Cubs Notes from Down on the Farm – 05/25/14

Recent actions by the Cubs’ organization speak volumes, without directly saying anything, as to how they feel about the pitching staff at Daytona. With the starting rotation at Tennessee hit by injuries to right handers C.J. Edwards, Ivan Pineyro, and Pierce Johnson, along with Matt Loosen placed on the restricted list, they chose to sign minor league free agents right handers Joe Gardner and Julio Rodriguez rather than promote anyone from Daytona. To be truthful, RHP Felix Pena was the only member of the D-Cubs’ staff who could have been considered. With a record of 1-4 but a 1.47 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, Pena probably would have received the call had he not also been on the disabled list.

Pitchers at Daytona had more reasons to be nervous this past week as LHP Tyler Ihrig and RHP Trevor Graham was promoted directly to Daytona out of extended Spring Training. They join RHP Zack Godley and LHP Nathan Dorris, who were also recently promoted.  Ihrig, the 2013 23rd round draft choice out of Marin Community College, and his lollipop curve started for Daytona on Wednesday, while Graham, the 2013 13th round pick from Franklin Pierce College, came on in relief. Ihrig went four innings and struck out three while allowing two earned runs as Graham got the victory after striking out four in three scoreless innings. Many observers feel that Graham may eventually move into the rotation.

There was good news out of extended spring training that may mean even more bad news to the Daytona pitching staff. Left-hander Michael Heesch and RHP Josh Conway have progressed well in their rehab and may be ready for meaningful action. Heesch started 20 games for Kane County last season and was 3-9 with a 3.78 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP (60 strikeouts in 119 innings). Conway was drafted in the fourth round in 2012 but was recovering from Tommy John surgery. Conway suffered a stress fracture to his elbow last spring, and he has yet to see any action with an affiliate. Both are being considered in a move to Daytona. The organization has the option of using Heesch in either a starting role or relief, while Conway may have a few appearances at Kane County in order to get his feet wet.

Skating on thin ice for Daytona could be right handers Ben Wells and Steve Perakslis. Wells has been shelled in his last two outings. Wells surrendered nine runs (eight earned) in only 2.2 innings. For the season, Wells is 2-4 with a 6.55 ERA and a whopping 2.27 WHIP. At 21 years old, a move back down to Kane County would seem beneficial, except there may be language in his contract that prevents that from happening. That may result in an unconditional release of Wells. Perakslis is 23 years old and was a 21st round pick in 2012. Perakslis had a decent season last year, with a 2.93 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP and seven saves in 37 appearances for Kane County. But this season, Perakslis is having a more difficult time with a 6.14 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 12 appearances for the D-Cubs. Right-hand pitchers Tayler Scott and Yao-Lin Wang may have gotten a temporary reprieve with some recent good outings, but both will be candidates for demotion once the decision is made to promote someone from Kane County.

Kane County RHP Tyler Skulina followed up his no-hitter last Saturday by striking out seven in five scoreless innings on Friday. It was a little bit of a surprise to see the 22-year old 2013 fourth round pick starting the year with the Cougars, but this may be a sign showing that he is ready for the next level. Righty Paul Blackburn, who has a 2.37 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in nine starts may also be ready for a promotion. The Cougars have been stretching out RHP Justin Amlung as he has started two times in his last three appearances, going 13 innings in those games. The 24-year old Amlung is 3-0 with a 1.75 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP in 10 appearances (36 innings) this season.

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