April 2012

4/30 Pitching probables

After Monday’s game in Philadelphia, the Cubs head to Cincinnati to play the Reds in a three-game series. Here are the pitching matchups:

Tuesday vs. Reds: RHP Jeff Samardzija (2-1, 4.13) vs. RHP Bronson Arroyo (1-0, 2.70)

Wednesday vs. Reds: LHP Paul Maholm (2-2, 6.20) vs. RHP Homer Bailey (1-2, 3.60)

Thursday vs. Reds: RHP Ryan Dempster (0-1, 1.33) vs. RHP Mike Leake (0-3, 6.65)

— Carrie Muskat 

4/30 Minor League report

After playing once in the last three days because of bad weather, the Iowa Cubs open a series in Memphis Monday night. Jay Jackson was scheduled to start.

Jonathan Mota hit a two-run homer in the 10th to lift Tennessee to a 5-3 victory Sunday over Jackson. Mota had three hits, including a double. Dae-Eun Rhee gave up three runs on six hits and four walks over 4 1/3 innings. Michael Brenly had two hits.

Zach Cates gave up three runs on five hits over five innings in Daytona’s 6-4 loss to Lakeland. Matt Szczur had two hits and scored two runs. Nelson Perez had two hits and drove in two runs.

Ben Wells threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings in Peoria’s 5-2 win over Fort Wayne. Brad Zapenas had three hits, and Wes Darvill extended his hitting streak to 13 games. Kyler Burke converted his first save, throwing 3 2/3 innings.

— Carrie Muskat


4/30 Extra bases from Des Moines

Notes from a trip to see the Iowa Cubs:

* You’ve heard about Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo, but they may not be the best player on the Triple-A Iowa roster. Keep an eye on Adrian Cardenas.

“I think he’s the best hitter on our team, in my opinion,” Rizzo said of Cardenas, whom the Cubs claimed off waivers from the Athletics in February.

The infielder appreciated the compliment from his Iowa teammate.

“It might have a lot to do with the fact that I don’t chase that many pitches,” Cardenas said. “I’m not for making contact and putting the barrel on the ball most of the time. I’ve taken it to another level on timing and when to be aggressive and when to take it back.”

He gives credit to working with Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo and Iowa hitting coach Dave Keller.

“I feel I’m becoming an all around real good hitter,” Cardenas said.

Through Saturday, he was batting .324. He’s focused on baseball as well as his studies. Cardenas, 24, had a 10-page final due Monday to complete his African-American literature class at New York University. He’s not just trying to win a job on the Cubs roster; he’s working on his degree. This summer, Cardenas will be playing for the I-Cubs and working on a report for his studies, focusing on Cuba and the Cuban revolution. Cardenas is Cuban-American.

“It’s something I’m passionate about and something I’m excited to learn about,” he said.

At the ballpark, he’s all baseball. On Friday, when the Iowa Cubs game against Nashville was postponed by rain, Cardenas was one of many players in the batting cage, getting extra work.

“I’ve never seen so many people have the same goal in mind which is to get better and take their game to the next level,” he said of the Minor League team. “It’s everybody, from top to bottom.”

* Rizzo can only play first base and knows that Bryan LaHair is doing well at that position with the Cubs.

“People always say, ‘LaHair’s doing great, what are you going to do?'” Rizzo said. “Well, LaHair is a great player. I’ve said that to every one of my friends, my parents. He’s a good hitter and I remember seeing him last year here and the numbers he put up. It’s just something I can’t control.

“I’m here,” Rizzo said. “There’s nothing I can do about it. Every day here, when I don’t feel like doing something, I just think of the massive contracts signed by a few other guys in the league and it’s motivation.”

LaHair is able to play the outfield corners, so the Cubs could make room if they felt Rizzo was ready. The two talked about being in the same lineup some day.

“That’d be pretty cool,” Rizzo said. “I’d catch if I had to.”

He’s that eager to get to the big leagues. Blake Lalli, now the No. 1 catcher for Iowa after Welington Castillo was called up, had to pitch one day this season.

“I’d pitch, too,” Rizzo said.

* Brett Jackson has 27 strikeouts in 21 games, which is higher than he’d like.

“I haven’t had the April I’ve wanted,” Jackson said. “You always want to have higher numbers than .250 and 25 strikeouts or whatever. It’s been an adjustment for me. I feel as if I’m adjusting into the player I want to be and I don’t think strikeouts will be a concern in the future.”

Iowa hitting coach Dave Keller isn’t worried about Jackson. This is part of the young outfielder’s development.

“It takes awhile for every hitter, I don’t care who it is, whether it’s Manny [Ramirez] or [Albert] Pujols or [Alex Rodriguez] or [Derek] Jeter,” Keller said. “Ask anybody and they’ll tell you it takes awhile before you understand how to hit with two strikes and there’s no panic that’s involved.”

*  The pitcher to watch at Triple-A Iowa is Chris Rusin. He has a 2.63 ERA in five starts, giving up eight earned runs over 27 1/3 innings. He’s struck out 13 and walked six.

* Junior Lake has not joined one of the Cubs’ Minor League teams because he’s been rehabbing at the extended Spring Training camp in Mesa, Ariz. Lake has been slowed by back problems. The Cubs hope he’ll be assigned to a team in the next 10 days or so.

* Edgar Gonzalez, who was batting .286 in nine games with the Iowa Cubs, has been released and will reportedly join the Tokyo Giants. He is the brother of Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

— Carrie Muskat

4/30 Minor League report – Saturday’s games

Chris Rusin threw six shutout innings, giving up three hits and striking out four, in Iowa’s 3-0 loss to Nashville on Saturday night. The I-Cubs managed three hits in the game, and Nashville took advantage of a throwing error by Anthony Rizzo to score. Sunday’s game against Nashville was postponed because of inclement weather and no makeup date was announced.

Michael Burgess had two hits, including a home run, and drove in three runs in Tennessee’s 6-4 loss to Jackson. Dallas Beeler took the loss, giving up four runs on eight hits over five innings.

Elieser Boone had three hits and one RBI in Daytona’s 7-2 win over Lakeland. Eduardo Figueroa picked up the win in relief, throwing 2 1/3 innings.

Taiwan Easterling had two hits and two stolen bases in Peoria’s 6-5 loss to Fort Wayne. Jose Rosario gave up five runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings, striking out five. Paul Hoilman had two RBIs and extended his hitting streak to 13 games.

— Carrie Muskat


4/28 Live from Des Moines

It’s 52 degrees in Des Moines for the start of the Iowa Cubs game Saturday night against the Nashville Sounds at Principal Park, and a chance to see Brett Jackson, Anthony Rizzo. Jackson entered the game batting .241 in 20 games with 25 strikeouts. He notched No. 26 in the first inning. Talking to scouts before the game, they all agree both Jackson and Rizzo need more time.

“Brett Jackson is like everybody else here,” Iowa manager Dave Bialas said. “They’re working to try to get to the next level and get to the big leagues. There’s a reason they’re all here. Brett, he works hard, plays all the time. Never have to say anything to him. He’s hit a lot of balls hard. You see the numbers but he’s hit a lot of balls hard at people. His average is deceiving. He’s swung the bat well. His defensive play has been good.”

What about the high strikeouts?

“He knows he needs to cut his strikeouts down,” Bialas said. “The two-strike approach needs to improve. That’s normal. It’s that way with a lot of Minor League players.”

Rizzo was batting .380 with seven homers and 21 RBIs. Nashville used a defensive shift against Rizzo in the second, and he surprised them with a bunt single. He’s also impressed scouts and the Iowa staff with how hard he works on defense. Rizzo has a routine he sticks to, and many feel he could be a Gold Glove winner someday. But right now, Bryan LaHair is doing well at first, so Rizzo knows there isn’t a spot for him. He and LaHair talked about being in the same lineup.

“I’d catch if I had to,” Rizzo said about getting to the show. “I’d pitch, too.”

How much do the Minor Leaguers think about the big leagues? The players got an update on the Cubs catching situation — Welington Castillo was called up, Steve Clevenger on the DL, and Geovany Soto scratched — and Blake Lalli, Iowa’s catcher, said don’t be surprised if he has to leave Saturday’s game if needed in Philadelphia.

— Carrie Muskat

4/28 Iowa Cubs roster move

The Iowa Cubs added catcher Juan Apodaca on Saturday from the Double-A Tennessee roster to take Welington Castillo’s spot after Castillo was called up to the Cubs. Apodaca batted .207 with three doubles and one RBI in 11 games with the Smokies.  Behind the plate, he was 3-for-14 in throwing out opposing base runners. The Cubs signed Apodaca as a Minor League free agent in January. Last season, he hit .184 in 30 games with Double-A Akron in the Indians organization. Apodaca originally signed with the Dodgers in 2003 as a first basemen and converted to catcher in 2004. He was selected by the Reds in the Rule 5 Draft in 2007 and then traded to the Boston Red Sox.  This is his 10th season in minor league baseball.  He came into this season with a career batting average of .247 with 37 home runs and 207 RBIs. His only other Triple-A experience was 14 games with Pawtucket in 2010.

— Carrie Muskat 

4/28 Clevenger placed on DL

The Cubs did not have good news on their catching situation. Steve Clevenger will be lost for an indefinite period of time because of a right oblique strain suffered Friday. Clevenger was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday and Welington Castillo called up from Triple-A Iowa. Cubs manager Dale Sveum told reporters in Philadelphia that Clevenger’s injury will take more than a couple weeks for him to recover from. Clevenger returned to Chicago to be treated. He hurt himself on his last swing of batting practice Friday.

“I kind of waited a little bit to tell anybody,” Clevenger told reporters in Philly. “I went in between innings to go swing and I just couldn’t swing so I had to let them know I couldn’t play.”

What complicates things is Geovany Soto was scratched from Saturday’s lineup because of tightness in his back.

Clevenger was leading the Cubs with five doubles and batting .500.

— Carrie Muskat

4/28 Extra bases

* Rafael Dolis picked up his first save with two scoreless innings Friday against the Phillies. Dolis got his first win last week as well. According to Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first Cubs pitcher to record both a win and a save in his first 10 career games since Todd Wellemeyer did in 2003.

* Starlin Castro has eight stolen bases and Tony Campana has five, and they are the first Cubs duo with five apiece in the first month since 2006. Juan Pierre and Derrek Lee did so that April. So far, the Cubs have 15 stolen bases. They did not swipe their 15th last year until May 30, Game No. 52.

* Pitching matchups vs. the Phillies:

Saturday: Randy Wells vs. Joe Blanton

Sunday: Matt Garza vs. Kyle Kendrick

Monday: Chris Volstad vs. Vance Worley

— Carrie Muskat 

4/28 Minor League report

Iowa’s game vs. Nashville on Friday was postponed because of the weather and will be made up June 9 as part of a doubleheader.

Trey McNutt, making his first start since being activated from the disabled list, gave up one hit over three innings in Tennessee’s 3-0 loss to Jackson. Nate Samson and Elliot Soto each had two hits.

Eric Jokisch struck out eight and gave up one earned run on nine hits over seven innings in Daytona’s 4-3 loss to Clearwater. Matt Szczur hit a double and scored a run, and Greg Rohan had two hits.

P.J. Francescon gave up two hits over six scoreless innings and struck out eight in Peoria’s 3-0 win over Lake County. Francescon struck out eight. Paul Hoilman gave him a cushion with a two-run homer in the first.

— Carrie Muskat

4/28 Castillo expected to join Cubs

Welington Castillo will join the Cubs in Philadelphia Saturday night, getting the call to replace Steve Clevenger, who has some tightness in his side. Castillo was batting .320 with two home runs and eight RBIs in 16 games (50 at-bats) for Triple-A Iowa. Clevenger, who was 11-for-22 in 10 games, felt the discomfort during batting practice Friday in Philadelphia. Geovany Soto, the Cubs regular catcher, was batting .135 with one RBI this season.

— Carrie Muskat