Special Assignment – Peoria Chiefs vs. Kane County Cougars
Recently, I had the pleasure of being able to cover the series between the Peoria Chiefs and Kane County Cougars. I’d like to thank Shawn Touney, Director of Public Relations for the Kane County Cougars, as well as Broadcast and Media Manager Nate Baliva of the Peoria Chiefs for their hospitality.
I’d also like to mention reporter Mike Knapp of the Beacon News, who has been an excellent resource, a great baseball conversationalist, and was a welcoming presence in the pressbox.
My first interview was with Tim Saunders, who was not playing that day. He agreed to answer a few questions:
Tim Saunders: I just try to keep level and try not to let the game or the competition effect me.
CCO: You’ve been at many different levels this year, yet you still have been able to stay successful.
TS: Well, coming out of a small school (Marietta College), I still felt I could compete. I just had to go out and show it every day.
CCO: Do you any preferences on what position you will play?
TS: (quickly) Shortstop. It’s what I grew up playing, and I like being in the middle of the action. But I’ll go anywhere they want me to.
CCO: Have you been given any indication where you will start next season?
TS: I’d like to start out in Daytona. I think I can do well up there.
CCO: Any off-season plans?
TS: I report to the Instructional League on September 15.
Interview – Michael Jensen
Right-handed starter Michael Jensen had been shut down for the season prior to the Kane County series, but was still traveling with the team:
Michael Jensen: I’ve worked with my coaches on becoming more of a pitcher rather than a thrower. They’ve helped me with trying to slow things down, and concentrate on pitch sequences.
CCO: You’ve been shut down for the season. Did you reach an innings limit or do you have an injury?
MJ: It’s kind of a combination. I’ve had some blister problems for the past couple of weeks. We were reaching the end of the season, so we thought we should just shut things down.
CCO: What are your pitches?
MJ: I have a fastball, curve, and change-up. (Laughs) I have a cutter, but it all depends on how things are working that day.
CCO: Does it have as much movement as Joe’s (knuckleball pitcher Joe Zeller)?
MJ: (still laughing) Well, sometimes you just never know.
CCO: Is there anything you want to say to Cubs fans?
MJ: I can’t wait to get to Chicago.
Interview – Dustin Geiger
While waiting for players to meet me in the dugout, Dustin Geiger stopped while coming out of the clubhouse for an impromptu interview:
ChicagoCubsOnline: Your season began late as you dealt with a hand injury. How is your hand now?
Dustin Geiger: The hand is doing well. I had a little problem with the Hamate bone, so we thought it would be best to take care of it. It feels good now.
CCO: You made a big jump from high school ball to the pros. Who has helped you get this far?
DG: Desi (hitting coach Desi Wilson) has been a big help with my swing, getting me to stay within myself.
CCO: You’ve seen most of your time defensively at third, but have also played some first base. Do you any preferences on what position you will play?
DG: Well at first base, you’re kind of involved with all the plays, and that’s kind of nice. But I love third. I like all of the diving and jumping. I feel comfortable there.
CCO: What are your off-season plans?
DG: I’m going to take a few weeks off, then report to Mesa for what they used to call Camp Colvin. I don’t know, I think they call it Camp Bussie (for strength coach Tim Buss) now.
CCO: Maybe they will start calling it Camp Dustin?
DG: (Laughs) We’ll see!
Additional Player Comments
Jeffry Antigua told me that the plan was for him to return to a starting role, and that he will be pitching in the Dominican Republic this winter. Bijan Rademacher said the biggest difference between Boise and Peoria was that he could sit on a fastball at Boise, while opposing pitchers here have developed their second and third pitch. He also said he prefers playing right or center field. Zeke DeVoss was good natured when asked about the possibility of Pin-Chieh Chen taking over the team lead in stolen bases, saying “Well, if it’s not me, I’m glad it’ll be him”. And finally, even though there was a language barrier, Yaniel Cabezas reported that his broken ankle was fully healed, and that he will be living in Miami in the off-season.
Here are my impressions of the performances of some of the Chiefs, in alphabetical order.
Pin-Chieh Chen – A quick and daring outfielder, whose outfield play and slap-and-dash offense remind me of former major leaguer Brett Butler. Plays very shallow and cuts off the alleys well, taking away extra base hits. Chen has a much stronger arm than expected from a converted infielder. A good contact hitter that could possibly use more upper body strength to drive the ball through the infield. Looks to be an instinctive base stealer, not just taking advantage of lower level pitching.
Dustin Geiger – Prototypical big, strong-armed, run producing third baseman. Still looks a little raw at the position, having decent reactions but needing to work on his footwork. Appeared to be more comfortable at the plate, but still, at times, has an all-or-nothing swing.
Chadd Krist – Looks as if he can develop into a two-way catcher, providing offense and defense. Handled pitchers well, but can improve agility behind the plate. Good set-up and delivery on stolen base attempts. Would have nailed both runners who stole bases if pitchers weren’t throwing exclusively off-speed pitches. Has a powerful base and free-and-easy swing. Will probably hit for more power down the line.
Bijan Rademacher – Lined up at DH, but displayed a strong arm in warm-ups. Appears a little overmatched offensively at this point, but muscled out a couple of hits.
Jacob Rogers – Approach offensively and defensively reminded me of a taller Mark Grace. Stays within himself offensively, and doesn’t try to do too much. Gap power. May move up quickly.
Jorge Soler – An imposing physical specimen, with a physique similar to former Cub Derrek Lee. Hit some towering shots that went just foul. Better speed than anticipated, but seems to take some time getting his wheels in motion, both offensively and defensively. Has the type of arm you want in right field.
Oliver Zapata – Played left field, but displayed centerfield-type ability with range, speed, and arm strength. Packs a lot of power in his stout frame, smoking a two-run double down the right field line.
Video – Player Sideshow
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