I was going to rant about bullpens giving up leads late far too often, but things like that happen in minor-league ball. Instead of assessing the lack of pitching depth so far, what's important is to remember that in the awful weather so far this spring, sometimes it takes a spell to get up to performing to your standards. Or, sometimes, the players are just over their heads in competition. It happens. Now, on to our regular feature, Three Up - Three Down (which, as you will see, has a few more down than usual).
Golf carts are rarely a good thing to see in any competition except golf. What they usually indicate is the strong possibility of a severe injury. While many of us are familiar with seeing (for instance) a lineman get taken off on a cart in a football game, but sometimes it happens in baseball. Again, with usually predictive bad results. The player you are most familiar with in the category recently is a player for whom the injury seems the least severe.
Jae-Hoon Ha (Double-A Tennessee) was injured pre-game in Mississippi during batting practice, and was carted off. The next night, he was back in the locker room, but not in uniform. It sounds like he should be okay, but it might take a few days. Fortunately, it sounds far less severe than it could have been.
In Mesa, a couple of players you haven't seen in competition received the 'golf cart' treatment. Pitchers Erick Leal (acquired in the Tony Campana trade) and Daniel Adrian were injured within minutes of each other, and Adrian's sounds rather severe. It occurred on a nifty tag play at the plate.
Josh Conway (Mesa), RHP
With as much money as is invested in the players involved, it amazes me how injuries like this happen. It occurred at the Brewers' Arizona facility in Maryvale. The Cubs and Brewers were playing a weekend game, and the mound was just about unplayable. The weekend field prep crew isn't a full staff. Both pitchers were struggling to find their landing spot, and keeping their spikes clean. After pitching a solid inning, Conway's shoulder popped. I'm not saying the field conditions caused the injury, but shouldn't a big league club have enough field maintenance for a Saturday game to have this not be an issue?
To make matters worse, Conway (a fourth-round pick in 2012, signed at below the slot recommended value, coming off Tommy John surgery) had been pitching and feeling well, was up to 80 pitches per outing, and was probably close to getting a call-up to Kane County (Low-A) or Daytona (High-A). Thanks, Brewers. (Yes, I was sarcastic, there.) Staff your field, regardless what the day of the week it is. Not happy.
Justin Bour (Double-A Tennessee), 1B
While Bour isn't likely to be a long-term answer at the major league level ever, he has been a solid middle-of-the-order hitter in the system the last few years. If he could advance a few things, he could be a short-term answer, getting the player perk of a cup of big-league coffee. However, in late April, Bour fractured his wrist. Not only does that steal needed at bats from him, but wrist injuries tend to sap power for an extended period of time. Hopefully he recovers quickly.
Pierce Johnson (Low-A Kane County), RHP
After a bad stat line in his first outing, and a bad first inning in his next one, Johnson has been very solid. Numbers at the lower minor league levels, as you likely know, can lie somewhat at times. Some of the hits Johnson has given up have been a bit fortunate for the hitters. His fastball has been mostly in the low-90s, but velocity numbers are a bit useless in cold weather. One of the experts has noted the important thing for Johnson will be to survive the year healthy. He should be in Daytona soon.
Rock Shoulders (Low-A Kane County), 1B
Shoulders continues to hit, even into May. One of the fun things about him hitting so well this year is that if the Cubs make a trade this off-season, giving up Dan Vogelbach would be made less frustrating if Shoulders keeps hitting. Shoulders has been playing some left field. It hasn't been pretty, but he is showing he can do it. Nobody expects the outfield to be his home, but it's nice when he doesn't have to be prodded. His walk-off homer a few nights ago was off of a lefthander, so hopefully he can display power against all pitching.
I was going to credit the High-A affiliate's offense, as when I've listened recently, they've been hitting well. That said, in their current 8-of-9 stretch, they haven't given up more than five in any game, and only that many twice. Stephen Bruno was just put on the seven-day disabled list, and Taylor Davis came off that list, hitting an opposite field HR his first at bat. Ben Carhart has a nine-game hitting streak, and made a nice defensive play over the weekend as well. Carhart has 16 hits in his last 34 trips. Yeiper Castillo has allowed only three hits and a walk over his last nine innings, fanning 14. While Javier Baez and Jorge Soler will always get the headlines, this team is running over 20 deep.
Dallas Beeler (Double-A Tennessee), RHP
Beeler has won his last three starts. That isn't a popular stat, but he has gone seven innings in two of his last three starts. He went one out short of that in his other.. He hasn't given up a run in his last two starts, and only gave up two earned runs (four total) the start before. As far as major league potential, Beeler is probably more of a reliever than starter. That said, he has had a solid three weeks.
Felix Pena (Low-A Kane County), RHP
While only four of his five outings have been solid, Pena has gone at least 5⅔ innings in all of his appearances. He came from out of nowhere with a great post-season outing for Boise in 2012, and seems to have turned a corner in development. While not likely to be a big leaguer, he's putting up good numbers, and effort and results are all that can be requested.
Frandy de la Rosa (Mesa), SS
An international signing from last season, de la Rosa had a nice performance in a recent intrasquad game. While it's unclear if he will be in the Dominican or Mesa come June, at least the Cubs' second-highest bonus recipient in the IFA market has represented in the states.