Cubs System Sonogram On Vacation, Part 2

Can you spot Tim Huwe in this crowd? - Dylan Heuer

Your intrepid reporter spent the next part of his vacation in Des Moines, Iowa.

I hope that you have a couple of "those spots" in mind. Perhaps you are out on a beach, staring out at a beautiful sunset. Or, you are near a mountain brook, looking up at the surroundings, and a bird is singing you a solo concert. Maybe it's the birth of a child, or completing a marathon. I hope that, when you are stressed out, you have a mental image that you can revisit to make things better.

I had one of those on the night of July 3. For whatever reason, I really enjoy watching horses run. As much of my vacation ended up in either minor league ballparks or casinos, I was beyond happy that the view from our room in our Des Moines hotel room was a somewhat-obscured view of the Prairie Meadows racetrack tote-board. That view, with the horses sprinting toward the tape, is one I will hopefully be able to recall on occasion.

Des Moines is a nice city. Their downtown, which houses Principal Park, is better than you might imagine in the center of Iowa. (I have an older brother that went to college in the state, and his horror stories are probably equally memorable and wrong.) As it was a fireworks night, it was either a sellout, or pretty close to that. I had seen the field on my MiLB.TV computer feed, but (as usual) it doesn't do it justice. I was impressed, and hope to get back eventually.

My first view, and one that many baseball fans would have as their mental image from the day, was Manny Ramirez signing autographs, and being very friendly and chatty with fans, signing autographs well beyond when most players would have stopped, to get their "game face" on. Ramirez' game face these days seems to be very friendly. He's in a good place with the Cubs, especially with the team's commitment to Latin American development.

While Ramirez didn't play, I doubt he had the night off. he has an entire team full of players to pass wisdom onto every night. I think this makes sense longterm for Ramirez and the Cubs. If Sammy Sosa wants to be a member of the Cubs pipeline, he might want to learn how to coach young hitters.

As to the game, Dallas Beeler was the starting pitcher for the I-Cubs. He and Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals) starter Aaron Brooks both pitched rather well. The radar gun wasn't working, and our seats were fourth row down the right-field line. While they were great seats, I'd be guessing on any information on ball-movement. Beeler seemed to be the harder-throwing starter. The Omaha pen threw harder than their starter.

Javy Baez (and it does seem to be "Javy," not "Javier," now) still has too much swing-and-miss in his game. In two at-bats, it seemed he was committed to swinging at any close fastball. He is better on defense than he had been, and bounced a top-spin single to center in the fourth inning, and later scored. On one of his throws to first, Chris Valaika had to make a nice stretch to make the play.

Kris Bryant was the best player on the field. He made the plays he needed to, though a swinging bunt by Omaha led to an infield hit. He ranged once a bit into the 5.5 hole, and muscled a single to left off of a reliever. After the hit, he must have noticed the pitcher taking a cursory look, and then pitching after a delay. Timing him up, he had reached midway to second before the pitch was released. It was about the easiest steal of second ever.

As far as the game, Beeler gave up a homer to Carlos Peguero, a lefty-hitting DH, on a 2-0 pitch after getting squeezed twice. He scattered eight hits over six, fanning four, with one of the looking variety. In a few innings, a timely hit could have put the Cubs in a bigger hole than their early 2-0 deficit.

I was surprised when Tsuyoshi Wada replaced him to start the seventh, guessing some roster moves were brewing. I expect Wada, Beeler, and Kyle Hendricks will get plenty of opportunities for the parent club down the stretch. For his part Wada was changing speeds routinely. he fanned four over his eight outs, and held his 3-2 lead until he left. I have no specific memories of any Wada pitches or confrontations. He is a good pitcher when he's hitting his spots. He walked the first hitter in the ninth, and that did him in. With two on and two out, Zac Rosscup came in to close, but couldn't, as his second pitch split the outfielders for a two run triple. Nevertheless, Rosscup looks like he belongs on a major league roster, and when trades happen, he will assume a lefty relief spot in the Cubs pen.

As for the rest of the offense, Brett Jackson slid when trying to beat a throw to first base. While I'm not saying sliding is never a good idea going into first, this instance wasn't. As I figure, your feet are closer to the base, so you're probably better off running through the bag. But we knew this. His next time up, he ran through the bag as the third baseman for Omaha bobbled the ball, giving Arismendy Alcantara a shot with two on and nobody out. His ensuing double is why people like him to be in Wrigley as soon as the next Cubs trade involving a hitter.

With one on and two outs in the ninth, Alcantara fanned against the Storm Chasers closer, and it didn't appear to be a really good at bat to close a 4-3 Iowa loss. Nonetheless, it was fun to watch the trio of Bryant, Baez, and Alcantara in person, and the fireworks following were really well put-together as well. For my final visual memory of the night, as the I-Cubs were walking to the clubhouse behind the left-field wall, I saw Baez and Ramirez chatting about something. Probably, it was hitting-related. Probably it was in Spanish. And probably, the Cubs hiring Ramirez was a really good idea.

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