By Todd Johnson
In spite of all the turmoil, the blown saves, and the missed hitting opportunities, we wake up this morning with the Chicago Cubs in first place for the second day in a row. We also wake up today with Tommy La Stella optioned to AAA. That pretty much answers the Szczur/La Stella issue for now. As a result, I hope that people can just relax and let the games play out instead of fixating on every mistake or loss. There are still 140+ games to go.
Meanwhile in the minors…
Pitching was the name of the game this week. All across the system starting pitching dominated the headlines. Eddie Butler, Zach Hedges, Trevor Clifton, Jen-Ho Tseng, Justin Steele, Adbert Alzolay, Dylan Cease, and Manny Rondon were the feature stories from Iowa on down to South Bend. All pitched at least five innings and only gave up two runs or less. Cease did not give up a hit in his six innings while Alzolay struck out 7.
Every night it is a hard decision on what game to watch on MILB TV. I usually like to watch South Bend, especially if Cease is pitching. I also like to watch Trevor Clifton if I can at Tennessee, and Oscar de la Cruz is another pitcher I really enjoy getting a look at. However, when they all pitch at the same time, it’s a bit nerve-racking trying to watch.
Extended Spring Training News per The Cub Reporter:
In extended spring training, Eloy began playing the outfield this week. He had not made a throw into the infield as of Friday. Jake Hanneman finally returned to Tennessee just after Trey Martin was injured. In addition, Jose Albertos began throwing batting practice. Former Boise State football player Joe Martarano has gone from smashing running backs to smashing baseballs pretty easily. He has also been seeing playing the outfield, although not too well. That will take time.
The MLB draft is just six weeks away, which I find hard to believe. I am still fascinated with David Peterson from Oregon, high school player Mark Vientos, and pitcher Brendon Little. Baseball America came out with their first mock draft through the first round. They had the Cubs selecting Missouri pitcher Tanner Houck. That would’ve been a good selection a year ago, but Houck has had a lot of issues this year. I don’t think the Cubs are going to select a descending player unless they know something everyone else does not. For the 30th pick, Baseball America had the Cubs selecting a junior college picture and they also mentioned Little. I tend to think they’re going to go with one high school bat and one college pitcher.
Around the System
Iowa: 4-3; 9-8 overall – fourth place
Ian Happ continues to hit dingers (7) but his average has started to slip below .250. It’s just how he is. He’ll go up, he’ll go down, he’ll come back up. Felix Pena is putting together a nice little resume as a reliever. I expect him to be the first to get called up when that time happens.
Tennessee: 4-1; 8-7 overall – fourth place
I really hope that Jen-Ho Tseng has recaptured the essence of who he is as a pitcher. Through three starts he has been outstanding and looks like 2014 Jen-Ho.
Myrtle Beach: 3-4; 8-9 overall – third place
Justin Steele continues to look better with every start. He is attacking the zone and looks extremely confident on the mound and in throwing any of these three pitches for strikes. Matt Rose is also starting to come around with the bat. Hopefully, he can continue hitting home runs as well as increasing his average at the plate.
South Bend: 4-2; 9-7 second place
When the bats woke up so did this team. They are 9-4 in their last 13 games. Their bullpen is nearly unhittable. I cannot wait to see how they continue to improve over the next month. The only thing this team lacks is a power bat. However, I don’t think they need it. Jhonny Pereda has really turned it on after skipping Eugene. He’s hitting .313 on the season.
Extended Spring Training
Bryan Hudson continues to shine as a starter. This week he did not allow run in a start and has struck out 12 in 11 innings the past two weeks along with getting 15 ground ball outs. Odds are that he will not make it to Eugene. Instead, he will likely fill-in at South Bend at the first opportunity. Good for him!
April MILB All-Star team