What really goes on in extended spring training?
I'll be entirely honest: In order to discuss it, I really have to connect the dots. I figure I'm fairly close, though. Anyone the team wants to take a look at, but didn't get assigned to a full season affiliate, is at extended spring training. This could be players who are injured. Or players like Tyler Ihrig and Erick Leal, fighting for spots in Boise when June rolls around. Some players, like Giuseppe Papaccio, kept their game warm in Mesa until the inevitable injury occurred. Papaccio has now played in Double-A Tennessee, and High-A Daytona. Needless to say, extended spring training is a bit of a mish-mash.
As are the games.
Some of you remember in spring training how the Cubs had some (legitimate) four-out innings. Not the variety where errors made the pitcher work extra hard. The type where, after three outs are recorded, another batter gets to hit. Those, and two-out innings, are par for the course in extended spring. Games are either single games, or two games simultaneous, depending on which pitchers need work.
Games won't necessarily go nine innings. Sometimes, one team will hit ten times, and the other eight. Again, depending upon how many arms are ready. By monitoring innings pitched by youngsters, you can get an idea of who will be considered a starter in June. (Remember that 2014 draft picks will likely get in fewer than 20 innings. Regardless how much, or little, hype they have, they will get in "some" work. Unless they are injured.)
The source for Arizona news is The Cub Reporter. I don't usually plug the competition, but AZ Phil is, frankly, unmatched in monitoring the goings-on in Mesa beyond spring training. And on roster stuff. Yeah, I spend some time there. In today's read, you get to find out that the game in Talking Stick was delayed and shortened due to, I'm completely serious, a suicide threat shutting down a highway the Cubs bus was on. I wish everyone the best.
Read enough there, and you'll realize two things. Some guys are lining themselves up for innings in games that matter in June. Leal, Trevors Clifton and Graham, Ihrig, and maybe even Zak Hermans are looking at being in line for starting rotation roles in Boise. Of course, it is still very early.
The other thing involves knowing some history from Mesa. It appears that the control out there is better now. That is not a Universal truth. Nonetheless, while we are fussing about this prospect or that veteran, they're waking up before six in the morning most days to get in a full day of work. They want to get to a full season league, sooner than later.
Or, at least, that's how I have it figured.
Three Up/Three Down
Tennessee center fielder Zeke DeVoss is 1-for-21 since April 14.
Tennessee reliever Tony Zych has pitched in eight games. He has pitched eight innings. He has given up eight runs on 19 hits.
Daytona third baseman Jeimer Candelario is 4-for-35 since April 13.
Daury Torrez took a perfect game to the sixth inning. Then he backed it up by taking a perfect game to the fifth inning. You might guess that Torrez was on a few people's lists of "intriguing arms," but he was by no means guaranteed a ticket to full season ball. He had to earn it in Arizona. The rotation of Paul Blackburn, Duane Underwood, Torrez, Jen-Ho Tseng, and Tyler Skulina is about as good as any rotation that the Cubs have had at that level, at least that I've heard discussed. I was happy when the Peoria Chiefs had Casey Coleman, Justin Bristow, Chris Archer, Aaron Shafer, and Marcus Hatley in 2009. This rotation seems deeper.
Iowa's (Triple-A) pitching. In the 16-team Pacific Coast League, the I-Cubs have the best WHIP at 1.12. I was stunned they are doing that well. Small sample size applies, but it didn't take long a few years back for them to be buried in the back of the pack. Of the five pitchers over 20 innings pitched, Chris Rusin (1.37) has the highest WHIP.
Iowa's Chris Valaika has an OPS of .962 over his last 10 games.
Kane County (Low-A) catcher Will Remillard started the year 2-for-19. Since then, he is 11-for-22.
Daytona (High-A) second baseman Gioskar Amaya has an OPS of 1.046. With one extra-base hit in 44 plate appearances.