zeke DeVoss (2B) – .235, six doubles, triple, two home runs, 11 RBI, 11 stolen bases (Peoria Chiefs)
  • Junior Lake (IF) – . 273, three doubles, triple, home run, four RBI, three stolen bases (Tennessee Smokies)
  • Dillon Maples (RHP) – Extended Spring Training
  • Matt Szczur (OF) – .265, 10 doubles, three triples, home run, nine RBI, 18 stolen bases (Daytona Cubs)
  • Ronald Torreyes (2B) – .162, three doubles, two triples, five RBI, four stolen bases (Daytona Cubs)
  • Josh Vitters (3B) – .246, seven doubles, four home runs, 18 RBI, stolen base (Iowa Cubs)
  • Dan Vogelbach (1B) – Extended Spring Training
  • Tony Zych (RHP) – 2-1, 3.54 ERA, 20.1 innings, 17 strikeouts, 4 walks, 1.28 WHIP, 4 saves (Daytona Cubs)

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