Sunday brunch blog: All-star excitement, and the minors
As jaded as you can get in this business, I’m always refreshed to see a player genuinely happy to make the all-star team. Such was the case yesterday with Travis Wood of the Cubs, who will be going to New York July 16. Hope you caught my front-page story in Sunday’s Daily Herald:
“Like I said yesterday, for a guy that has so much passion for the game and just loves baseball, he just loves being at the ballpark,” said manager Dale Sveum. “I think that’s what makes it so special for him. A guy coming out of nowhere and to pitch as well as he has and get elected to the All-Star Game … and we all know the person he is. He’s just a baseball rat.
“He’s always looking, ‘I might pinch hit today. I might run,’ or something like that. He’s just a baseball rat that it makes it funner for him to be able to be involved in that.”
Yesterday was an eventful day, what with the Stanley Cup and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville dropping by Wrigley Field. Then you had the promotion of Javier Baez from Class A Daytona to Class AA Tennessee. Baez promptly homered on the first swing he took at Double-A. That prompted Dale yesterday to say: “He owns that league.” After finding out Baez wound up going 1-for-4 in the game, Dale this morning said: “He owned that league.”
We’ll get to the full minor-league roundup below, but another interesting, if not painful, note is that center-field prospect Albert Almora left the Kane County Cougars’ game because of hemorrhoids. Pain in the … oh, never mind.
July 12 is approaching, and that’s the deadline for clubs to sign their draft picks. The Cubs still have not come to terms with No. 1 pick Kris Bryant. I asked Jed Hoyer yesterday if it was getting to be white-knuckle time.
“No, it’s not white-knuckle time,” Jed said. “Sometimes deadlines are what gets things done. I’m glad they moved the deadline up a month so you don’t have to wait until mid-August and we can still have a little bit of a summer of playing. We’re certainly hopeful and optimistic that it will get done on the 12th, or hopefully before then. We’re going to be really fair to him with what we offer. We want him to be a Cub, certainly, and hopefully what we offer will enable that to happen.”
Carlos Villanueva will make his first start today since May 14 when he takes on the Pirates. Because Villanueva hasn’t been stretched out, the Cubs likely will limit him to 65-70 pitches and hope he can make it through 5 innings.
Edwin Jackson didn’t get a quality start yesterday, but he did get the win. When the Cubs don’t get a quality start, they’re 6-27, and the starters have an ERA of 7.18 in those starts. When they do get a quality start, they’re 31-21, and the starters have an ERA of 2.11. The aforementioned Wood has 16 quality starts in 17 outings, making him quite deserving of an all-star big. That and his ERA of 2.69 and WHIP of 0.98.
From the game notes: Matt Guerrier and Pedro Strop became the 40th and 41st players to appear in a game this year; the Cubs also have used 23 pitchers. With 41 players, the Cubs have matched their franchise record for players used before the all-star break. That was done first in 2000. Last year, the Cubs used 40 players before the break, the only other time in franchise history the club reached at least 40 players at this point of the season. The Cubs cite Ed Hartig for the research on that one.
Class AAA Iowa on Saturday lost Friday’s suspended game to Albuquerque 10-3. That was Jake Arrieta’s first start in the organization following last week’s trade from Baltimore. Because of Friday’s rain, he lasted just 1 inning. Logan Watkins was 2-for-4 in the first game, and Junior Lake was 1-for-3 with 2 walks. In the second game, Barret Loux suffered the defeat in a 1-0 shutout. The game’s only run was scored by former Cub Ian Stewart. Loux lasted 6 innings, giving up 4 hits and the run. He walked four and struck out six. He’s 4-3 with a 4.25 ERA. Over his last 5 games (3 starts), Loux has an 0.86 ERA.
Despite Baez’s first Double-A homer, Class AA Tennessee fell 8-2 to Huntsville. Austin Kirk suffered the loss, going 2 innings and giving up 7 hits and 6 runs. He’s 1-3 with a 7.76 ERA. In addition to Baez, Christian Villanueva homered, his 11th. He has a five-game hitting streak.
Dave Keller, a hitting coach by trade and Baez’s manager at Daytona, talked to Sean Kernan of the Daytona Beach News Journal about Baez.
“It's just a matter of him shrinking his strike zone,” Keller told the paper. “You can't say that enough about any player, but Javy wants to expand it because he knows if he hits it he's got a chance to do some damage. He knows he has a chance to make some really good things happen, but at the same time you have to learn how to take your walks. And he showed some times here over the last month or more where he was taking his walks. The first month he was overaggressive.”
Also from the paper: “Baez cut down on his errors in June, making 7 miscues compared to 12 in each of his first two months this season. His throwing accuracy had gotten better, which also allowed him to show off his arm strength.”
“I would say the biggest improvement I've seen him make in the last month is he's started being more active with his feet,” Keller said. “He has done a great job in improving his footwork from every angle -- going to his left, going to his right and coming in on balls. Before, his feet were basically stopping and he wasn't fielding through the ball. His feet weren't in sync with his throwing motion.”
Daytona got a victory from former Kane County Cougar Pierce Johnson in beating Dunedin 6-5. Johnson went 5 shutout innings, giving up 5 hits with 1 walk and 5 strikeouts. He’s 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA at Daytona. Zeke DeVoss went 3-for-5. Ben Carhart was 3-for-5 with 2 RBI. Carhart has 12 multi-RBI games this season.
The Cougars (A) were blanked 5-0 by Quad Cities. Jose Rosario took the loss as he pitched 5 innings and gave up 6 hits and 5 runs.
Boise (A) lost its fourth straight, falling 5-3 to Tri-City. James Pugliese took the loss, working 5 innings and giving up 8 hits and 5 runs. Jacob Rogers hit his third homer. Dan Lockhart was 2-for-4.
Mesa (Rookie) committed 5 errors, losing 11-4 to the Rangers. Carlos Rodriguez took the loss. He pitched 2 innings, giving up 3 hits and 2 runs. Rashad Crawford was 2-for-2 with 2 steals.