Injuries, Updates, and Trends
The Cubs won for the sixth straight day, but it sure seems like it was the sixth straight day the team lost a player to injury. This time it wasn’t a hamstring pull, but rather a shoulder injury. And of course it was another lost infielder, and it sure appeared as if David Bote is going to miss a while.
A 40-man move may not need to happen to replace Bote in the short term. Jason Heyward is eligible to return from his hamstring injury today. He’s been running the bases before games, and since he was not out for too long, it is unlikely he will require a rehab stint to regain his timing at the plate.
It isn’t ideal, but the Cubs can call upon former infielders Ian Happ and P.J. Higgins to fill in behind Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Eric Sogard. But that is only a temporary solution, contingent on whether Matt Duffy will be able to return from his injuries this week.
Duffy is eligible to come off the IL on Wednesday. His IL placement with a lower back strain was retroactive to May 23rd. David Ross described Duffy’s issues as bumps and bruises so hopefully some infield help is on the way soon.
Anthony Rizzo remains day-to-day with his own lower back issues. In the past his back has loosened up after several days off, so hopefully Rizzo can return at some point this weekend.
Although he’s been running the bases prior to games this weekend, it will likely be at least a week or even two before Jake Marisnick returns to the Cubs. He’s been out for long enough that a rehab stint in the Minors will almost certainly be required.
Alec Mills, Trevor Megill, and Rowan Wick are the two relievers closest to returning. Mills has made two starts in Iowa and Megill began his rehab there last night. The Cubs will need to make a 40-man roster move once Wick is ready to return to Chicago, but I would imagine he will need at least ten days in Iowa (or elsewhere) to regain his feel for game action. Justin Steele is working out, but has not begun throwing yet.
Make it seven straight losses now for the I-Cubs. While the big club has been able to manage the organizational rash of injuries thanks in large part to major contributions from players recalled from Iowa, it has taken a huge toll on the ability of the I-Cubs to compete on a regular basis.
The lineup has struggled, but the pitching has been even more of an issue of late. The Iowa staff has given up no fewer than four runs in every game during the losing streak. A reliever has been tasked with covering up to three innings most days. There are still some talented arms on on the staff, despite the players lost to injury and Chicago, but as a whole they’ve hit a bit of a rough patch at the wrong time.
In a bit of good news, Tyson Miller was able to make his first start of the season. Slowed by Covid this spring, Miller only joined the I-Cubs on May 19th, making two relief appearances over the last week, before taking his first turn in the rotation last night.
Still not entirely stretched out, he lasted only three innings, but they were three good innings. He worked in the low-90s with his cutting four seamer and fading two seamer. The best sight was a few really good curveballs and changeups. Miller made it to the Majors last year on the back of the extension and late cutting action on his four seamer, but missing bats with his slider has proven to be an issue in AAA and MLB. The Cubs worked with him to change the grip on his curveball this year in the hopes of giving him a better weapon to put away hitters. The returns last night were positive.
- Tyson Miller: 3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K (5.06)
- Andrew Romine: 2-3, 2B, R, BB (.179)
- Trayce Thompson: 1-3, R, 2 RBI, 2 BB (.255)
- Abiatal Avelino: 3-5, RBI (.299)
- Taylor Gushue: 2-5, 3 RBI (.288)
- Ian Miller: 1-4, 2 R, BB (.203)
- Vance Vizcaino: 1-4, HBP (.400)
Injuries, Updates, and Trends
If the Cubs do decide to add another infielder to the 40-man roster for a call up to Chicago, Dee Strange-Gordan did make his Iowa debut last night (0-5, 3 K). The veteran had been slashing .333/.378/.500 with Nashville prior to the Brewers granting his release earlier this week. Sergio Alcantara continues to play well in Iowa, but for such a temporary situation his lack of options and likelihood of being claimed on waivers means Strange-Gordon would probably be call upon first.
Additional reinforcements for Iowa also arrived in the form of another 30+ year old infielder, former Twins 2nd rounder (2008) and Park Ridge native Tyler Ladendorf.
Chattanooga 5, Tennessee 4 (10 Innings)
Another quality start by Matt Swarmer kept the Smokies in the game while they waited for their bats to wake up. A two-run single by Erick Castillo drove in a pair in the 7th and then a double by Grayson Byrd the following inning gave Tennessee a short-lived 4-3 lead. The Lookouts pushed across a run in the bottom of the frame to tie it.
One of the most impressive new arms in the Cubs system has been reliever Ben Leeper. One of the handful of hard throwing UDFAs the Cubs signed after the abbreviated 2020 draft, Leeper jumped directly into AA this year and his stuff flashes plus in just about every outing. His fastball/slider combo is very impressive. He’s allowed just one unearned run in 11 innings this year (14 K, 0.82 WHIP and .125 AVG against) but unfortunately he’s been tasked with extra inning work in his last two outings and has been unable to strand the inherited runner in either, taking the loss in both games.
- Matt Swarmer: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 5 K (3.13)
- Grayson Byrd: 2-5, 2B, R, 2 RBI (.268)
- Erick Castillo: 2-4, 2 RBI (.226)
- Darius Hill: 2-5, R (.333)
- Zach Davis: 1-4, R, HBP, SB (4) (.303)
Injuries, Updates, and Trends
A pair of guys who opened the year in Myrtle Beach but have found themselves in Tennessee to cover for injuries deserve a call out.
- Utility man Grayson Byrd (son of longtime MLB hurler Paul Byrd) filled in for Matt Mervis at 1B for the Pelicans and then was needed to fill in for Jared Young for the Smokies. Since then he’s also filled in at 3B, and then over the last two games at 2B. He’s an opposite field hitter without much power, but he doesn’t try to do too much and he’s been a capable hitter (.273/.355/.424 this year) wherever called upon. Byrd has now reached base in 11 straight games.
- Outfielder Darius Hill opened 2021 as the Pelicans leadoff man before being summoned to AA. He’s a contact hitter who rarely walks or Ks. Better suited in a corner than CF, but he can fill in wherever needed, and even more so than Byrd, Hill just never seems overwhelmed by whatever type of pitcher he faces. Throw him heat or offspeed stuff, he puts the bat on the ball. He just contributes solid AB after solid AB (.347/.380/.432 this year).
The Smokies finished Friday’s game with just 9 healthy players (3 catchers). Erick Castillo started at 3B and Miguel Amaya at DH, while Tyler Payne was behind the dish last night.
The Cubs signed 22-year old infielder Bryan Serra last fall, I can only assume to provide some veteran presence in the DSL this year, but thanks to the number of infielders unavailable throughout the system they were forced to send him up to Tennessee last night.
The Smokies also added outfielder D.J. Artis to the bench, and lucky they did, because Zach Davis was hit by a pitch and needed to exit the game. Sigh.
Serra and Artis were the only two healthy players on the Tennessee bench. If Davis is out today, they’ll be down to 10 healthy position players.
A three run 3rd off starter Chris Kachmar was all Fort Wayne needed. Kachmar and the bullpen held the TinCaps to just three hits, but two of them came in the 3rd, along with a walk and hit batter. Meanwhile the Cubs weren’t lighting it up on offense, but they did double the Fort Wayne hit total. Unfortunately they didn’t draw near the number of free passes, and their hits were spread across multiple innings, as they finished just 1-for-9 with RISP.
- Chris Kachmar: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 HBP, 7 K (L, 0-2, 4.94)
- Graham Lawson: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, K (3.38)
- Burl Carraway: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K (3.68)
- Delvin Zinn: 1-3, BB, SB (18) (.268)
- Bradlee Beesley: 1-3, 2B, R (.333)
Injuries, Updates, and Trends
Burl Carraway (1-0, 3.68) gave me a scare a couple weeks back when he walked all five batters he faced, while throwing just 2 strikes in 22 pitches, but he hasn’t given up a run since. He still walked 5 batters over his next 3 outings, but he also K’d 6 without surrendering a hit. He’s seems fully recovered from his bout of wildness now. Over his last two outings he’s faced 7 batters and struck out 6. He struck out all 3 he faced last night, and finished just two pitches short of an immaculate inning.
The young lefty has yet to allow a hit over 7.1 innings this season. The stuff is as impressive as advertised. A high spin rate fastball in the mid-90s (T97-98) and a devastating curve. He hasn’t used the curve as much in High-A as he will once he moves up. It seems like they have him working on fastball command thus far.
Myrtle Beach PPD
Filed under: Daily Cubs Minors Recap