Cubs Minors Recap: Rizzo hits HR but Iowa bullpen implodes, Hoilman extends hitting streak to 22

Cubs Minors Recap: Rizzo hits HR but Iowa bullpen implodes, Hoilman extends hitting streak to 22
Tough day for Scott Maine and Iowa

I want to start this piece by thanking all those who have told me recently  through the comments, twitter, or email that they appreciate these minor league recaps and the occasional mini-profiles on the prospects.  Great to hear because I like doing them!

After a big offensive day yesterday by the Cubs affiliates, there was a struggle to score runs... except for Anthony Rizzo and the Iowa Cubs.  First baseman Paul Hoilman set a Peoria Chiefs franchise record today by hitting in his 22nd straight game.

Fresno 8 - Iowa 7 

  • Rodrigo Lopez started and  pitched 3 innings and allowed 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs.  He struck out 3.
  • Frankie "Pecho" De La Cruz piggybacked the start and pitched 3 scoreless innings.  He gave up 3 hits but it was somewhat deceptive because two of them were swinging bunts at Josh Vitters.  De La Cruz has pitched very well in a swingman role down at Iowa. He could have some value as a younger version of Rodrigo Lopez down the line as a versatile arm who can give you innings in relief and make an emergency start when needed.  His ERA is 2.22 on the year.  He has pitched 8 straight scoreless innings and has given up just 1 run in his last 13 innings.
  • LHP Jeff Beliveau came in and had his good stuff.  Hitters weren't getting good swings on Beliveau and his deceptive motion.  He hides the ball well and has a hitch in his delivery.  He throws in the high 80s, but hitters react as if he's throwing 95 mph.  He pitched one perfect inning and struck out 2.  He would have had the win as he left the game up 7-2, but then the next two pitchers did their Kerry Wood/Carlos Marmol impression.
  • RHP Frank Batista came in and gave up a hit and then left a fastball up in the zone that 3B Brock Bond launched over the CF wall for his first HR of the year.  After allowing an infield single, Batista was yanked.  Batista gave up 2 earned runs but did not retire a hitter.  His ERA in AAA is now 7.94.
  • LHP Scott Maine got Batista out of trouble in the 8th with a scoreless inning, but then imploded and made his own trouble in the 9th by allowing a single and 2 walks to load the bases with one out.  The next batter hit a broken bat single to make the game 7-6.  He then fell behind 3-1 on Todd Linden before he hit a game winning double.
  • Anthony Rizzo hit an opposite field 2-run shot to give the I-Cubs a 3-2 lead.  Rizzo also had two walks.
  • Luis Valbuena was the other offensive star, going 2 for 2 with 2 walks.  He was on base with a double when Rizzo hit his HR.  Valbuena has a .333 batting average and a .902 OPS on the year.  Valbuena has moved to 2B since the promotion of Adrian Cardenas with Matt Tolbert getting more starts at SS.  Tolbert had a hit in 4 PAs and is hitting .286 on 56 ABs this season.
  • RF Alfredo Amezaga had 2 more hits and scored 2 runs.  He is at .328 on the year.
  • C Blake Lalli has struggled a bit in AAA after a red-hot spring.  He's hitting .189 but had a double and 2 RBI on the day.
  • Utility man Jonathan Mota had his first hit in AAA this year and made it count -- a pinch-hit 3 run HR to CF to put the game seemingly out of reach.

Birmingham 4 - Tennessee 1

  • Dallas Beeler once again gave up plenty of hits (8 in 4.2 innings), while not striking out a whole lot of batters (2).  Beeler's stuff --90-93 mph fastball, curve, and a nice change, should be missing more bats than it has so far this season.  His strikeout rates at the lower levels were much higher than they are now, but so far it hasn't translated to AA.  He's still just 22 so perhaps that will improve over time.  In this outing, Beeler gave up 3 runs and moved to 0-2 with a 3.89 ERA on the year.
  • LHP Casey Harman pitched 2.1 perfect innings and struck out 2.  It was his best outing since being promoted to AA and lowered his ERA to 3.48.
  • RHP Alberto Cabrera pitched one inning and gave up a solo HR to Seth Loman.  He walked none and struck out two.
  • The Smokies had just 4 hits and 2B Logan Watkins had three of them, one of which was a double.  He's having a good start in AA with a .286/.363/.403 line.
  • OF Michael Burgess had the other hit and is at .239/.297/.413 for the year.
  • 3B Matt Cerda had 2 more walks and has 13 walks in 55 PAs.  Despite a .238 average, he has a .418 OBP and an .871 OPS.

Charlotte 5 - Daytona 1

  • RHP Zach Cates was...well, not very good today.  He pitched 5 innings and allowed 8 hits and 4 runs.  He walked 2 and struck out 2.  He is now 0-5 with a 10.55 ERA.  The FSL is considered a pitcher's league, partly because of the bigger ballparks, so this make his numbers even more baffling.
  • Daytona had just 2 hits, both of them by SS Arismendy Alcantara.
  • Matt Szczur had a walk (17th on the year after drawing 26 all of last year) and scored the only run of the day for the D-Cubs.
  • John Andreoli drew his 21st walk and Nelson Perez had two walks and has now tied Andreoli for the team and organizational need.

Beloit 2 - Peoria 1

  • Kyler Burke got the start and pitched well again, but wound up giving the game winning run in the 7th.  He went 6.1 innings, gave up 6 hits, and 2 ERs.  He once again showed good control with just one walk.  He struck out 4.  Burke moved to 0-2 on the year but has a 2.41 ERA.
  • Austin Reed relieved Burke and pitched 2.2 scoreless innings.  Reed has a high 80s to low 90s fastball, a nice change, and a developing breaking ball.
  • 2B and leadoff man Zeke DeVoss went 1 for 4 on the day.  He's hitting .252 on the year but has a solid .346 OBP.
  • CF Taiwan Easterling continues to rebound from a disastrous start.  He went 2 for 4 with a double and is now up to .233 on the year.
  • 3B Wes Darvill had a double in 4 ABs.
  • 1B Paul Hoilman extended his now franchise record hitting streak to 22 games with a triple and a single.  He scored the lone Chiefs run.
  • It's good to see Oliver Zapata break out of his funk with 2 hits today.


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  • Yes, John, these recaps are definitely appreciated. A great in-depth view into the Cubs' future for us. And for those of us overseas, the Major League recap is kinda nice, too!

  • In reply to TokyoCraig:

    Thanks TokyoCraig!

    I'm assuming you're in Japan. Ever catch any NPB games out there?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Was at a Yakult Swallows game last week but didn't think it was worthy of a recap!! Prefer to read your Cubs & minor league reviews. For you diehards, Murton and Hoffpaur (sp) are in Japan.

  • A shame that Maine got knocked around. With Kerry Wood's struggles, Maine was the natural pick to be called up.

    John, I'd like to get your thoughts on how you think the Cubs should handle the pitching staff this next few days / weeks. This team has just taken four of six from the Dodgers and Braves -- two very good NL teams. It's largely thanks to the terrific starting pitching and a few hot arms in the bullpen. And now we've got a series coming up against a struggling Brewer team.

    In my view, this weekend is Volstad's last chance to stick in Chicago, at least in the near future. If he gets shelled again, then call up Travis Wood and send Volstad to Iowa. Volstad has options, right?

    The Kerry Wood problem is more vexing. Maybe give him one more chance this weekend. If he can deliver, he can stay around. If he's wild again, I'm not sure what the next move is. Can you put him on the DL with a phantom injury as a way to justify a few "rehab" appearances in two weeks?

    Because pitching of the quality we've seen from the Cubs' staff these last three weeks is exceedingly rare, suggesting that this team might be able to compete in 2012 after all. It's easy to see how a few relatively modest changes to the roster could make this team a contender.

    Anyway, my thanks as well for the minor league recaps, especially the bits of context you add about the prospects' age, trends and tools / stuff.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Maine's old control problems resurfaced yesterday in a big way. I'm just hoping that's a blip on the radar.

    I don't know if they're that close with Volstad yet. Remember that with this crew we have to stop thinking in terms of things like wins and ERA. His stuff has been very good and his peripheral numbers indicate he'll turn it around. The Cubs also know what the problem is with Volstad and I'm sure they're working to fix it. If it were a case of falling velocity or extreme wildness, that might be different.

    As far as options, he has them but not conventional options like Travis Wood. He'd have to be put on what's called optional assignment waivers. He can be sent down, but he has to be put through waivers first. I guarantee you that a 25 year old who is throwing a 93 mph sinker, has good peripherals, and relatively low salary will get plucked. No question. In this case, the Cubs could then take him off waivers. But what's the point? They won't even bother putting him on. The last thing is that even if all this somehow went through, he would have to give his permission to do be optioned and major leaguers are not in the habit of doing that.

    I think sometimes as fans we get in the habit of looking for the weakest link and trying to root it out but I don't know if that's the right thinking in this case. The Cubs will be patient with Volstad because I'm sure there's stuff beyond the won-loss nrecord and ERA that they like. I remember hearing similar things about Maholm after he got shelled a couple of times, but he straightened out and everybody loves him now. I also remember hearing similar things about Dempster late last year. Sometimes the best solution is to let the pitcher figure it out at the MLB level, especially if you consider him a possible piece in the future.

    As for Wood, I think they'll take a similar approach as they are with Marmol. They'll be the mop-up men and allowed to straighten things out in less important situations. Camp moves up to 7th inning work for now and maybe Bowden gets a shot in higher leverage spots.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks, John. That makes a lot of sense. No way do you put Volstad on optional assignment waivers, especially since he really does seem close to putting it together.

    I hope you're right about the solution to the Kerry Wood problem. Camp has been a very pleasant surprise, and Bowden has made the most of every opportunity. As long as our starters continue going deep into games, we can afford to carry a bit of dead weight in the pen. Castillo's another guy who might have moved ahead of Woody in terms of getting the ball in a close game.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Camp is a nice serviceable guy. You know what you're getting with him and managers need guys like that around. Ideally you want him as a solid middle man, but lately he's the first guy who starts to get loose as the 7th inning approaches, so I'm guessing he's going to be the guy for now. Bowden also has been stretching, getting loose around the 7th as well, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the Cubs try him in that spot sometimes soon. Right now it looks like Camp (and maybe Bowden) 7th, Russell 8th (and maybe Marmol), Dolis 9th while the Cubs look to give Castillo and Wood opportunities whenever they can for now.

  • In reply to Taft:

    By the way, I was wrong about Volstad needing to give permission, he hasn't had 5 years time yet.

    Still, he doesn't get through waivers so it's doubtful they try it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Speaking of waivers, does anyone know what has happened with DeWitt? I am (almost) sure that the processing of his waivers are finished; it's been at least the required two business days since he was DFA'd. Since he hasn't reported to Iowa (that I have seen), I can only guess that some team claimed him and that the Theocrats are trying to swing a (minor) deal, unless there is some procedural issue I am not aware of.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    DFA's can take up to 10 days depending on how the team plays it. They have 7 days to put them on waivers, during which time they can try and work out a deal, after that they must put them on waivers which is an additional 3 day process.

    I have no idea how the Cubs played this one so I'm not sure when we'll find out what happened.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks, John. I had the impression that the waiver procedure happened first.

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