Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Great pitching abounds as I-Cubs flirt with second consecutive combined no-hitter; Smokies win in extras; Pelicans rally late

PJ Higgins (Photo by Stephanie Lynn)

It was a great day for pitching performances across all levels of the system.


Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Another day, another injury. Jake Marisnick hit the IL with a pulled hamstring. The Cubs have no more position players on the 40-man roster available in Iowa. Miguel Amaya and Christopher Morel are available in Tennessee, and though neither is ready for the Majors, the Cubs are one more injury away from requiring Morel’s multi-position versatility on the big club.

For the time being, the Cubs chose to elevate an extra pitcher (Brad Wieck) instead. But with Javy Baez getting scratched just before last night’s game with a still-balky back, Kris Bryant getting sick and needing to leave mid-game, and Jason Heyward still nursing a hand injury, the Cubs are running out of available players.


Iowa 11, St. Paul 1

Game Recap

Coming off a combined no-hitter on Sunday afternoon, the I-Cubs pitchers returned to mound on Tuesday night and did their best to deliver another. Ultimately, they’d fall 7 outs short, when Dakota Mekkes gave up an opposite field shot which broke up the no-no and the I-Cubs streaks of no-hit and scoreless innings.

I missed the early portion of this game, so I can’t give a report on how Joe Biagini looked, but judging by the results… pretty good. The veteran extended the I-Cubs string of no-hit innings to 15.2 stretching back to the 9th inning of their extra inning win last Friday night (Iowa had a rainout and off day since). Despite constantly falling behind batters Mekkes came on and hurled another 1.2 hitless to extend the streak to 17.1 IP before giving up a solo homer. The homer also snapped a string of 19 scoreless innings by the Iowa staff.

Robert Stock came on throwing smoke over the final two innings, registering 101 on the gun several times and even hit 102 once. One of the hardest throwers around, the Cubs are helping him to simplify his mechanics, hone his slider, along with incorporating a two-seamer. At least last night the results looked good.

Let’s not forget to mention the bats. Iowa didn’t just pitch well, they won by double digits because the bats also came to play. P.J. Higgins led the way, reaching base in all five of his plate appearances. The 11-run outburst was as a group effort by the lineup, as they managed it without hitting a home run. Just about everyone had a big hit during the game.

I’m really not sure what else Higgins (.350/.480/.600 in 6 G) needs to do to get a chance to prove he is better than Austin Romine and/or Tony Wolters. I know those two have solid defensive reps, but they are complete zeroes with the bat. I personally think Higgins can help a little in both facets. The Cubs continually decide to look elsewhere, however.

Top Performers

  • Joe Biagini: 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K (W, 1-1)
  • Robert Stock: 2 IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K
  • P.J. Higgins: 3-3, 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB
  • Cameron Maybin: 2-4, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB
  • Taylor Gushue: 2-4, 4 RBI
  • Jose Lobaton: 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI
  • Abiatal Avelino: 1-4, 3 R, 2 BB, SB (2)
  • Rafael Ortega: 1-4, 2 R, RBI, BB
  • Sergio Alcantara: 1-4, BB

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

The Cubs acquired former White Sox 2nd rounder Trayce Thompson from the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash considerations. The I-Cubs have consistently played short-handed due as injuries mount in Chicago. It’s been years since the outfielder put up any kind of solid production in MLB or AAA, but he is an experienced, warm body. Which Iowa is desperate for, despite their early success (4-2).

The Cubs also added Adrian Sampson to the Iowa pitching staff. Sampson has at least has been a productive swingman in the PCL over the years, though he’s struggled in Major League action.


Tennessee 4, Rocket City 3 (10 Innings)

Game Recap

Cam Sanders ran into some control issues, but his stuff was pretty impressive once again. Crafty Scott Effross, fast riser Cayne Ueckert and power arm Manny Rodriguez were effective, without the wildness.

Tyler Payne continued his hot start at the plate, hitting his first homer on the year. The 28-year old backstop has been an extra-base machine in the early going. I haven’t paid much attention to utility man Levi Jordan so far this year, but he’s off to strong start as well.

Top Performers

  • Levi Jordan: 2-4, HR (1), R, 2 RBI
  • Tyler Payne: 2-4, HR (1), R, RBI
  • Zach Davis: 3-5, 2B, CS (2)
  • Miguel Amaya: 2-5, SB (2)
  • Cam Sanders: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 BB, HBP, 7 K
  • Scott Effross: 2.2 IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K
  • Cayne Ueckert: 2 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 3 K (W, 1-0)
  • Manuel Rodriguez: IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 2 K (S, 1)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Ben Hecht put out a picture with his arm in a sling reporting he is out for the 2021 season. Can only assume it was TJS.

Tennessee and South Bend swapped relief arms, with 2019 27th round pick Cayne Ueckert receiving a quick promotion to AA. Juan Gamez heads to SB to make room.

Advanced A

Beloit 3, South Bend 0

Game Recap

As Iowa flirted with another no-no, South Bend narrowly averted being the victims of a perfect game. Only a one-out double by Jacob Olson in the 8th kept the Snappers from recording a clean sheet.

While a big part of the excitement so far has been the velocity gains among many of the Cubs pitching prospects, we shouldn’t overlook the crafty guys. Peyton Remy fits that mold. He only sits in the low-90s, but everything moves, and his changeup looks good.

Top Performers

  • Peyton Remy: 5 IP, 4 H, R, 3 BB, 6 K (L, 0-1)
  • Brandon Hughes: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K
  • Jacob Olson: 1-3, 2B


Myrtle Beach 4, Augusta 2

Game Recap

Undrafted free agent Matt Mervis joined the club after missing the first week due to injury. A left-handed first baseman with power potential, Mervis was considered one of the top college bats who went unselected in last summer’s five round draft. He wasted no time making an impact as he celebrated his pro debut with a two out, three-run double in the 8th, turning a one run deficit into a two run lead.

The Pelicans were only within striking distance thanks to a stellar bullpen outing, most notably by another UDFA, Joe Nahas, who punched out six while allowing just one base runner across four innings. Lefty Scott Kobos made the game interesting in the 9th, as he loaded the bases, but wriggled off the hook as all three outs he recorded came via strikeout.


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  • I'd say today's "Sunday" lineup drives home the fact they've run out of guys. At least Baez is back. Though unknown if he's really ready.

    Getting out of town with a split and a day off to heal would have to be considered a major victory. Let's hope Happ and Hoerner are ready to return Friday.

    Completely agree on Higgins. Wish Romine well and get him on the 40 man. Though I'm not sure on the rules for guys on the IL. If Stock figures it out that's a big arm out the pen.

  • Watching todays game., its puzzling to see Joc Peterson in the back of the line-up and
    not leading off . I know the Cubs are short handed , but when some of the walking
    wounded return, J-Hey looks like he needs a rest to reboot his swing.

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    Why was Vargas the DH, If he is playing why not put him in the field, let a more regular DH?

  • In reply to Naujack:

    The bench was an ill KB , Martini and the backup catcher. Not much choice with all the IL hitters. You have someone in mind?

  • In reply to Naujack:

    I have zero issues with playing Vargas, my point is why DH him? Give another player who plays much more often the chance to rest while DH-ing today. Play Vargas in the field.

  • In reply to Naujack:

    I kinda like David Ross, but I think is the front office fills out the lineup card everyday, controls the bullpen, bench, and pitching changes during the game. When Kimbrel had that extra day off last week, I don't for one second believe Ross had any say in that decision.

    This off-season will show me if the owners are trying to win or just make money. It looks like to me since the world series lots of decisions are more revenue/cost driven than baseball. I understand 2020/21 is a mess, and I hope this years payroll is the floor, but I expect large market Cubs to spend money on a few $100 million dollar type of contracts.

    Oldno7 are you have a bad day or year?

  • In reply to Naujack:

    I seriously doubt that the front office make's out the lineup card or runs the pen for Ross. He wouldn't put up with it. Jed has to make decisions in the makeup of the roster, but I'm sure David has input in those decisions. The idea that Ricketts is only interested in making money is just is an opinion without evidence. Anyway, making money and improving the team go together. The press likes controversy. Some decisions didn't help, but that does not make them malicious.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    In Febuary 2019 Tom Ricketts was asked why the Cubs didn't spend more during the 2018/19 offseason? Tom answer was- That's pretty easy question to answer- We don't have anymore. He went on how luxury cap penalties would cost the team more than just adding salary.

    After the 2019 season Tom Ricketts complained about paying the cap/competitive balance tax penalty. Cubs have paid the penalty twice in 2016, & 2019. I understand the team has a hefty budget, & I see some solid things happening the Cubs hopefully can build upon. Fingers cross I think you are are probably right Ricketts have invested so much into the neighborhood they benefit with more fans in the area.

    Over the past two seasons Cubs have had over $100 million dollars in contracts come off the books. You are right pure speculation on my part, but that still wasn't enough so the Cubs, so they traded Darvish in a salary dump. My hunch is other large market teams like Boston, Yankees, Dodgers, & Giants would have included more money in the deal to get a better the return for the number 1 starter, & solid second division caliber starting catcher.

    Cubs still almost have $150 million in payroll, that is good. If the Cubs end up trading some of their pending big dollar free agents. Will the Ricketts include $$$$ in the deal/deals to open up the market to more teams? Hopefully more fan will be allowed into the park, that will open up more options for the team.

  • I live out of state, so I listened to the Cleveland broadcast team. They had an interesting prospective on the Cubs, saying
    that Theo bailed because he saw this coming, that because of consistent bad drafts, the farm system took a big downward
    slide. They also stated, that for a big market team, the Cubs do not look good.
    Theo also picked the Cubs current manager, and the book is still out on whether this manager will work out .
    It turns out that Joe Maddon was unfairly blamed for some , but not all of the Cubs misfortunes.

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    After my second year with dish extra innings package, where I hear opposition announcers, the next game that I see, in which, the Cubs
    get much respect will be the first. Everybody likes to disrespect the organization. They are kind of the whipping dogs of the mlb.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Of course, the solution is to to turn down the volumn of the telecasts and tune in Pat and Ron. They manage to pull for the home team without the undermining the opposition. It's just good sportsmanship. It's delayed coverage by a few seconds, but illustrates how accurate Pat and Ron describe the action.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I tune into them once in a while also. Most local broadcast teams don't exactly follow the opposition. Nor do they dig very deep. Repeating headlines more often than not.

    Truth is the Cubs traded away their next "wave" of talent for a rental closer and a 4/5 starter. Torres did bring a WS win. They don't get there without Chapman. Can't complain. Q for Cease and Jimenez not so much.

    But, that's all in the past. I still don't see them regressing to a 95+ loss team during this transitional rebuild. We're getting indications some of the young pitching is going to help MLB squad. In the rotation and the pen. That's encouraging.

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