With great games in Peoria and Iowa, pitching was the star on Sunday. Off the mound, a number of known prospects and intriguing fringe guys had pretty good days in their own right. How many of them did you see? Remember, if you attended any games over the weekend (or at any other time during the season) we’d love to hear about them. The comments are a great place to post your observations, and so are the Message Boards. Whether you have a scouting report on Wes Darvill or a first hand account of the best food in the Chief’s ballpark, we welcome all pictures and reports from any of the Cubs minor league teams.

AAA – Iowa Cubs. 8 – 10
When Iowa went to the ballpark on Sunday morning, their bullpen was undermanned, overworked, and exhausted. More than anything else, they needed starter Chris Rusin to eat up a big chunk of innings to allow the pen a day to rest. Rusin had bigger ideas. Not only did he pitch eight innings, he allowed just two hits on the way to a sparkling 2-1 win.

Blake Parker allowed a run in the ninth inning as he collected the save, but Rusin could probably have gone the distance. According to the box score, he finished the eighth with a pitch count of 93.

Adrian Cardenas tripled, Anthony Rizzo and Welington Castillo both doubled, and Rusin drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Brett Jackson did not have a hit, but he didn’t strike out either. Jackson probably does need a few more weeks in Iowa, but Rizzo, Castillo, and Cardenas could be ready at any time. The Cubs won’t rush any of their young players, but as we saw this weekend, call ups can happen at any time.

AA – Tennesse Smokies. 9 – 9
Tennessee led early and rallied late, but they finished up a run short. The Smokies fell 7-6.

Ryan Searle pitched the first four innings, earning his first loss of the season. Casey Weathers, Casey Harman, and Daniel Berlind all pitched in relief. Harman probably had the best day of the bunch (2.1 innings, 4H, 1R, 1BB, 3K) but no one had a truly great performance.

Logan Watkins continued his good start to the season with a single and a triple, and Rebel Ridling added two doubles, but the Smokies late rallies just fell short.

In 67 AB across 18 games, Watkins is now hitting .299/.382/.388 with a double, a triple, a home run, and four stolen bases. He has walked eight times against eleven strikeouts. If Adrian Cardenas is promoted to Chicago at some point in the near future, it will be very tempting for the Cubs to give Watkins a chance to hit Triple A pitching.

High A – Daytona Cubs. 5 – 11
Daytona is going streaking! The formerly hapless Cubs have now won their third straight game in decisive fashion. The final in this win was a comfortable 6-2.

The Cubs pieced this game together with the bullpen. Matt Loosen, Brett Wallach, Ty’relle Harris, Brian Schlitter, and Tony Zych all pitched in the game. Ty’relle Harris earned the win despite being the only pitcher in this list to allow a run.

Ronald Torreyes and Rubi Silva both tripled. Elieser Bonne contributed his second home run of the season as the Cubs made the most of their seven hits to push six runs across the plate. Once again, the Cubs’ hitters helped their own efforts by playing error-less defense.

Low A – Peoria Chiefs. 7 – 10
It was a chilly 58 degrees in Peoria on Sunday afternoon, but those fans who made it to the ballpark were treated to a fantastic pitching performance. Patrick Francescon, Andrew McKirahan, and Jeffrey Lorick combined to throw a two hit shutout against Lansing. Peoria won 2-0.

Francescon was fantastic. In seven innings he allowed one hit, one walk, and struck out five. When he is good, Francescon might be the best starter in this rotation. Michael Jensen has been very good and very consistent, but Francescon now has pitched two absolute gems. We will continue to follow both these guys with interest.

McKirahan and Lorick should not be ignored in this game. Neither one has allowed an earned run this season. As any Cub fan can tell you, a good team needs a good bullpen. With guys like these two, among others, the Cubs are well on their way to building a good bullpen from within.

Zeke DeVoss had two hits and accounted for one of the Chiefs’ two runs. The other was scored by… who else?… Oliver Zapata.

  • Ryno G

    McNutt also to the DL with blisters again. Slowly losing a lot of my faith that he ever becomes a SP in MLB, whether that be due to never being able to work long into the games or injuries. I doubt Cubs give up on him just yet, but his star is certainly fading.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      If he never becomes a starter in the majors, he should still have a very good career as a late inning reliever.  I’d rather see him start, but I wouldn’t say know to a 8th/9th inning combo of Dolis and McNutt for the next ten years, either.

  • TampaCubsPhan

    Whats going on with Junior Lake??? Haven’t heard any news on him this year. Did he stay back for extended spring training and if so, what does that exactly mean?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      He’s rehabbing an injury at extended Spring Training. Haven’t got much more of an update than that.

  • brittney

    Love these updates! I really hope the trio you mentioned that could be ready for the call to the bigs get it soon! If not I see the seats being more and more empty as the year goes on. In your opinion who will be out to make room for bowden on the 25 man roster? S. Camp?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Lendy Castillo would make sense, if the Cubs can swing a deal with the Phillies.  I’d rather not give him up altogether, but he would be better off in Tennessee or Daytona than Chicago.

  • Steve

    Junior Lake….

  • ShootTheGoat

    Does anyone know why Hayden Simpson was scratched from his Sunday start?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      The way the Daytona Cubs talked, and the Daytona area press, he wasn’t scratched.  Loosen was intended to start when he came off the DL all along.

      It could be they are going to move Simpson into the bullpen for awhile (which would make sense).  It could also be that there is some minor, non-DL worthy injury or illness going on.  We should know in a few days what is happening.

      • ShootTheGoat

        The night before, I checked to see who was pitching and he was listed as starter on Daytona’s website. Just made me wonder if he was hurt.

  • Rynomite

    Torreyes has an OPS+ of 136 at Daytona so far. I think history will eventually judge the Marshall deal kindly.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    Today’s minor league starters.

    Iowa (12:05 CDT) – Jay Jackson.  Let’s see if he can match Rusin’s masterpiece from yesterday.

    Tennessee ( 7:15 EDT) – Dallas Beeler.  So far, he has an ERA of 1.08.

    Daytona (7:05 EDT) – Zach Cates.  The other guy in the Rizzo trade is looking for his first good start of the season.

    Peoria (6:30 CDT) – Jose Rosario.  Rosario is an intriguing arm, but we’re still not sure how good he can be.

  • Brandon

    I’ve been to just about every game at AA Tennessee this season and to date, Logan Watkins has impressed me the most. He seems to have the best “idea” when he gets up to bat, and simply has not looked overwhelmed. Rebel Ridling is heating up and Mike Burgess hits the ball real hard when he squares it up. Jae-Hoon Ha hasn’t hit his first HR yet, but I’ve seen the power last season and know it is coming soon. He is still playing a stellar CF. Juan Apodaca behind the plate has been impressive and is much better in all phases than Mike Brenly. Elliott Soto has played a very good shortstop so far. Great range, and strong arm. Ty Wright is murdering AA pitching since his return from Iowa. Pretty clear he was not very happy with his reassignment.

    On the pitching front, Brooks Raley is the class of the group. Dallas Beeler and Dae-Eun Rhee have also been very good. McNutt is hurt (again). Nick Struck has been very good….but his mowhawk is TERRIBLE.

    Relief corps has been inconsistant. Kevin Rhoderick and Frank Batista are very good and dominant at times. And for the life of me, I don’t know how Jeffry Antigua gets people out….but he does. He throws so slow, I feel like I am watching Jamie Moyer pitch…but he has been very effective. Casey Harman made his debut yesterday and looked confident and poised. Gave up a few hits, but I like the looks of this left hander. Not sure how he got a black eye already, but I am sure it’s a good story. I like the looks of Ryan Searle as a starter….he just needs to be stretched out a bit more and I think he’ll be just fine. Hatley, Weathers and Berlind have been shaky….but I believe they are going to be fine. Berlind is on the shortest leash in my opinion….but I don’t think we can give up on these guys yet…but there sure willbe some folks in Daytona who will push.


    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Love it.  Great stuff.

      Two questions (to start with): what pitches does Batista have?  He’s had success as a closer at two different levels, but scouts don’t seem too hyped on his stuff.  I’m just curious what stuff he has.

      And as for Burgess – how is his pitch selection?  He’s having one of the best years he had as a professional, and I’m wondering if that’s a lucky streak of if he looks like he’s turned the corner and knows what he’s doing at the plate.  If Burgess can start making some consistent contact to go with his enormous power, the Cubs might have their right fielder of the future.

  • Brandon

    I’ve only seen Batista once in a save situation at home, and his fastball was good. I seem to recall a pretty decent changeup as well….but I will look more closely the next time I see him. His biggest asset seems to be the fact he is fearless. Both he and Rhoderick are the smallest guys on the team (height wise) but both have a sense of fearlessness on the mound. When either of these guys are in a game, I like our chances.

    As for Burgess….he has had a few strikeouts this season, and appears to be able to be beaten on the high fastball…..but again, when is is getting ready to hit, he has a sense of total belonging. Not at all intimidated. I seen several good ABs’ where he fouls off pitches to stay alive only to sizzle a line drive for a hit. The first few home games it appeared as if he was a little timid. They are batting him 6th and 7th which I believe will change soon…..and I don’t think he ever has felt comfortable that far down in the order. I am waiting so see one of his tape measure HRs but I’ve seen plenty of line drives, and even some very good opposite field liners to drive in runs. He is poised. Confident and I believe going to have a very good season. He is short and stalky, and glides in the outfield but seems to get to everything and has a very good arm. I think a full year in AA will do wonders for him, and put him back on people’s radar.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      You’ll have to head north a bit to see Batista.  He was called to Iowa late last week.

  • Dick

    Curiousity question – where is Abner Abreu? Extended spring training?

    BTW- Thanks for the scouting report, Brandon. That was very good!