As the first month of the season concludes, the organization finds their teams at all levels struggling to reach the .500 mark. Inconsistency seemed to be the recurring theme, as either pitching or hitting has let their respective teams down on a given night. There were fine pitching performances this week by Ben Wells and Austin Kirk, as well as great hitting by Rubi Silva and John Andreoli. Some players, such as Matt Szczur, Zach Cates, Elieser Bonne and Brett Jackson seem to be turning the corner, while Jonathan Mota continues to be a pro’s pro in Tennessee.
The Cubs named their Minor League Player and Pitcher for April on Wednesday afternoon. To no surprise, Anthony Rizzo took home the player of the month honors after hitting .374 with a .424 OBP and a .637 SLG (OPS of 1.061) with three doubles, seven home runs and 24 RBI in 23 games. Frank Batista was named the Cubs minor league pitcher of the month after posting five saves in eight appearances with the Smokies and I-Cubs.
With the results to begin a new month, here is today’s Down on the Farm Report …
Low Class-A – Peoria Chiefs (10-15)
Sunday’s 5-2 win over Fort Wayne can be considered a coming-out party for two members of the Chiefs, Taylor Davis and Brad Zapenas. Davis, who was 2-for-3, may have shaken off some of his doubters with a double and a third-inning grand slam. Zapenas had his best offensive showing of the season, as he went 3-for-4 with a double. Wes Darvill was 2-for-5, while Ryan Cuneo had a double and was 2-for-4.
Switching roles this time in the rotation, Ben Wells started and held the Tin Caps scoreless over 5.1 innings, striking out three batters. His partner, Kyler Burke, came on in relief and although he allowed two earned runs in 3.2 innings, he struck out four and picked up his first save.
Things didn’t get any better for Gerardo Concepcion in his second start, as the Chiefs bowed to Fort Wayne on Monday 8-4. Concepcion only lasted 0.2 innings, as he allowed seven earned runs. Willengton Cruz had to get ready in a hurry, but was able to keep the Tin Caps off the board for 3.1 innings, striking out four batters. Bryce Shafer wasn’t as lucky, giving up an earned run as he struck out two in two innings. Luis Liria and Jeffrey Lorick continued their fine seasons, each tossing a scoreless inning. Zeke DeVoss has shown some signs of picking up the pace, as he was 2-for-3 with a double and two stolen bases. Rafael Lopez and Paul Hoilman were each 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI. Ryan Cuneo also had a double as he was 2-for-4.
High Class-A – Daytona Cubs (7-18)
The Daytona Cubs had been trending upward recently, going 5-4 after a 2-11 start. However, they made a wrong turn on Sunday, as they lost 6-4 to Lakeland. Zach Cates had one of his better outings of the season, holding the Flying Tigers scoreless and striking out two in the first three innings. But he let in three earned runs in the bottom of the fourth and ended his day after five innings. Hayden Simpson then came on and allowed two more earned runs as he went 1.2 innings and struck out two batters. Ty’Relle Harris finished the final 1.1 innings and gave up another earned run. Streaking Matt Szczur, who is hitting .308 over his last ten games, was 2-for-4 with a double. Nelson Perez was also 2-for-4, as he tripled and drove in two runs.
Daytona had been in control of the game on Monday, until a disastrous eighth inning brought an 8-4 loss to Lakeland. While Matt Szczur (2-for-5, triple, stolen base) has been on a tear, Rubi Silva (3-for-4, two RBI) continues to own Florida State League pitching. John Andreoli (2-for-4, two stolen bases) remains a top ten hitter, while Elieser Bonne (2-for-5, RBI) continues to improve. Frank Del Valle had another decent outing, allowing two earned runs and striking out three while tossing five innings. He was followed by Joe Zeller, who struggled as he let in two earned runs in an inning of work. AJ Morris held the Flying Tigers down for an inning, but Eduardo Figueroa could only get one out in the eighth, as he served up three earned runs. Tony Zych closed out the game, but not before giving up one last earned run.
It was more of the same on Tuesday, as the D-Cubs imploded in the late innings to gift wrap a 7-3 loss to Clearwater. Austin Kirk was pretty much in control, giving up two earned runs and striking out four in eight innings. But reliever Larry Suarez allowed the Threshers to tie things up in the ninth, and then surrender three more in the tenth, totaling four earned runs in 1.1 innings. Ty’Relle Harris got the final two outs, as a run scored on Arismendy Alcantara’s error. Arismendy Alcantara was the leading hitter for Daytona for the night, going 2-for-3, including a double. Rubi Silva was 1-for-5 with a triple and two RBI.
Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (11-15)
Tennessee rallied twice on Sunday, as the Smokies overcame a three run deficit to defeat Jackson 5-3 in 10 innings. Jonathan Mota (3-for-5, double, home run, two RBI) provided the thrills again, as his two-run homer in the 10th provided the winning margin. Michael Brenly was 2-for-4 with a run driven in, while Rebel Ridling (1-for-5) and Jae-Hoon Ha (0-for-5) each had a key RBI in a three-run fifth inning.
Starter Dae-Eun Rhee continued to struggle, allowing three earned runs, but striking out five, in 4.1 innings. However, Tennessee has begun to show one of its trademarks from 2011, a shut-down bullpen. Scott Weismann got the first call and blanked the Generals over 1.2 innings, striking out two batters. Kevin Rhoderick continued to hold Jackson scoreless for an inning, while Marcus Hatley went three innings, striking out four to pick up the victory in relief.
After an off-day on Monday, the Smokies were back in action on Tuesday. And, just when you think they’ve got things going, the bullpen let one slip as they lost 6-5 to Montgomery. Tennessee led things off right, as Logan Watkins (2-for-5, home run, two RBI) brought home James Adduci (1-for-4) on a two-run dinger. Michael Burgess also drove in two, as he was 2-for-4 with his fourth homer of the season. Justin Bour joined Burgess in going 2-for-4. Starting pitcher Brooks Raley had a fairly typical performance, allowing three earned runs and striking out five in six innings of work. Kevin Rhoderick came on in the seven, and held the Biscuits scoreless. In his return to the Smokies, Brian Schlitter struck out the side in the eighth inning. Unfortunately, he gave up three earned runs between those strikeouts, as Montgomery would take the lead for good. Jeffry Antigua was able to mop up in the ninth, striking out two batters.
Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (10-14)
The I-Cubs were victims of the long ball on Monday, as two home runs were the winning margin in their 5-4 loss to Memphis. Travis Wood didn’t perform too badly, striking out four in five innings, except for allowing a three-run and a two-run home run to the rehabbing Allen Craig. The bullpen came in and did their job, as Nate Robertson, Frank Batista, and Jeff Beliveau each pitched a scoreless inning. Anthony Rizzo (2-for-4, two RBI) got the I-Cubs on the board in the third with his two-out, two RBI single. Adrian Cardenas (2-for-3, home run, RBI) tied the game an inning later with a solo blast. Iowa took a temporary lead in the fifth as Blake Lalli’s (0-for-3, RBI) sacrifice fly scored Luis Valbuena (1-for-3), before Craig put Memphis ahead for good.
Whatever Memphis pitchers were serving on Tuesday, Iowa hitters are probably asking for second helpings as they lit up the scoreboard with 20 hits and a 13-4 victory. Things started well in a six run first, as Brett Jackson (4-for-5, two doubles, two RBI, HBP, four runs scored) and Dave Sappelt (3-for-6, double, home run, two RBI) hit back-to-back doubles. Adrian Cardenas (3-for-5, three RBI) drove home Jackson with a sacrifice fly, and Sappelt scored on an Anthony Rizzo (1-for-5, RBI) single. In all, Iowa sent 11 men to the plate in the first, and every one of their starters would record at least one hit. Matt Tolbert was 2-for-5 with an RBI, while Ty Wright and Josh Vitters were each 2-for-5, Wright with a double and two RBI.
The starter, Jay Jackson, was hardly what you would call “effective”; allowing three earned runs and striking out six in five innings, but he was able to keep enough pressure off the offense. Rodrigo Lopez struck out two in two innings, and was tagged with an unearned run after an error by Tolbert. Esmailin Caridad and Blake Parker finished out the game with a scoreless inning each.
News and Notes
The Iowa Cubs released IF Edgar Gonzalez; RHP Dan Berlind was assigned to the Iowa Cubs from Tennessee. Right-handed pitcher Brian Schlitter was assigned to the Tennessee Smokies from Daytona. The Daytona Cubs placed RHP Brett Wallach on the 7-day disabled list; LHP Scott Weismann was assigned to the Daytona Cubs from Tennessee. The Cubs released IF Pierre LePage and reinstated C Rafael Lopez from the DL.
CCO’s Prospect Watch
- Javier Baez (IF) – Extended Spring Training
- Jeimer Candelario (3B) – Extended Spring Training
- Zeke DeVoss (2B) – .264, five doubles, triple, two home runs, ten RBI, four stolen bases (Peoria Chiefs)
- Reggie Golden (OF) – is currently on the disabled list
- Junior Lake (IF) – is currently inactive
- Dillon Maples (RHP) – Extended Spring Training
- Matt Szczur (OF) – .230, five doubles, two triples, six RBI, 13 stolen bases (Daytona Cubs)
- Ronald Torreyes (2B) – .218, three doubles, two triples, five RBI, three stolen bases (Daytona Cubs)
- Josh Vitters (3B) – .262, three doubles, eight RBI (Iowa Cubs)
- Dan Vogelbach (1B) – Extended Spring Training
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