Cubs @ Rockies – Series Preview (April 10 – April 12, 2015)

Series Preview ROAD Rockies

Two games in five days so far for the Cubs as the descend upon Coors Field for a three game set with the Rockies this weekend.  The Rockies spent their first week in baseball embarrassing the Brewers pitching staff to the tune of twenty(!) runs in three games, good for a sweep.  By comparison the Cubs have scored just twice this season, but they have only given up three while splitting a rain shortened series with the Cardinals.  The weather is actually supposed to be pretty nice in Colorado, and I would expect that translates to a few more runs being scored, hopefully by the Cubs.

Broadcast Information:

  • Friday, April 10, 2015 – 3:10 PM CST – WGN TV (Local 9)
  • Saturday, April 11, 2015 – 7:10 PM CST – CSN+ (Channel Finder)
  • Sunday, April 12, 2015 – 3:10 PM CST – WGN TV (Local 9)

Pitching Matchups:

Who is Hot:

  • Rockies:  All of them?  Seven regulars are hitting over .385 on the season, and they started on the road.  Nolan Arenado is picking up where he left off last year, he’s hitting .462 (6-for-13) with three doubles, a dinger, and five RBI’s.  Corey Dickerson is not impressed, all he has done is hit .417 (5-for-12) with two doubles, two dingers, and has six RBI’s so far this season.
  • Cubs:  I’m not going to talk about anyone that has to use a bat regularly here.  It’s the Cubs pen, they have been brilliant so far, they have yet to allow an earned run in 6.2 innings, and have only allowed three hits.

Who is Not:

  • Rockies:  I found someone!  Justin Morneau is one of just a couple of guys not to join the party so far.  Morneau is hitting .077 (1-for-13) in the early going, he’s only struck out once so he appears to be a victim of BABIP (Batting average on balls in play).
  • Cubs:  The whole offense, the Cubs are hitting .125 (7-for-56) as a team, and have walked just three times while striking out 23 times.  It’s super early, and the conditions were not great for hitting, so I’m not worried, yet.

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“Fatigued” Kris Bryant Carries Cubs to Victory

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Full Box Score

Kris Bryant was originally in the lineup today at third base before being scratched with shoulder fatigue.  I guess he felt better by the third inning as he took over for DH Anthony Rizzo and promptly destroyed two dingers.  That now gives Kris Bryant six home runs this spring, six is good.  Bryant wasn’t the only story today, Kyle Hendricks was stellar on the mound, and really couldn’t miss.  Hendricks worked five perfect innings while striking out three, he threw 54 pitches, 40 of them for strikes, tasty.  The Cubs as a staff took a perfect game into the 8th inning before the A’s were able to find the hit column, and scratch across a run.

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Spring Fever – March 14, 2015 (Cubs Lineups, Broadcast Info)

Hendricks

Two more games today as the Cubs take on the Athletics at 2:05 PM CST in Vegas, and also battle the Brewers at 3:05 PM CST.  Kyle Hendricks gets the ball against the A’s, the game can be listened to through mlb.tv, but there is no TV.  Back in Arizona, Edwin Jackson will take the mound against the Brewers, the game can be watched, and listened to on mlb.tv with a subscription.  It’s a big start for Jackson as he needs to show this coaching staff something or else he will not be in the rotation, I still think he loses out to Travis Wood.

vs. Athletics – 2:05 PM CST -Vegas

1. Fowler – CF
2. Rizzo – DH
3. Soler – RF
4. Bryant 3B
5. Lake – LF
6. La Stella – 2B
7. Valaika – 1B
8. Teagarden – C
9. Herrera – SS

SP – Kyle Hendricks

@ Brewers – 3:05 PM CST

1. Coghlan – LF
2. Alcantara – 2B
3. Castro – SS
4. Sweeney – DH
5. Olt – 3B
6. Baxter – 1B
7. Castillo – C
8. Chambers – RF
9. Szczur – CF

SP – Edwin Jackson

Some things to keep an eye on for today.  Both Matt Szczur, and Junior Lake have had a really good spring, both guys are vying for bench spots on the 2015 opening day roster.  While I think Szczur has the edge because of his defense, I’ve been very impressed with Junior Lake’s purpose at the plate, it clearly has carried over from Winter League ball.  Joe Maddon said not to read too much into Rizzo batting second, and he’s there again today, so start reading into it.  Mike Olt is getting every day at bats right now because he has earned them, he’s winning the third base job with his Spring so far, he needs to keep progressing to nail it down.

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E-Jax Rocked, Olt Continues to Roll in Cubs Loss


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FULL BOX SCORE

In his first chance to impress the new Cubs staff Edwin Jackson was underwhelming to say the least.  It was the same old story for Edwin as he couldn’t pitch around mistakes behind him, or mistakes of his own (one error).  When it was all said and done Jackson gave up four runs, unearned, in two innings of work, sure they were unearned but he played a big role in that.  The better news from the day was Kyle Hendricks throwing the ball very well, and Mike Olt continuing to have the best at bats of any Cubs player so far this Spring.  Olt was 1-for-1 on the day with his second spring dinger, an opposite field blast, and a walk which brings his spring total to three in just ten plate appearances.  It wasn’t all bad on the mound, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, C.J. Edwards, and Justin Grimm worked a total of four scoreless innings, giving up two hits, no walks, while striking out six.

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Rotation Coming Together; Lester Set For Opening Night

Lester ST

On a rainy Arizona day, Joe Maddon made some comments about the rotation.  Kyle Hendricks will be in the rotation to start the season, there had been some speculation that he wasn’t ticketed for a rotation spot earlier on but that was unfounded.  The news gives Cubs fans an idea of what will be happening this spring, an all out battle for the number five spot between Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, Felix Doubront, Tsuyoshi Wada, and others, namely Jacob Turner.

The other news out of camp today… Jon Lester is your opening day starter.  To me this was a done deal as soon as the Cubs committed loads of money to the lefty, but some fans thought that Jake Arrieta earned the chance to be that guy.  Spring games start THIS THURSDAY, the rotation has been announced; Wood vs A’s, Turner vs SF on Thursday, Lester on Friday, Hammel/Doubront on Saturday; Arrieta/Wada on Sunday; Jackson/Hendricks on Monday.

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The Steady Progression of Paul Blackburn

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It’s finally here, 2015 Spring Training, ignore the negative twenty-five wind chills outside, it’s baseball season.  The talk over the last few years heading into spring training has been how good the Cubs prospects are, and eventually the Cubs will compete with said prospects.  This year publications still love the Cubs when it comes to prospects (Kris Bryant was just named the number one prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America), but the major league team is finally ready to take the next step.  But before we get too far into that I want to talk about a Cubs prospect that is one of my personal favorites, but doesn’t get too much pub yet, Paul Blackburn.

Blackburn is in the group that I would consider the second wave of prospects, which means one of two things.  He either steps onto a Cubs team that is already competing (2017), or he is traded in a package to improve an already competitive team anywhere from this season through the 2016 off-season.  Either way I think that Blackburn can, and will be an effective major league starter, I just hope it’s with the Cubs.

The Cubs drafted Blackburn in the 1st round (supplemental round) of the 2012 amateur draft, number 56 overall out of Heritage High School in Brentwood, CA.  Wasting no time, the Cubs and Blackburn struck a deal, and Pauly was pitching in Arizona for the Cubs AZL team.  It was the end of a long calendar year, but Blackburn handled himself quite well in an offensively heavy league.  Blackburn tossed 20.2 innings, and finished the season with an ERA of 3.48, and a FIP of 5.39, obviously that last number is a little high.  The following season with Boise was trying for Blackburn as his innings were limited, and his command disappeared.  My guess is he was trying to miss too many bats, probably due to the fact that his BABIP was .313 in 2012, bad luck, so he tried to limit contact, just my opinion.  On one hand the strikeouts escalated from 5.66 K/9 in 2012 to 7.43 K/9, but so did the walks, which was uncharacteristic.  In 2012 Blackburn had a BB/9 rate of 3.05, that went all the way up to 5.67 BB/9 in his 46 innings of work in 2013.  With all that happening his advanced stats got better, the BABIP went down to .288, and his FIP went down to 4.47, more strikeouts, more walks, but less long balls.

With only 65+ professional innings under his belt Blackburn took his talents to Kane County for the 2014 season, and broke out.  Blackburn was a key cog in one of the best minor league teams that I’ve ever seen, as well as one of the best rotations.  The command came roaring back, Blackburn could put the ball where he wanted without hesitation again.  The strikeouts went back to 2012 levels, but the walk rate plummeted to 2.38 per nine innings, the FIP followed suit, dropping to 3.84, a career best.  The most impressive thing about Blackburn was his ability to bounce back from a year in which he probably learned a lot about himself as a pitcher.  As Jonathan Mayo points out in his 2015 prospect rankings (Blackburn 15th in Cubs system), Blackburn probably has the best combo of stuff and feel in the system.  He knows how to pitch, kind of like Kyle Hendricks, and has the same type of ground ball stuff but with a little more consistent velocity.  Expect Blackburn to get time at High-A Myrtle Beach this year, and possibly Double-A Tennessee.  I’m excited about the type of pitcher, and person that Pauly is, you should be too.

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Riding the Bus; Cubs Minor League Reports (4/21/2014)

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MONDAY, APRIL 21, 2014

Kane County 4-21-14

Full Box Score

The Cougars built an early 3-1 lead only to watch it slip away at the hands of some suspect defense in the late innings.  The Cougars committed three errors, and gave up three unearned runs in the loss, wasting another solid start from 19-year-old Jen-Ho Tseng.

At the Plate:

  • Carlos Penalver had a tremendous game today, he went 2-for-3 with a walk, and two runs scored in the loss.
  • Ben Carhart had another solid effort, he went 2-for-4 with a run scored, he’s now hitting .259 on the season.
  • Yasiel Balaguert continues to be a threat at the plate, he went 1-for-4 with two RBI’s, he now has fourteen RBI’s on the season.

On the Mound:

  • Jen-Ho Tseng continued his strong 2014, he worked five innings, giving up three runs, two earned, on seven hits, while walking one, and striking out three.  He lowered his ERA to 2.93 on the season.
  • Tyler Bremer was fantastic out of the pen, he worked two scoreless innings, giving up two hits, while walking one, and striking out three.
  • Josh Davis took the hard luck loss in this one, he worked two innings, giving up two runs, both unearned, on two hits, while walking one, and striking out one.

Smokies 4-21-14

Full Box Score

The Smokies struck early and often in this one as they scored ten runs in the first six innings to cruise to a 10-5 victory over the Barons.  The Smokies did get some help from the Barons, even if they didn’t need it, as Birmingham committed three errors and allowed three unearned runs.

At the Plate:

  • John Andreoli got things started from the lead-off spot in this one, he went 2-for-6 with a triple, an RBI, a stolen base, and two runs scored.
  • Rubi Silva was productive today, he went 2-for-5 with his first home run of the season, three RBI’s, and a run scored.
  • Kris Bryant was 1-for-5 with a walk, and an RBI, he’s now hitting .286 on the season.
  • Jae-Hoon Ha went crazy today, he was 3-for-5 with a double, his first home run of the season, an RBI, and three runs scored.

On the Mound:

  • Dae-Eun Rhee got the start tonight, and picked up his first win of the season despite some control issues.  Rhee worked five innings, giving up two runs on four hits, while walking five (see?), and striking out four.
  • Austin Kirk did some solid work out of the pen, he was able to get through three innings, giving up two runs on four hits, he didn’t walk or strikeout anyone.
  • Tony Zych cleaned things up in this one, he worked one inning, giving up one unearned run on two hits.

Iowa 4-21-14

Full Box Score

Kyle Hendricks, and the rest of the Iowa pitching controlled this one from start to finish as the I-Cubs took care of Round Rock, 5-1.  Offensively, it was the top of the Iowa order doing the heavy lifting as the one-two-three hitters combined to go 6-for-13 with two RBI’s.

At the Plate:

  • Matt Szczur did the job at the top of the order tonight, he was 3-for-4 with a triple, a stolen base, an RBI, and a run scored.
  • Arismendy Alcantara provided some power, he was 2-for-4 with his first home run of the season, an RBI, and two runs scored.
  • Javier Baez returned to the lineup yesterday, and was effective tonight, he went 1-for-3 with a run scored in the win.

On the Mound:

  • Kyle Hendricks was brilliant tonight as he picked up the win to move his record to 3-1 on the season.  Hendricks worked six scoreless innings, giving up two hits, while walking two, and striking out six.
  • Yoanner Negrin was solid per usual out of the pen, he worked a scoreless inning, while striking out one.
  • Brian Schlitter worked two innings to pick up his third save of the season, he gave up one run on two hits, while walking two in his two innings of work.

Daytona 4-21-14

Full Box Score

The Daytona Cubs pulled this one out late after both teams scored early and often tonight.  After four innings it was all tied at five, and no one could find the scoreboard again until the D-Cubs pushed across the winning run in the eleventh.

At the Plate:

  • Pin-Chieh Chen has had a great start to 2014, he was 2-for-5 with an RBI, he is now hitting .294 on the season.
  • Chadd Krist put together a solid game, he was 3-for-5 with a double, and a run scored.
  • Rock Shoulders provided some production, he was 1-for-2 with two walks, an RBI, and a run scored.
  • Jeimer Candelario found some success tonight, he was 2-for-4 with two doubles, a walk, two RBI’s, and a run scored.

On the Mound:

  • Jake Arrieta made what is thought to be his final rehab start, and was effective.  Arrieta worked 5.2 innings, giving up five runs, three earned, on five hits, while walking two, and striking out seven.
  • Andrew McKirahan only faced one hitter, but it was a big out as he got out of the sixth inning for Arrieta to keep the game tied.
  • Jose Rosario picked up the win out of the pen, and he deserved it.  Rosario worked four scoreless innings, giving up three hits, while striking out four.
  • Arodys Vizcaino worked the last of the eleventh to pick up his fist save of the season.

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