The Battle of Eastern Tennessee took the form of a pitcher’s duel on Friday night, but it was a relatively unknown starter for the Peoria Chiefs who had the best game of the evening. It’s too early to say if Francescon will replicate Robert Whitenack‘s meteoric ascension from last season, but I will definitely be watching his next appearance with interest.

AAA – Iowa Cubs. 1 – 1
Iowa almost pulled of a great come from behind win, but fell just short. They lost their first game of the season 4-3.

All four runs were given up by Casey Coleman, but the Iowa bullpen gave up just two hits (and five walks) over the final four innings. Jeff Beliveau struck out two in his inning of work, and Esmailin Caridad struck three over two frames to finish the game.

The Cub hitters had a tough job; they had to face Martin Perez, one of the best left handed pitching prospects in the game. Several of the future Cubs were up to the challenge. Josh Vitters picked up a single off the tough southpaw, Welington Castillo hit an RBI double, and Brett Jackson torched the lefty for a triple. When the Cubs rallied for two in the eight of the Round Rock bullpen, those same future Cubs were right in the thick of things. Unfortunately, the rally died with Jackson and Anthony Rizzo both in scoring position.

AA – Tennesse Smokies. 2 – 0
Fans in Chattanooga were treated to a fantastic pitching battle. Four Smokies pitchers combined for the shutout and Tennessee won 1-0.

Tennessee managed just five hits, including two each by Logan Watkins and Michael Burgess, but the only run came on a solo shot by Burgess in the sixth.

The real stars of the night are the pitchers. Trey McNutt needed to 72 pitches to get through three and two thirds innings, but despite coughing up two hits and three walks, he kept Chattanooga off the board. Jeffry Antigua picked up where McNutt left off, pitching two and a third scoreless innings. Alberto Cabrera tossed two zeros for the hold, and Frank Batista collected his second save of the young season, stranding the tying run on third in the process.

[From Brett: BN’er Jeff was at the game and reported a variety of interesting tidbits. Jeff said McNutt looked better than last year, with no one getting great contact off of him. His fastball was sitting in the low-90s, which is a tough low for McNutt, but Jeff said he looked physically good (maybe even had dropped a few pounds from last year, as well as the beard. Jeff said that Jeffrey Antigua looked very sharp, and Alberto Cabrera looked good, too. Jeff also had the pleasure of sitting next to Dallas Beeler for part of the game (Jeff called him a very nice guy), as well as Nick Struck (also a very nice guy). I had Jeff ask Nick if he was angling to become more of a strikeout pitcher after this week’s huge strikeout performance (Struck was a pitch-to-contact type last year), but Nick said that, no, he’s still all about getting early contact. Great stuff, Jeff.]

High A – Daytona Cubs. 1 – 1
Daytona got back to even with a 6-2 win. Even though Eric Jokisch had a good game, Ty’relle Harris gets the win and Tony Zych pitched the two inning save. It’s good to see that Harris is back on the mound after that horrible hit-and-run last season.

Rubi Silva and Arismendy Alcantara carried the offense with three hits a piece, including two doubles for Silva and a three run blast for Alcantara. The other highlight of the night probably belongs to Matt Szczur. With Szczur on second, Silva dropped a surprise bunt and Szczur somehow scores on the play. Even Campana would have been proud of that show of speed.

Granted, it is early in the season, but it is never too early to ogle unusual stat lines. Nelson Perez currently has a batting average of .000, but he has an OBP of .556 and a run scored. If he can keep that up all season, Brad Pitt might be playing him in Moneyball 2.

Low A – Peoria Chiefs. 1 – 1
Say hello to Patrick Francescon. He may not be the best known pitcher in the farm system, but he put up a very impressive performance by striking out nine in just four and two thirds. He handed a nasty jam to Luis Liria in the fifth, but Liria got out of it with just one run allowed. Unfortunately, Willengton Cruz gave up a grand slam seventh, and the Cheifs offense could not recover. Peoria took the loss 6-1.

There were no standout performances on the offense, but there were a couple of plays worth noting. Reggie Golden swiped his first base of the season. Wes Darvill scored the Cheifs’ only run when scored from first on a double by Eduardo Gonzalez.

I know we had some Bleacher Nation readers in attendance at some of these games, including that great pitching showcase in Chattanooga. If anyone else made it to a game last night, we’d all love to hear what you thought. Who knows, maybe Jed Hoyer himself will see your thoughts and be so impressed he offers you a job.

If that happens, maybe you can watch Brad Pitt play you when they make a movie out of it.

  • tim815

    I’m going to see Peoria in Beloit today. I’ll write something up.

    • Brett


    • Cedlandrum

      cool looks like Rosario is starting for the Chiefs. Very interested in your take on some of the young guys.

  • hcs

    Just wanted to say, a couple of days into the season, that I’m really enjoying your recaps. You bring a similar wit and style to that of Brett. Please keep up the good work.

    • DocPWimsey

      Banging the choir drum here (if that isn’t a mixed metaphor), but I umpteenth that. I’m not as hepped up about the Cubs system as some are, but it’s cool to read, and we also are going to get information (if less detailed) about the rest of the minors.

  • Cedlandrum

    Was at the Iowa Cubs game last night. It was cold. Coleman’s line doesn’t look good, but I thought he looked alright. He had more velocity then last year. He is really slow to the plate though.

    Not sure what was up with Beliveau during spring training but he was nasty last night. Hope that continues.

    I thought the lefty batters did good hanging in against Perez. Perez is very, very good. Jackson, Rizzo, Campana and Cardenas all took good swings for the most part. The rally with Rizzo and Jackson was against a lefty as well. Jackson is a very good athlete.

    Overall I thought the batters looked patient, even Vitters got a walk. 2 in 2 games.

    One last note. Sappelt is a good athlete. He is a bit bigger then I thought he would be. He isn’t tall, but he is well put together. He has a decent arm as well. he is a guy who probably does everything pretty well without having a plus-plus tool.

    • Brett

      Love it, Ced.

    • Mrp

      I wasn’t at the game but caught some of it online. Martin Perez looked really sharp last night and I was happy to see our guys have some good at bats off of him. Jackson just missed a home run on that triple.

      For all you Campana fans, he was thrown out trying to score the tying run on a Rizzo single up the middle. He was also was caught stealing earlier in the game. It appears as if maybe he is human after all and maybe would not have been able to score if he had pinch ran for Ian Stewart. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

      • Brett

        Ha. Thanks, Mrp.

  • miggy80

    Part of that rally was killed when Campana was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second on a sharp single to center field. Campana was also thrown out stealing second base. Coleman gave up back to back jacks both bombs! The first a two run shot to dead center. The next, like two pitches later, was a moon shot over the lights in left! Wellington’s two run double was about two feet from clearing the center field wall. Castillo had a really good night.

    • TWC

      I wonder if Campana’s trying too hard with his only real asset.

      • Cedlandrum

        Funny I actually was looking at the position of the outfielders when Campana tried for the steal. So I don’t know what kind of lead he had, but the throw was a dart. The play at the plate was just a baseball play. You send Campana in that situation. It was just a good play from Leonys Martin the Cuban Defector who is known for his plus defense and strong accurate arm.

        So I mean all that to say I don’t think Campana was trying to hard. He just wasn’t as good as his opposition. Also I said this earlier, but it was pretty cold so i am sure Campana wasn’t as loose as he will be as the weather warms.

        Those three outfielders for the Cubs can cover some serious ground.

    • Brett

      Thanks for that, Miggy.

    • Mrp

      Aww, Miggy beat me to it.

  • Luke

    I love that we are getting so many, excellent first hand accounts.  Great, great stuff.

    Starters for today’s games will be:

    Iowa – Rusin

    Tennessee – Beeler

    Daytona – Simpson

    Peoria – Rosario

    That is a very good group of starters.  All but Rusin were on Baseball America’s Top 30 list for the Cubs, and Rusin could be pitching in Chicago by the end of the year.

    • TWC

      Is that Hayden Simpson at Daytona?

      Let’s hope he throws a no-hitter then.

    • Brett

      Will be VERY interested to hear about Simpson’s start (and I’d especially love if we hear about his velocity).

      • Ron

        Me too, this is a great feature, love the minor league stuff. Great work both of you.

      • Luke

        I’m curious to see what Simpson has today (especially velocity), but I’m more interested in his cumulative numbers after half a dozen to a dozen starts or so.  Good or bad, we can’t read much into a single game for any player.  It’ll be encouraging if he can hit the low nineties with his fastball, but less so if he can’t repeat that after he’s pitched 40 innings on the season.

        • Brett

          I absolutely agree. But, today’s all we have today.

  • Caleb

    “Nelson Perez currently has a batting average of .000, but he has an OBP of .556 and a run scored. If he can keep that up all season, Brad Pitt might be playing him in Moneyball 2.”

    Ha! Good stuff- caught me off guard this morning!

  • Steve

    Jeff was right. Trey looked a lot slimmer, and to me looked to be laboring a bit. Not sure if it was noted, but the ball that Burgess hit out was a ROPE