Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Stock and Leeper impress for Iowa; Payne, Hill, and Velazquez homer; Kobos extends shutout streak

Nelson Velazquez (photo by Rikk Carlson)

I’m back.

Well, not “back” but I have finished making my way to Seattle, where I will be looking for a condo. There will be some slight adjustments required to my writing schedule as I used to do the recaps before my workday, but now on Pacific time I have 5 am work meetings, so I’ll either need to write at night (which I’ve never been very good at) or take a short break during the day to complete it. There may be some bumps in the road, so please bear with me.


Columbus 8, Iowa 5

Game Recap

With Alec Mills and Kohl Stewart returning to Chicago the I-Cubs remain a starter short, so for the second consecutive time through the rotation they turned to hard throwing reliever Robert Stock to bail them out. And once again he delivered four solid innings and gave his team a chance to win. Despite working extended innings, Stock was able to hit 101 on the gun at least a couple of times. His slider and changeup also looked good. Should the Cubs need another experienced arm in Chicago before the year is out, Stock should be first in line at this point.

Iowa was up 4-1 when Stock exited, but the bullpen could not hold on, surrendering a much needed victory. Jake Jewell, who has been a reliable arm throughout the year, got rocked for five runs in 1+ innings, then Brad Wieck came on and allowed his first two runs of the season.

The I-Cubs did get a couple of good signs in the final two innings. Trevor Megill appears to be over his forearm strain as he punched out two in a scoreless 8th. And then new Iowa reliever Ben Leeper pitched a perfect 9th in his debut. Leeper is one to watch. He was Tennessee’s most impressive arm (even above Manny Rodriguez) to open the year.

The undrafted free agent from last season throws in the mid-to-upper-90s with excellent late life on his heater, and compliments it with a wipeout slider. In 15.1 total innings he has allowed just 2 earned runs on 9 hits and 4 walks while striking out 23. It may be surprising but along with Stock, Leeper could very well be the Cubs most MLB ready arm not already on the 40-man roster.

Top Performers

  • Robert Stock: 4 IP, 4 H, R, BB, 5 K (4.12)
  • Trevor Megill: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 2 K (9.00)
  • Ben Leeper: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, K (0.00)
  • Trayce Thompson: 1-5, HR (4), R, 3 RBI (.266)
  • Dee Strange-Gordon: 2-4, 2 R, BB (.288)
  • Ian Miller: 2-4, 2B (.226)
  • Andrew Romine: 2-4, RBI (.255)
  • Nick Martini: 1-3, 2 R, BB (.211)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Nick Martini cleared waivers and accepted his assignment back to Iowa rather than pursuing free agency. He hasn’t really gotten a chance to get consistent at bats yet this season. He was added to the Chicago roster about a week after the Iowa season opened and then essentially sat on the bench and only received sporadic pinch hit opportunities. Not surprisingly, he struggled. No doubt he is looking forward to getting into a rhythm, likely as the I-Cubs everyday first baseman. He notched a hit and a walk in his first game back.

Cory Abbott was sent back to Iowa.

With Adbert Alzolay hitting the IL due to a blister problem, the Cubs were able to recall Kohl Stewart prior to the 10-day waiting period.


Rocket City 8, Tennessee 7

Game Recap

It was a rough night for the Smokies staff as al four pitchers allowed at least one run, with starter Javier Assad lasting just three innings.

The Smokies offense would make a game of it by the end though. Down 7-3 entering the bottom of the 8th, Tyler Payne blasted a two-run homer to close the gap, and then Darius Hill followed with a two-run homer of his own in the bottom of the 9th. Unfortunately, the Trash Pandas pushed across a run in the top of the 9th against Ethan Roberts, so the Smokies comeback attempt fell just short.

Top Performers

  • Darius Hill: 2-5, HR (2), 2 R, 2 RBI (.315)
  • Tyler Payne: 1-4, HR (3), R, 2 RBI (.247)
  • Chase Strumpf: 0-2, 2 R, 3 BB (.182)
  • Levi Jordan: 1-4, 2B, RBI, BB (.263)
  • Christopher Morel: 0-2, 2 BB, SB (3) (.187)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

While I was gone, an old friend returned to the Cubs organization. With the rash of injuries to middle infielders throughout all levels, the Cubs signed former farmhand Carlos Sepulveda, who had been released by the Dodgers earlier this year. Sepulveda is a classic undersized grinder who works the count, and sprays the ball to all fields. He lacks strength, and is almost never going to hit for power, but he gives you solid at bats and can field well at second base and get you by at short as well.


South Bend 7, Wisconsin 5

Game Recap

All nine Cubs batters contributed reached base or contributed to the scoring effort as the team pounded out 12 hits and drew a couple of walks. The biggest came off the bat of who else, but Nelson Velazquez. With the Cubs trailing 3-2 in the 5th, he took a hanging breaking ball and deposited it over the right center field wall to turn a one run deficit into a one run advantage.

South Bend never looked back. They’d score via a sac fly, a single, and a wild pitch the next inning to stretch their lead to four. Wisconsin would claw back into it late, but the Cubs pen was solid enough in relief of Ryan Jensen (4 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 4 K, 4.15) to hang on to the victory.

Top Performers

  • Edmond Americaan: 4-5, 3B, 2 R, SB (2) (.267)
  • Nelson Velazquez: 1-4, HR (6), R, 2 RBI (.321)
  • Tyler Durna: 1-2, RBI, 2 BB (.237)
  • Matt Burch: 2-4, 2B, RBI (.200)
  • Tanner Jesson-Dalton: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 4 K (W, 1-0, 13.97)
  • Scott Kobos: IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 3 K (0.00)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

That Scott Kobos guy still hasn’t allowed a run. Appearing in 10 games and throwing 13.1 innings between Myrtle Beach and South Bend, the undrafted free agent lefty has scattered 7 hits and 6 walks, while always seemingly able to come up with the big strikeout when he needs it. In all he has punched out 24 of the 53 batters he’s faced. I haven’t had a chance to really dig into any video of him yet. Hopefully I will soon.


Myrtle Beach PPD


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  • Welcome "back" Michael!

    I was asking last night about Stock going 4 in his last 2 appearances. Granted it was due to the obvious need but.....

    The box scores show promise. Granted he's not a pup anymore but can you see the Cubs taking a longer look at stretching him out for a starter's role? Does he have the necessary secondaries to get through MLB lineups more than once or twice?

    The idea of adding that kind of heat to the rotation is more than intriguing.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    I don't think he is a viable starter, but I kind of hope the I-Cubs leave him in the rotation for a while. It will give him extra innings and help him work on secondaries/fastball command/mechanics. It will also keep him stretched out in case the Cubs need a multi-inning reliever down the road.

  • Anyone know what's up with today's big league lineup? Prayerfully no one's dealing with anything, just needing some rest.......

  • In reply to Treebeard:

    It is a very interesting lineup. Who would of thought we would see ortega, alcantera, wisdom and higgins all starting together. None of these guys were on my radar this spring (except higgins) but kudos to Hoyer for digging them up.

  • Probably wasn't alone in thinking this one could be over early. If we see this Jake more who knows? Still need that Darvish kinda guy though. Into the 7th again.

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    Jake is either really good or really bad. Maybe because he wasn't throwing his curve today, but whatever, he was on his game today. Also, who thought we'd be playing so well with so many "bench" players for so many games this season? I certainly didn't .

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I don't know what to make him now. But he was Big Game Jake 2.0 today. I'll gladly take the 5 inning version in '21. More please.

    As for the bench I liked it starting the season. Granted this a different one. Alcantara and Wisdom have got to get a long look. It was nice to see Wisdom flip one out there and Alcantara turn on one. Role reversal to what we'd expect.

  • That was the kind of win against a TOR guy that makes you think anything is possible.

    And sans Rizzo's run scoring DP the soon to be FA core had nothing to do with it. I do hope Jed can find that genuine #1 starter.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    So far, Jed dies not need one. This bullpen really knows how to do a hold.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    does not

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Of course, there is lots of season left, but Cubmitted have you seen anything like this? Where the bench and deep pen has carried a team? What the Cubs have pulled off, so far, Is a first for me, and have followed baseball for decades.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Mitt and Slug is easier if it works for you???

    '18 Brewers off the top of my head. More so for the pen. Counsell had no faith in his rotation. That lack of trust cost them the NLCS IMO. He tapped into that pen relentlessly. Early and often. But I don't recall the bench having bench depth if that makes sense?

    Hence why I'd like to see a genuine #1. 162 + post season is a long ways. 4 innings a night more often than not for the pen is going to catch up. That guy you just expect to see pitching into the 7th would go a long ways in helping the cause.

    Add that 210 IP guy with Kyle in the 190 IP ballpark and I really like their chances.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    Works for me Mitt.

    It makes sense to go for a #1. It might cost a top prospect or two tho. Apparently, we are pretty good.

  • With Matt Duffy coming back, the Cubs will have a nice problem at 3rd base. The more I see Patric Wisdom at 3rd base, he looks like the real deal with power. Winning 3 out of 7 on the west coast wasn't too bad, it could have been worse. Beating Darvish was quite a feat in itself !
    Too bad Jake couldn't get the W today. He pitched a lot better than S.F.

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    They can play matchups with those two. When contact and/or defense is needed they can go with Duffy.

  • More off to me than the impact of the AAA reserves was the fact that have off the starters hit less than .200. Happ, Heyward, Ortega and Higgins. While the last two are feel good stories, I’m frankly fine if none are on the roster come August.

  • I think the big question going forward is how much playing time Happ and Heyward or going to get. They both have really struggled.

    I could see Bryant staying in the OF with Wisdom and Duffy playing 3rd and Alcantera at 2nd. Ride these guys until they fail. I also think Bryant is a better CF than Happ, with Alcantera at second (until Hoerner gets back) that also greatly improves the defense.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Happ has at least had stretches where he was productive. He actually had a 3-4 week stretch he outproduced Bryant. Heyward has struggled all year outside a few games. Happ also has more positional versatility. If one gets squeezed because Bryant plays OF, it is likely Heyward.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I don't know how that roster crunch will play out down the line. Ross seems to like to go with the hot hand so some key cogs might fine themselves with reduced playing time. One thing about these guys is that they appear to be teammates first. The success of the 2021 team has been versatility, and mix and match with our deep roster.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    If all healthy I think we will see:
    C Contreras - Higgins
    1B Rizzo
    2B Hoerner - Bote
    SS Baez
    3B Wisdom - Duffy
    LF Pederson
    CF Happ - Marisnick
    RF Bryant - Heyward

    Alcantara could force his way in, especially if he continues to play well while Hoerner and Bote are out. It would be nice to have his SH bat off the bench. If everyone gets heathy and playing well, they Cubs could actually move a guy or two at the deadline (which we all kind of anticipated anyway, just in a different situation).

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I'm so ready for JHey to be a backup. Wish they didn't have to pay him so much for 2.5 more seasons to do so but I'd rather try to win. He can still provide... leadership? Late defensive replacement? Pinch runner?

  • In reply to DarBar15:

    Yeah, and there are likely to be matchups his lefty bat can play against, but the last couple years of that deal could be rough. His bat and feet seem to be slowing to my eye.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I like your adjusted lineup for the most part. The one tweak I think is very possible is Sogard instead of Bote. Bote can still play in the minors, right? I like him overall but his production is less than the other options the Cubs have, and Sogard's left handed bat and overall professionalism are a good thing to have.

    But I agee that barring a total offensive collapse, Wisdom is here to stay. You can make a good case for Alcantara, too. This is a nice problem to have. I think we won't be seeing Bote again until late July/August due to his injury.

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    Like Higgins as catcher, have to get more offense from him to keep his spot, we have catchers in the minors who are vets, good defense with light bats, have to upgrade that position on the major league level, also might note I think Contrares has receded as framer, loses a lot of pitches for his teammates, seems to push his pitches out of zone instead of snatching them.
    Alcantara seems to be grasping what it takes to stay in the show, he is in my opinion the one we need to see more of, seems very good on defense and has a better arm than Hoerner for back up ss, I believe he should get a real long look, actually like him better than Bote at this time.
    Not sure what the Cubs would get for Bryant and Baez if they play out the year, I think a 3rd rounder if offered arbitration, all kidding aside do denizens really believe we could actually do any good in playoffs if we reach them, I don't have those kind of glasses to wear, I think we should move both players if we can get a good group of prospects, neither player seems to want an extension at this point, cut your losses and move on next year with money to spend. Realistically speaking we don't have the starting pitching to compete no matter how you slice it.
    Enjoy the ride this year and build for the future.

  • In reply to tater:

    Extend KB, try to work out a team friendly deal with Riz again, let Javy walk, collect compensatory pick.

  • In reply to DarBar15:

    10 years at $30-35 mil should win Bryant's services. Defer $10 to 15 mil a year to be paid 2032 to 2041. That's the ballpark of what it's going take. My gut says if you think you don't like the Heyward deal you ain't seen nothing yet. If he's a shadow of himself by 34-35 or sooner that's a long time to regret it.

    Trick back or not Rizzo doesn't appear to be interested in another team friendly deal. 4/5 years in the $20 mil neighborhood appears to be his target range based on what he turned down. Defer $5 mil or so of that per year.

    I don't begrudge any of these guys for wanting to get what they can. It's the American way. Can't have it both ways.

    To tater's main point that they don't have the pitching to go deep into the post season I couldn't agree more. They really need 2 big arms added to the rotation.

    It's all possible. But with a lot of risk and they'd have to purge the farm again. Most remember the touted prospects they moved. But the under the radar prospects they parted with in some of those "minor" trades are starting to make their way to the majors now. And some of them are going to be regretted.

    It's a tough call. There's a lot to like about this team. And regrets taking either path.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    Every team knows the last couple of years of a long term UFA deal is usually going to be sunk cost. Rare for a deal to work out as well as Lester or a Scherzer did for their clubs.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    It is why I hesitate to sign all of the big three at this point. All three would likely hit their decline years at the same time and Cubs would have three giant bad deals to contend with. Cubs have had enough of an issue dealing with one (Heyward). At most, I want the Cubs to bring back two of the big three.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Yep, they are probably signing two at the most. Which two do you think are most likely? I really believe that Bryant is walking. His agent will want too many years for a guy who already spends a lot of time on the IL. I do think KB is a stud, though, just not worth what he'll demand on the market.

    I personally think Javy is the best bet to be signed by the Cubs. He doesn't seem like the "hardball" type that will max out the length and dollar amount, and his body type is better for avoiding physical decline.

    If there is any way to sign Rizzo for 4 years I say do it. The back gets balkier every year, but he still is very productive, great fielder, leader, winner, he is the face of the Cubs as far as I'm concerned.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Agents can only get what is offered by teams. There are a lot of UFA options this year compared to recent seasons and there are only a limited number of teams that will give out giant deals. Some good players will be forced to take less than they would have under a less competitive market. I doubt Bryant is one of them given his versatility will fit pretty much any big spending club, but you never know.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I'm with you. And frankly I'd be fine if none choose to return. Not out of malice or envy. Just due to the fact I like some of the talent that's percolating in the system. And the last thing I want to see in a few years is a team handcuffed by bad contracts.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    I have no idea, but Bryant I think will get a deal closer to Anthony Rendon with the Angels 7 years $245 million. At his age not sure which team will pay him $300 million?

    Rizzo seems like he wants a $100 million dollar deal from the media reports. Rizzo might be disappointed that the Cubs spring training so called low ball offer might be the market for him?

    This season Rizzo, is the 8th highest paid 1b at $16.5 million. Do teams actually spend much on 32 years old 1B? Only three DH's make more than Rizzo in 2021.

    J. Abreu contract is 3 years $51 million.

  • In reply to Naujack:

    If Rizzo doesn't come to an agreement with the Cubs I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see him end up in Milwaukee. You heard it here first. ;-)

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    Thank you for the reminder. I don't want them to pay anyone to a 10 year contract. If it can't get done for 6 or less I'd rather be like the Rays and trade guys when they get to this point, regardless of current standings.

  • In reply to tater:

    Yes, Alcantara > Bote! Would like to see them keep Bryant, but he will be harder to sign than Baez because of all the high end shortstops this year. It would cost a lot but the big move would be Sherzer at the deadline.

  • In reply to tater:

    It's Higgins first taste of MLB pitching and he is doing it with very inconsistent playing time because Contreras starts as much as any catcher. Higgins in a tough spot. We know the vets the Cubs have can't hit, but there is at least a chance Higgins comes around. No issue with them giving him some rope before worrying about an upgrade.

    I really like Alcantara. I would prefer to keep him up on the roster, but if everyone comes back it could be tough. Moving Bote is an option, but with Bryant and Baez both UFAs I have a hard time seeing them moving Bote, who is signed long term on reasonable deal. Chances are Alcantara stays up for a while, injuries seem to be an ongoing thing for every club this year.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    We still have Duffy, Alcantara,Sogard and Hoerner for 3rd so I don't see a problem moving on from Bote, heck even Wisdom can play 3rd.
    As far as Baez, we see what he does on defense and think that is enough to pay him M25-M30$ a year, I don't think so, he has had 6 years to make the adjustments he has to make and refuses to do it, sorry I've had enough.
    Rizzo is a tough choice, he has done whatever it takes to help the cubs, I would keep him, not on a large contract, but a fair one.
    Contrares has his moments when you think a light has turned on, and then he hits a bomb and he tries to pull every pitch out of the park and looks completely lost, plus I don't like the way he receives the pitch, too much grabbing at the ball and not enough just snatching the ball and pulling it in, Higgins is good at this....
    As far as Bryant goes, he seems to want out of Chicago, and wants to play on the west coast, he's having a very good year and I most definitely would move him as early as possible.

  • In reply to tater:

    Duffy and Sogard are pending UFAs, just like Bryant and Baez. I don't think the Cubs want to go into the offseason with Hoerner, Wisdom and Alcantara as the only infielders under club control. Bote gives them cheap depth. I'm not saying they won't move him, but I think they would only do it after they re-sign one of Baez or Bryant (or at least feel really confident they can).

  • In reply to tater:

    Framing should be a thing of the past when we get robo umps

  • In reply to tater:

    It is interesting we now have all these solid options at 3rd. (Bote, Duffy, Wisdom) and they just need to hold the fort for a couple of years as SS and 3B is where we are loaded in the minors.

    My biggest concern is next year happ has to move to left so we need to find a CF and then I worry that our corner outfielders can defend but cant hit.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I also like alcantera as a super utility guy (speed, defense and switch hitter).

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    Why extend at this point, he doesn't want to. There are several free agents available next year, I don't have much faith in players having good years in their walk year, don't fall for this.
    The only reason to keep Baez, Bryant and or Rizzo is the comp pick and money that would come with the comp pick, should be able to get a better prospect than that if we move them, also have the ability to sign them if they choose to come back.

  • In reply to tater:

    I don't think any org is going to move their best players, walk year or not, if they are fighting to win the division. Of course, they are going to compete, win or lose.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    If they keep playing like this through July it's going to be a real tough call. But if someone makes that offer they can't refuse they can't.

    Either way after a horrid start it's becoming the most entertaining and intriguing season we've had in a while.

  • In reply to tater:

    I believe Bryant would sign today at the deal stated above. Question is do you really want to go there? When do you turn the page on the 2012 rebuild?

    Funny part is I don't remember anyone imploring the FO to extend anyone last September. The backside of their prime years is right around the corner if not here already.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    I think Baez and Rizzo are more important than Bryant going forward and probably less expensive and on shorter deals.

    I think Rizzo, Baez, Hoerner and Contreras are the core of this defense (we just need to find a centerfielder).

    Though I worry about Baez strikeouts getting worse as he gets older and Rizzo's back failing him.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I worry about that as well with Beaz. As gifted as he is on the diamond and hitting 30+-homeruns per, the hole in his game with quality at bats is big enough to drive an eighteen wheeler though. Javy might not be unaffordable in the open market.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    My biggest concern with Baez too. What's that going to look like when the cat like reflexes of his youth start to fade?

    If we're seeing the most disciplined version of him now.......Just sayin'. He's on a run of 2 sub .300 OBP years. I'll give a pass on '20. A lot of big names were bad last year. But he's a career .302 OBP. And it's going in the wrong direction.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    I think the players all of them including some not here like A. Russell turned down multiple offers. Media made it sound like all the players believed Cubs contracts offers favored the Cubs.

  • In reply to tater:

    I know the Cubs are winning. Cubs faded the last three seasons. Everything I'm seeing, I kind of expect the same this year.

    This bullpen is very good, but they are getting used a lot. Bullpen are shutting other teams down for 3 game series-amazing. Cubs should be running away from the central based on how the bullpen has pitched. The rest of the team-offense looks more average-ish even with the multiple support players stepping up. Cubs big name hitters are streaky, & they still get shutdown by big name pitchers. The rotation is below average.

    The best part of this season for me is Cubs are playing well.
    The bullpen, Alzolay, Steele, Thompson, & it is early but even Alcantara look like players who give the team hope for now, and the future. It seems like multiple players in the minors are looking up too.

    I still think Cubs need to clean up the roster and really build for next season they should trade away multiple pending free agents. Getting only a draft pick for Bryant, & Baez is the wrong thing to do for a team that preaches we want to build through the minors.

    I hate to say it, but trading big name pending free agents is part of the equation if you want to build through the minors. The good small market teams like Rays actually trade players like Snell before they even get to that point many times. Cubs being a large market Cubs have to think like the 2016 Yankees what are the chances we win it all or even go deep in the playoffs?

  • In reply to Naujack:

    Agree 100%. That's why I advocated moving Bryant when his return value was the highest. Now they're all rentals. Realistic returns have dropped significantly.

  • What is the status of Scherzer's contract? Looks to me like his contract is up in 21' but a bunch is deferred. So in a trade who would be responsible for the deferred money? Who in there right mind would take scherzer as a rental and have to take on a bunch of deferred money?

    Some one help me understand the details of his contract and how a trade might work.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I'm at a loss. Have posed the question on a couple sites with no clear answer.

    There is an article on SB Nations Cardinals site addressing it. They present it as I thought it would work. The remaining $'s can be negotiated in a trade.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    But given the number of teams that'll be interested should he be available I can't see the Cubs being in that conversation for more than 5 minutes including a coffee break.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    It is negotiable, like all money left on a contract. But I would assume in all such circumstances the team that signed him to the deal would end up paying. No team is renting a player for three months that they need to pay for ten years.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    That's what I was thinking as well Michael. Which means it will require some high quality prospects! But I would think less than what we received for darvish.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I don't think a single team in MLB would take on much of the deferred money.

    I have to believe Washington is already on the hook for most of the deferred money, he has already played 6 1/3 seasons of a 7 year deal with them.

    I'm wondering what Washington could get for Schwarber if they deal him.

  • In reply to Naujack:

    No telling if a bidding war erupts. A healthy in form Scherzer could be the difference between winning the WS or not. I can easily see an owner say "Just do it".

    Imagine the chance he'd give the Cubs putting him at the top of the rotation. Granted I think they need 2. But not the point.

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