As we were running a bit behind on the trip up to Beloit, I flipped on the radio to get the lineups. Beloit pitcher Dylan Covey was being interviewed. A highly-sought-after draft pick out of high school, due to a diabetes diagnosis, he chose to go to college as Kris Bryant's teammate. During the interview, he was asked if anything had surprised him in his trip through the Midwest League. He specified how nice the venues were in Dayton and Bowling Green. I've been attending games off and on at Telfer Park/Pohlman Field since the days of Juan Nieves in 1983 and I enjoy that venue immensely. That said, it has rarely gotten any upgrades since then. Covey wasn't disparaging the Beloit ballpark, but my dad and I both chuckled on the comment.
Scott Baker was on rehab Wednesday night. When a major league pitcher is on rehab, he is trying to get himself ready to play. Baker isn't a hard thrower to start with, and arm injuries, at least usually, sap arm strength initially. I wouldn't debate the readings of Wayne Randazzzo (who I met, along with Keaton Gilogly, the radio voices of the Cougars):
Baker at 33 pitches through 2 innings. Sitting around 85. Topped out at 89. #Cubs— Wayne Randazzo (@WayneRandazzo) July 25, 2013
The intriguing question with Baker is, what comes next? Barring a setback, he will be rostered soon. The conventional wisdom is to have him take Matt Garza's/Chris Rusin's spot. Nobody would fuss too much with a rotation of Jeff Samardzija/Travis Wood/Edwin Jackson/Carlos Villanueva/Baker down the stretch. However, with Tim Hudson's injury Wednesday in an already tight pitching market, is Carlos Villanueva's value higher than it ought to be? Baker will start. Many on the board (and in the rest of the Cubs fanbase) won't be very open to the "coming back from injury" line of reasoning in Baker's impending performance.
For the record, if the numbers are right, I would be good with bringing back Baker in 2014. However, I would be totally opposed to gifting Baker a rotation spot. The Cubs may or may not be Pittsburgh or Kansas City, but with Theo Epstein making decisions, this won't be a team heading into the new spring training venue with only 13 or 14 capable pitching options for April. That number will approach 20, with some being non-rostered options, intended for depth protection in Triple-A Iowa. Baker, or anyone, will have to earn a spot for opening day. I enjoy this philosophy.
Back to the game. Renato Nunez (pictured above) was a beast. His first homer cleared the tree beyond the scoreboard in left-center. It was ticketed for Janesville. It might have made it. (BTW, the couple in front of us were very helpful, and are tremendous minor-league fans. They travel with a high-end scorebook, know the players ages and back-stories, and helped me with my above geography question. The lack of rancor at minor league games is such a relief from most of the rest of life.) After a walk against Baker his second time up, he took Jose Rosario off the scoreboard his third trip to the plate. In a 5-1 game, he drove in four. He also channeled Graig Nettles at third. Not bad for a 19-year-old.
Rosario pitched well in relief. Normally, he would have started today. But with Baker getting the ball, Rosario started the fifth. I would buy any velocity readings on Rosario. He could have been mid-90's, and had some nice on-the-black strikeout pitches. But Nunez timed him up. With Rosario, as with many hard throwers, and all pitchers in general, it's about location. In relief, Nathan Dorris was good for an inning. That said, he and Dan Vogelbach got crossed up on a dribbler between the mound and first that led to the hitter reaching second.
The Tim-induced Cougars offensive slump continued. They hit laser beams at defenders, but those usually don't count for hits. Starting in the fifth, they seemed more opposite-field conscious, but base-running isn't a strength of the middle-of-the order hitters. Similar to some recent Cubs parent clubs, station-to-station base-running led to a three-single zero-run fifth inning. In the seventh inning, RF Reggie Golden finally ended the scoring drought with a double he drove past Nunez at third, driving home Jeimer Candelario. An eighth inning rally (It started by an Albert Almora single that Nunez was merely able to deflect. Everyone, from the left fielder to the second baseman, knew it was a single. Almora decided it was a double, though) ended on a fly ball to the track by Rock Shoulders.
Curiously, Gioskar Amaya and Christopher Bostick, both second basemen, were the only ones to wear their stirrups high. Bostick's were a little taller.
But, yeah. Renato Nunez.
Three Up/Three Down
Logan Watkins, 2B Triple-A Iowa. Since July 13, Watkins is 8-for-40 with seven strikeouts. That said, he has a four-game hitting streak, so he was very cold earlier.
Trevor Stevens, SS Mesa Cubs. The undrafted free agent from Northwestern is off to a slow start in the pro ranks. Hitless in ten tries, his saving grace would be the three walks that give him a .231 OPS.
Armando Rivero, P Low-A Kane County. While his last two outings show signs of improvement, in his last four outings, over seven innings, he's given up six earned runs. Two were homers. He has walked five over the span.
Javier Baez, SS Double-A Tennessee. Since July 12, Baez is hitting .293 at his new level. He has five homers and an OPS of 1.073.
Reggie Golden, OF Low-A Kane County. In his last eight games, he has hit safely in seven, going 8-for-30. He has two homers in the stretch.
Cael Brockmeyer, C Short-Season Boise. Since July 12, Brockmeyer is hitting .382 and his OPS is .962 without the benefit of any homers.
Francisco Carillo, P Venezuelan Cubs. Over Carillo's last ten appearances, all in relief, he is 5-1. Over the nearly 32 innings, he has surrendered 22 hits, fanned 25, and walked nobody. That said, at 23, the line from the "Smokey And the Bandit" theme comes into play. "Long way to go, and a short time to get there."
Jose Paulino, P Dominican League Cubs. While the grain of salt used for DSL stats is even smaller than the usual grain of 'small-sample-size' salt, Paulino is on a roll. After a slow start in the DSL this year, he is in control his last four outings. He has thrown just under 20 innings, won all four games, surrendered 13 hits, a walk, three runs, two earned, and fanned 28. By the way, he was born in 1995. The 6-2, 165-pound lefty figures to be in Mesa next season.