While the Cubs try to find their swings in the warm environs of Arizona and L.A., we'll get caught up on a few things here at home. We'll have the full minor-league report today and see if we can post the big-league lineups later.
Had a chance to talk briefly with farm director Oneri Fleita this morning. He's back from a trip to see the Class A Daytona club and give the good news to pitcher Rob Whitenack that he was going from Daytona to Class AA Tennessee. Whitenack made it a good Double-A debut last night in a 2-1 loss at Jacksonville. Whitenack, 22, worked 6 shutout innings, giving up no walks and striking out three.
Between Daytona and Tennessee, Whitenack is 3-0 with an 0.93 ERA and a microscopic WHIP of 0.52. In 29 innings, he's walked just one while striking out 28. His groundout/flyout ratio is 2.29.
"He's got command, with a good sinker, and he's throwing 91-94 (mph)," Oneri said today. "It looks to me that he grew two inches over the off-season and that he's filled out some. He was throwing 89-91 tops last year. Now, he's 91-94. You don't see that a whole lot."
The Cubs media guide lists Whitenack at 6-foot-5, 185. He was an eighth-rounder in 2009 out of SUNY (State University of New York) Old Westbury, the first baseball player drafted out of that school. He opened 2010 at Class A Peoria and went 8-7 with a 4.96 ERA with 30 walks and 63 strikeouts in 103.1 innings. He moved up to Daytona, where he went 3-1 with a 2.04 ERA with 10 walks and 28 strikeouts in 39.2 innings. While pitching for Peoria, he started the "Road to Wrigley" game against the Kane County Cougars at Wrigley Field. Scouts say he has a nice downward plane on his pitches.
In last night's game, Whitenack retired the first 11 batters he faced and 16 of 17.
Also at Tennessee last night, Brett Jackson (.324) was 1-for-4 with an outfield assist. Josh Vitters (.258) was 1-for-4. Both Jackson and Vitters have cooled of late. "They've had a lot of line-drive outs," Fleita said. "But both are having good at-bats. There are times when Vitters is too patient at the plate."
The other interesting guy is infielder Ryan Flaherty, who is at .343/395/.627. The Cubs aren't certain what position he'll play. "With our depth and his ability, why be shortsighted?" Fleita said. “He can play first base, second base, shortstop, third base and the outfield. He can play a lot of different positions."
Class AAA Iowa was off. Fleita said pitcher Jay Jackson, who had a good outing this week, is over the forearm problem that bothered him in spring training and delayed the start of his season.
Daytona fell 8-6 to Tampa in 11 innings. Brent Ebinger started and worked 3.2 innings, giving up 5 hits and 6 runs. Justin Bour hit his third homer. Evan Crawford, whom the Cubs got last year for Mike Fontenot, was 3-for-4 with a walk. He's hitting .327. Matt Cerda (.314) was on base three times. Jae-Hoon Ha (.370) went 2-for-5 with his first walk of the season. He has hit safely in 16 of 18.
Cerda is at .314/.417/.443 with a team-leading 12 walks. Ha is at .370/.381/.593 with the aforementioned 1 walk to go along with 3 homers and 14 RBI.
"With Ha, Matt Cerda and Junior Lake (.304), we didn't think we'd have three guys hitting like that," Fleita said.
There still are some growing pains, however. The Daytona Beach News Journal reported that Lake, "whose bat and glove have never been questioned by the Cubs organization, was benched after lifting a wind-blown fly ball to deep left. He didn't appear to run hard out of the batter's box _ a lapse magnified when the ball nearly got over the head of Tampa left fielder Deangelo Mack." Manager Buddy Bailey didn't comment to the paper about the benching.
Class A Peoria won its fourth straight, 7-2 over Clinton. Dallas Beeler started and worked 3 innings of no-hit, no-run ball. Third baseman Greg Rohan (.366) hit a pair of homers, giving him three. Matt Szczur (.310) extended a hitting streak to six games, going 3-for-4 with a walk and a double. Szczur is at .310/.385/.379. Catcher Micah Gibbs is at .385/.520/.462 with 10 walks. Rubi Silva, a signee out of Cuba, is at .309/.328/.431.