Sunday brunch blog: Lineups, Baez, the minor leagues

Sunday brunch blog: Lineups, Baez, the minor leagues

Posted by Bruce on Sun, 04/06/2014 - 12:14

We’ve got the Sunday brunch blog back. I do this one before Sunday home games, and we’re able to get into a number of topics at a leisurely pace. So grab another mimosa and have at it.

The Cubs take on the Phillies this afternoon in the series finale. They’ll send swingman Carlos Villanueva against veteran A.J. Burnett. Villanueva relieved in two games at Pittsburgh and got the loss each time out. But he’s also a dying breed as the guy who can start and relieve, even within days of each other. I remember Terry Mulholland in 1998 as being one of the best at that.

One time, Terry told me that he wanted to start every fourth day, not every fifth day, and relieve in between. Old school all the way. Cubs manager Rick Renteria said he appreciates the effort from Villanueva.

“Fantastic," he said. "He really helped us out in a pinch in Pittsburgh. We used him a couple times there. We want guys that want the baseball. I know that after the second game in Pittsburgh, I went up to him and told him, ‘We really appreciate it. Don’t worry about the outcome there. We really needed your help, and you gave it to us.’”

We ran this note yesterday and it bears repeating: Villanueva will become the eighth Cubs pitcher since 1987 and the first since 2000, to pitch in relief and make a start within the team’s first six games of the season. Jamie Moyer (a current Phillies broadcaster) and Greg Maddux did so in 1987. Others to do so since then were Anthony Young (1994), Frank Castillo (1997), Mulholland (1998), Brad Woodall (1999) and Andrew Lorraine (2000). The Cubs credit STATS Inc. for the note.

Yeah, I just wanted to get the names of Brad Woodall and Andrew Lorraine in there one more time.

The Cubs lineup is another interesting one as Renteria searches for runs any old way:

Bonifacio, 2B
Kalish, LF
Rizzo, 1B
Schierholtz, RF
Valbuena, 3B
Castro, SS
Sweeney, CF
Baker, C
Villanueva, P

Renteria said he wanted to put Castro into a spot where he can drive in runs, provided anybody gets on base. The Cubs are 4-for-40 so far with runners in scoring position. Reader Tim P. wanted to make sure I didn’t forget about on-base percentage. The Cubs’ team OBP is .280, and Cubs batters have walked 15 times. The OBP ranks 12th in the National League, and the walks total also is 12th.

“Again, we try to stack it up with some lefties,” Renteria said of today’s lineup. “Starlin has really good numbers against Burnett. Hopefully we’ll have a lot of guys on base and see if he can go ahead and put himself in position to drive in some runs.”

Castro is 9-for-22 (.409) lifetime against Burnett. On the other hand, Valbuena is 0-for-13.

As we mentioned yesterday on Twitter (@BruceMiles2112) and in the paper today, Cubs starting pitchers have an ERA of 1.95. Four of their 5 starts have been quality starts, and Edwin Jackson’s non-quality start was pretty good: 5.1 innings and 1 earned run against the Pirates last week.

We’ll get to the minor-league report below, including Javier Baez’s ejection in Class AAA Iowa’s game. Baez was tossed for arguing a checked-swing call. He has gone hitless in his first 9 at-bats with 6 strikeouts.

Renteria saw Baez and all the Cubs’ top prospects in spring training.

“They’re all young,” he said. “They’re all trying to get through their growing pains It’s part of the process. I think he’ll overcome it. He’ll get better and learn from it and keep moving forward.”

MINOR-LEAGUE ROUNDUP

Iowa fell to 0-3 with an 11-1 loss to Memphis. Baez’s ejection came in the third inning. According to Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register, Baez “waved off an umpire and tossed his hands up in frustration before being tossed by home- plate umpire Gabe Morales.”

"Javy probably should have gotten thrown out," Iowa manager Marty Pevey told the paper. "As soon as he throws his hands up in the air, you're gone. "He's frustrated. There's frustration there. Anybody that competes is going to react that way. He's got to understand that all his teammates have his back and we understand."

Kyle Hendricks took the loss on the mound, working 4.2 innings and giving up 7 hits and 7 runs, 6 earned. He walked two and struck out five. Chris Coghlan recorded Iowa’s lone multihit game, going 2-for-4 with a double. Arismendy Alcantara went 1-for-3 with a double.

Class AA Tennessee got just 2 hits in a 5-0 loss at Pensacola. The game was called in the seventh because of rain. Rehabbing right-hander Jake Arrieta worked 3 hitless innings, giving up an unearned run. He walked one and struck out three. He threw 42 pitches, 28 strikes, as he recovers from a shoulder ailment.

Class A Daytona picked up 21 hits in recorded its first win of the season, 13-2 over Brevard County. Righty Tayler Scott got the win, working 7 innings and giving up 2 hits and no runs. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Scott walked one and struck out two. Jeimer Candelario hit his first homer.

Albert Almora recorded a game-high 5 hits, going 5-for-6 with 2 runs and 3 RBI. Pin-Chieh Chen went 3-for-5 with 3 doubles and 4 RBI. Tim Saunders and Gioskar Amaya both had 3 hits.

The Kane County Cougars (A) split a pair with Quad Cities, losing 2-1 and winning 5-4 in 10 innings. In Game 1. Tyler Skulina got no decision as he pitched 6 innings, giving up 2 hits and no runs. Catcher Ben Carhart went 1-for-3, a double.

In Game 2, Daury Torrez got no decision, working 5 innings and giving up 5 hits and 1 run while walking three and striking out four.

Jake Hannemann went 2-for-5 with his first home run and 2 stolen bases. Hannemann was a third-rounder last year. Daniel Canela hit a solo homer, also his first of the year. Justin Amlung (1-0, 0.00) earned the victory after tossing 3 scoreless innings of relief.

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