On Thursday, I thought the Cubs were going to win their first series of the year. The Cubs were winning 4-0 when I got in my truck after a hard day of work. On the way home, I stopped at the gas station to get a gallon of milk, and for some reason, I turned the radio off when I went inside. I came out, got back in the truck, and motored to the village hall to pay the water/sewage/trash bill. It seemed to take about 5 minutes. When I got back in my truck, the four run lead was gone and the Cubs were down 5-4. They never recovered to fall to 6-3.
One of the highlights of the week for me was when the Cubs lit up Wandy Rodriguez with back to back home runs by Mike Olt and Junior Lake in route to a 7-5 win (even though it was 7-1 at one time). Last night’s three run eleventh inning bomb by Wellington Castillo off Trevor Rosenthal was the other highlight. While the first week of the season saw a lack of offense, the second week saw some resurgence in the hitting of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo.
The Cubs have been in every game this year except for the 7-2 loss to Philadelphia in the home opener. In fact, the Cubs have four 1-run losses and one 2-run loss. This team could easily be 7-3 had it not been for the veteran bullpen arms of Carlos Villanueva, Jeff Russell, Wesley Wright, and Jose Veras. Those last three have looked terrible coming out of the pen. Wright has a 5.40 ERA, Russell a 6.75 ERA, and Veras a 12.27 ERA. They were supposed to be the strength of the pen and have turned out to be really bad along with Strop and his 4.76 ERA. Of the Cubs six losses, the starters have only lost two. The bullpen has four losses (almost five after Veras’ disastrous ninth inning blown save).
The starting rotation still remains solid except for Edwin Jackson’s start on Tuesday when he gave up four runs in the first inning and six overall, yet the Cubs almost managed to pull out a win because of Castro’s bat. Jason Hammel, Travis Wood, and even Villanueva as a starter have been very good. Last night, Samardjiza was downright filthy.
With the bullpen having so much trouble at the big league level, there are six arms doing well at the minor league level and four of them could be at Wrigley soon. Iowa Cubs Eric Jokisch is a lefty and displays great control. Although a starter, he could slide in as a logy quickly. Teammate Zac Rosscup has been doing extremely well albeit in only 3.2 innings. Rosscup has not given up a run and has struck out seven. The two key guys who may come to Chicago quicker are Armando Rivero, who has been near dominant at Tennessee, and Arodys Vizcaino, who has been outstanding at Daytona flashing a 96-98 mph fastball speed with two devastating knee buckling breaking pitches. In addition, two of Vizcaino’s teammates, Michael Jensen and lefty Andrew McKirahan, have been equally dominant for the Daytona Cubs.
Minor League Pitcher of the Week
This was a tough decision. While Kyle Hendricks had a great start at Iowa and CJ Edwards also did at Tennessee, I have to go with Tyler Skulina’s start for Kane County on Wednesday was dominating for 5 innings before running into trouble in the sixth. But for those first five innings, he was flat out filthy. At 6’5” and 250 pounds, Skulina’s big frame projects well and it looks like the Cubs got a steal out of him last summer in the draft.
Honorable Mention – Jen-Ho Tseng also made his first start for the Cougars and had a start similar to Skulina’s. Tayler Scott, who would have won the award last week, was shelled in his only start for Daytona.
Minor League Hitter of the Week
Bijan Rademacher has been on fire all week. The Daytona outfielder, along with teammate Albert Almora, may not be long for the beach in Daytona. Tennessee may come calling sooner than later. Rademacher is batting almost 500. While Bijan does not have much power, he can hit, and he can get on base. Although no one is driving the two hitters in, the Daytona Cubs continue to struggle. They are 1-7 before today. Runner up this week is Josh Vitters of Iowa. Vitters has 2 home runs and is hitting almost 400. 2nd runner up is Kane County’s Yasiel Balaguert who is hitting around 400 as well.
The Core Report
Javy Baez – Yeah, he got booted out of a game, benched, and hit a home run as a pinch hitter in a 24 hour span. He is still well under .200 for a batting average and making errors. I give him one more week and he will begin to catch fire.
Kris Bryant – after hitting 2 home runs in the first three games, Bryant has been in a bit of slump hitting only .221.
Soler – Week one: 1 for 1, goes on the 7 day DL. The Cubs version of Jose Reyes has not returned to live action.
Almora – He is looking solid and I don’t see him staying at Daytona much longer than June 1. With a .336 average, he just keeps hitting.
Things I Am Looking Forward to Week Three
1. Jen-Ho Tseng’s second start – His first start was much like Skulina’s – dominating stuff with one bad inning.
2. Duane Underwood has arrived in Kane County and could be joining the roster on Tuesday next week. I cannot wait to see this kid throw.
3. Watching the Cubs in Yankee Stadium.
4. Hoping for pitching help for Daytona. The starters have not been so good.
5. Watching Ben Carhart (C – Kane County) and Dustin Geiger (1B – Tennessee) silently go about being solid and getting very little publicity.
6. Getting to Kane County week after next.