It took awhile for things to come together, but it looks like my first minor league road trip of the season will definitely happen later this month. My wife and I will making the drive from Baltimore down to Eastern Tennessee in late August, and we will be at the Tennessee Smokies home ballpark on Thursday, August 23 and Friday, August 24. For both games we will be sitting in Row 1 of Section 104, just to the outfield side of the Smokies’ dugout.

Any local Bleacher Nations readers, or readers who feel up to a late August road trip, are welcome to track us down at the games. Naturally, we’ll be wearing our fine Bleacher Nation apparel to at least one of those contests.

It is always a pleasure to meet and talk Cubs with the fans at minor league games, and we all know that Bleacher Nation fans are the best fans of them all. So check your calendars, buy your tickets, plan your road trips, and I’ll see you at the ballpark in just a few weeks.

Scores From Yesterday

Iowa – The Iowa Cubs found themselves in an unlikely pitchers’ duel on Monday night, but they could not close out the win. The Cubs lost this one 2-1.
Tennessee – The Smokies rallied in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough. They fell 7-6.
Daytona – The Daytona Cubs had Monday off.
Peoria – Peoria took a early lead, but they could not hold on to that lead late. They lost this one by a score of a 8-6.
Boise – It was an ugly game in which both teams committed four errors, but Boise came out of it with an 11-7 win.
Arizona – The Cubs pushed this game into ten innings, but they could not come up with the win. The final in ten was 10-8.

Performances of the Day

  • [Iowa] Frankie De La Cruz pitched five solid innings for the Cubs. He struck out four while allowing a run on five hits. The three walks were a problem, but he did keep the Cubs’ in the game.
  • [Iowa] As is typical of a pitchers’ duel, there was not a lot of offense in Iowa last night. Greg Rohan and Blake Lalli each had two hits, but that’s about it.
  • [Iowa] Tony Campana has not been in Iowa very long this year, but after his two steals in Monday’s game he has now 10 Triple A steals in just 15 games.
  • [Tennessee] Junior Lake and Justin Bour both homered. Lake’s two run shot came in the ninth inning and pulled Tennessee within one.
  • [Tennessee] Matthew Szczur enjoyed one of his better games as a Smokie. He finished 2 for 5 with a double and a stolen base.
  • [Peoria] Catcher Chadd Krist had a somewhat unusual game. He finished 0 for 2 with two walks and two runs scored.
  • [Peoria] Zeke DeVoss stole his 30th base of the season on Monday. Oliver Zapata stole his 14th.
  • [Boise] Gioskar Amaya rebounded from one of his worst career games by going 3 for 5 with his sixth home run.
  • [Boise] Also homering for Boise were Stephen Bruno (his second) and Carlos Escobar (his first).
  • [Boise] Nathan Dorris struck out three of the final four batters en route to his first save.
  • [Arizona] 2012 draftees Pierce Johnson and Jasvir Rakkar both pitched two innings, both allowed two hits, and both struck out two. They both had a pretty good day.
  • [Arizona] After a mysterious absence (he was probably sick), Jorge Soler returned to the lineup on Monday. He reached twice on a single and a walk and scored both times.
  • [Arizona] Catcher Justin Marra finished the game 3 for 4 with a double. He also cut down one of the two runners to tried to steal while he was behind the plate.

Other Minor League Notes

  • Photographer Dylan Heuer was at the Iowa Cubs game on Monday, and once again he has posted a number of great pictures to his website. In addition to seeing some excellent shots of Tony Campana being Tony Campana, now is also your chance to finally find out what Greg Rohan and Frankie De La Cruz actually look like.
  • Facing off against De La Cruz and the Cubs in Iowa last night was Arizona’s Trevor Bauer, one of the best pitching prospects in baseball and the guy who is causing many coaches to rethink their own methods with his unusual training and warm up routines. Combined, the Cubs tagged him for five hits and two walks.
  • The rapid promotion of Lendy Castillo continues. The rehabbing right hander started the game and pitched two innings in Tennessee. He used 28 pitches to give up a run on a hit and a walk while striking out two. That is a much smaller workload than he had been getting. It will be interesting to see if he continues to start as he works his way up the minors, or if the Cubs are about to slot him back into the bullpen.
  • The Boise Hawks remain in first place, and they have stretched their lead to three games.
  • The AZL Cubs have again slipped to second in their division, one game behind the A’s. They remain in playoff position, however, thanks to the Wild Card. The Cubs currently have the second best record in the league.
  • Featherstone

    Hi Luke, I have a question about Lendy Castillo. I know when the Cubs selected him with the rule 5 draft they saw an arm they really liked, but he was getting pretty overmatched in the big leagues. My questions are: Do you see him likely slated for a role in the bullpen or to continue his recent trend as a starter and also how many days do the cubs still have to keep him at the major league level to keep him? Thank you

    • Luke

      I’ll defer to Brett on the number of days he needs to be in the majors. I think he’s kept somewhat close tabs on that. I suspect he needs to be up sometime in August, but I can’t be more exact than that.

      I think he will be a reliever when he is called up. That is a large part of why it has been so surprising for me that he had been starting on this rehab trip up the minors.

      • Mysterious4th

        He does have to be in the bigs before the sept 1st roster expansion to collect more of the 90 days we need to keep him and have the ability to option him down to AAA if needed but at this point we cant . Hence DL stint to get him work in the minors

      • Brett

        He needs to be on the active, 25-man roster for 90 days. I’ll be recalculating at some point, but I believe he was half-way there when he “got hurt.” So, he’ll need to come back up within the next week or two if the Cubs want to accumulate those 90 days this season (you can carry forward to the next year, but I’m sure the Cubs would rather have him start out next season in the minors).

    • dabynsky

      Not Brett or Luke, but I am pretty sure he has to be on the active roster for 90 days. I believe he has 40 days prior to go on the DL. If correct he is going to have to be called up within the next week to make it, which would fit his rehab schedule making it AA this week.

      • CubFan Paul

        I read somewhere that he had to be called up by July 31st because that’s the 30 day rehab limit for pitchers. Don’t quote me

      • Featherstone

        Thanks for the info guys.

      • Brett

        Missed this, but, yes.

    • HackAttack

      Lendy needs to be activated by August 13 and finish the season on the active roster to satisfy the rule 5 requirements. Or he could start 2013 with the big club and be sent down after he gets his 90 days.

  • Brandon – AA Correspondent


    Looking forward to seeing you at Smokies Park those days. My seats are in Row 1 of Section 106 above the Smokies dugout. If you have any questions about the area or the ballpark prior to your trip, just let me know.

    See you there.

    • Cubs Psychologist


      Glad to hear you are making a trip down south. I live in Lexington which is 3 and half hours from the Smokies ball park. I may have to sneak down for a short visit. Safe travels!!

  • donnie kessinger

    Luke, I was wondering what your take is on Junior Lake. I know he is considered raw by some accounts, but do you see steady development? How soon do you see him being major league ready?

    • Brandon – AA Correspondent


      While Luke contructs his response…I thought I may offer mine. Take it for what it may be worth…..this and $4 will get you a coke at the snack bar at Smokies park. I have full season tix to the Smokies and have seen Junior Lake play a lot over the past 2 seasons.

      This guy has a lot of potential and possesses the tools to be an impact player if/when he decides he wants to be that type of player. I have been critical of his play because he has been pretty inconsistant. As a hitter, he has shown that he can hit the fastball (like all good players should), and I am also pretty impressed with his ability to bunt for a base hit. His ability to hit off speed and curve balls is at times…down right laughable. He does not hit very well in the clutch and strikes out more than he should. His batting average is inflated with several meaningless bases empty hits and bunts. As a hitter who can be depended on to deliver in the clutch…..he is lacking. have not seen him get a 2 out hit with RISP in over a month. Also of concern…..he does not appear to have the respect of his teammates and coaches….which is a sign that he is not well liked.

      Defensively, I have seen flashes of brilliance. Lately, he has actually been fairly solid on the routine plays….which is what I’d like to continue to see from him. But, there have been several times throughout the year when you simply do not know what you are going to get from Junior (defensively). He has a rocket for an arm, and has (at times) been pretty wild with some of his throws. He has had several brain cramps in the field which is also a concern. But remember….Derek Jeter had some pretty attrocious minor league fielding statistics himself… you never know.

      Perhaps my biggest issue with Junior Lake is that he does not seem to respect the opportunity he has been given. Coming up, he probably ha sbeen the best player on his team……but he is clearly NOT the best player now. He is a very sloppy player (uniform constantly untucked) and he appears to play at varying levels of speed (plays hard some days…..and very lazy on others). he does not conduct himself as a profesional at all. But hey….he is 22. Again, I know this sounds critical…but it is because I have seen the positive skills that make me believe that he could be something special. He is a 40-man roster guy, and may get a late season call up just for a quick look…but I think the brass in Chicago will quickly see that this guy needs a lot more work. If I had to guess, he may start next season in AAA…..but I could also see him starting back in AA as a wake up call to get serious before his career de-rails.

      Just my 2 cents…..


      • CubFan Paul

        “if/when he decides he wants to be that type of player..he does not seem to respect the opportunity he has been given…he does not appear to have the respect of his teammates and coaches….which is a sign that he is not well liked”

        This may sound critical but what the heck do you know from stands? That’s a rhetorical question because those are your opinions. But stay out of the kid’s head as if you know what he’s thinking (or what others think of him)

        • Brandon – AA Correspondent

          Cubfan Paul,

          Fair points…yes….these are my opinions, based on my observations. I see myself as more than a casual fan. I’d like to think that I am a smart fan who knows what good play looks like based on years of season ticket holding at MLB games (in San Diego) and now at the minor league level here in East TN.

          It is also important to note that these opinions are not only mine…..but are also the opinions of several current teammates whom I have developed relationships with this season. This is more than “1 mans opinion”.


          • CubFan Paul

            I hate it when people gossip

          • auggie1955

            Brandon, unlike some people I really appreciated your remarks on Junior Lake. Given that you have watched him play numerous times I approve of the fact that you lent your opinion.

            • Brandon – AA Correspondent

              Thanks Auggie.

              Trust me…i’m not offended when people don’t agree with me. I enjoy posting my thoughts on this blog, and feel that the beauty of blogs like this is that it provides a forum for people to state their thoughts and opinions on these players.

              I love baseball and I love the Smokies. I even like the Cubs (really a Padres fan) because I get to see the MLB team take shape through the minor leagues.

              Every time a minor leaguer gets the call to the Big Leagues, and I have watched them as a minor leaguer….I feel good. This has been a great few days for me personally as Josh Vitters, Brett Jackson and now Brooks Raley are getting to see their dreams come true. I get to say…that I saw em in AA last season. Pretty neat feeling.

              • Joker

                For what it’s worth Brandon, your take on Lake is exactly the same that I developed after seeing them play over the 4th of July weekend in Chattanooga. He seems to be indifferent and going through the motions.

      • stillmisskennyhubbs

        That is more than two cents….I think it’s a nickel opinion.
        I agree with not getting into his head or “what teammates think of him.” It’s so easy to label a kid this way or that, and it sticks with him unfairly.
        As to his clutch-ness, I saw him hit homers to take the lead twice in two games against the Suns recently. At least one of them was the game-winning difference.
        Also, you fail to mention that by and large he has been raking since he made the adjustment to a wider stance.
        Don’t give up on this talent, and better still, don’t pigeonhole developing prospects.

        • Jim L.

          Very well said.

    • Luke

      Lake has a ton of potential, but he needs just as much polish. He has one of the highest ceilings in the farm system, but he is also one of the biggest risks. Players like that can be tough to project.

      I think he definitely has major league talent and tools, but I do not think he has a long term future with the Cubs.

  • Spriggs

    Rakkar and Johnson indeed had good games last night. Rakkar has a deceptive motion and throws hard. He could be someone to watch. Johnson has a smooth delivery, and also threw pretty hard last night. He was ahead of all the hitters.

    With those two guys plus Underwood, Maples, McNeil, Blackburn, Prieto and Lang (plus Conway, who hasn’t pitched yet) – I’d say most of the potential high end pitching talent in the system is right here in Mesa. Pretty fun and interesting to watch this year.

    Almora hasn’t looked great at the plate, but in the field he is something else. Made 3 outstanding plays yesterday, including a diving catch (where his knee took out a divot the size Geovany Soto in the soft outfield turf). Play was stopped for a few minutes and the trainer and coaches ran out to tend to Almora. I quickly envisioned one of Brett’s “Wrath” articles, but thank goodness he was ok. He later gunned down a runner at home. Very good, but not great, arm. He’s accurate and knows exactly what to do and where to throw.

    Solar actually reached base 4 times last night (in addition to the walk and single, he got on base on an E-4 and a HBP. He runs the bases very well. What a marvelous looking athlete.

    • mak

      I take it you were at the game? What are your thoughts on Carlos Martinez? Before last night’s ugly outing, he was untouchable. His BB/K numbers are great, and even with that rough outing last night, his numbes are pretty stellar.

      • Spriggs

        Yes, indeed. The big power pitcher has looked unhittable for the most part every other time I’ve seen him. Looks very intimidating on the mound. He’s a 21 year old who looks more like he’s about 25 or so. (Sort of how you might say Lebron James looked old for his age when he started?). A couple of the hits early on in the big inning were very lucky seeing eye grounders that eeked through, but he was squared up pretty good after that (Almora threw a guy out at the plate which saved him another run). I didn’t think he’d stay in Mesa long, but obviously he’s still here. Definitely worth keeping tabs on his progress!

        • Mak

          Thanks for the report! Havent heard much about him but following him in box scores. Expected him to see boise this month before last night.

  • Fastball

    If you are driving down from Baltimore area you are going to love the drive. On your way through the mountains I would take the Blue Ridge Skyway from Virginia all the way down into the Smokies. You can catch 40W and head over to Knoxville. If you can take a day trip go out south of Gatlinburg through the Smokie Mt Park. It’s the prettiest drive you might ever make in your life. I take about 4 motorcycle trips a year down there. If you have a sports car or a nice handling sedan the Tail Of The Dragon and Cherahola Skyway are the most awesome drives. I ride all over down there and love every minute of it. About 3 years ago I fell in love with east Tennessee and West North Carolina and South Carolina. So much so that the wife and I are moving down there from Ohio. Great place to be in retirement.

    • Sweetjamesjones

      Yeah, as a Tennessee native, definitely check out the Smokies, Gatlinburg, and get a “old timey picture” made in Pigeon Forge.

      You will love Tennessee!

      • Leroy

        Amen to that! Loved Tennessee when I was stationed there, can’t wait to go back!

      • TWC

        I highly recommend tracking down Bill Bryson’s description of Gatlinburg from A Walk In The Woods. I don’t really care much for Bryson (I think he’s often way, way, way too proud of himself), but his screed on Gatlinburg is a riot. It’s not charitable.

        • Katie

          Bill Bryson grew up 2 blocks away from my dad and went to school with him. His stories about growing up in Des Moines are pretty funny.

          • TWC

            I agree, and his ‘across America’ (can’t remember the title) book was his best, AFAIC.

            • Katie

              Except from “The Life And Times of A Thunderbolt Kid” which I thought was applicable here, so indulge me:

              Baseball, like everything else, was part of a simpler world in those days, and I was allowed to go with him into the clubhouse and dugout and onto the field before games. I have had my hair tousled by Stan Musial. I have handed Willie Mays a ball that had skittered past him as he played catch. I have lent my binoculars to Harvey Kuenn (or possibly it was Billy Hoeft) so that he could scope some busty blonde in the upper deck. Once on a hot July afternoon I sat in a nearly airless clubhouse under the left–field grandstand at Wrigley Field beside Ernie Banks, the Cubs’ great shortstop, as he autographed boxes of new white baseballs (which are, incidentally, one of the most pleasurably aromatic things on earth, and worth spending time around anyway). Unbidden, I took it upon myself to sit beside him and pass him each new ball. This slowed the process considerably, but he gave a little smile each time and said thank you as if I had done him quite a favor. He was the nicest human being I have ever met. It was like being friends with God.

              • Spriggs


              • stillmisskennyhubbs

                Sweet ! Thanks.

              • TonyP

                “It was like being friends with God” awesome!

      • Luke

        I lived in Nashville area for a couple of years, and I drove through the Chattanooga area several time when I lived in Florida and was traveling to visit family, but this will be my first trip into the Smokey Mountains proper.

        We’ve got a couple ideas for things to hit, but we’re the type who also enjoy just seeing where the road takes us.


    We go to several Smokies games a year. Nice park and the fans are great. Just saw my first Daytona game last week. Its a small older park. Tennessee hands down is the better experience.

  • donnie kessinger

    Great inside stuff Brandon… I have read your post before and I respect your knowlege and take it as a factual honest critique – exactly what I what I wanting to hear. I really like Lake, and hopefully he will continue to polish. That’s why he is in the minors, to learn and improve. Hopefully he will see the areas he needs to work on.

    • Brandon – AA Correspondent

      Thanks Donnie.

      I agree with you….hopefully Junior will see the areas where he needs to learn and improve and continue to work on those areas. Trust me….I root for the kid every night.

  • auggie1955

    In the past Hendry and the Cubs would always schedule one of the Cubs minor league affiliates to play at Wrigley in August. I never went to any, but this season I would go because there are a number of young players I would like to see. Only problem is I don’t believe Theo has scheduled any of the minor league teams to play at Wrigley.

  • chirogerg

    OMG Rohan looks like a mix between one of our local high school umpires and Derek Jeter.