The Cubs top two high school hurlers selected last year take the next step in their pro careers as right-handers Paul Blackburn and Duane Underwood leave the heat of Arizona for the Northwest League and short-season Boise. Outfielder Shawon Dunston and first baseman Trevor Gretzky, you may have heard of their dads, have also been named to opening day roster.The Hawks open the season on Friday, June 14, with three games at Eugene and hold their home opener June 17 against Salem-Kaizer.
Right-hander James Pugliese, 20, will get the opening night starting nod against Eugene as the 2011 18th-round draft pick made 11 starts for the Hawks last season (1-5 5.37 ERA). After seeing the rest of Boise's starting rotation advance to Kane County, Pugliese stayed behind at extended spring training working on a new delivery.
Blackburn was the 56th pick in the last year's draft as the right-hander from Heritage High School in Brentwood, California, tossed 20 innings in the Arizona Rookie League after signing. The 19-year-old will get the start on Saturday night in Eugene.
The 18-year-old Underwood (2nd Round) has a live arm and was clocked in the upper 90s as a high school pitcher in Georgia. He threw in five games at Mesa with seven strikeouts and six walks in 8.2 IP.
One right-hander to keep an eye on is Cuban Carlos Martinez, 22, who signed a $250,000 bonus in December of 2011 and was named an Arizona League all-star last year for Mesa fanning 44 in 43.1 IP with a 3.53 ERA.
The Boise staff also includes five other 2012 draft picks, including Trey Lang, a sixth-round pick out of Gateway CC in Arizona. Lang pitched in seven games after signing last summer with 16 strikeouts in 13.2 innings with two walks. Other members of the 2012 draft class are RHP Corbin Hoffner (14th Round), RHP Michael Hamann (16th Round), RHP Jasvir Rakkar (26th Round), RHP Tyler Bremer (27th Round). There are links on each player page to stories on all the 2012 pitchers drafted.
Other arms in Boise are 20-year-old RH Ethan Elias, a 2011 draft pick and a member of the Canadian Junior National team; LH Matt Iannazzo, a free agent signed in 2012 from the University of Pittsburgh who pitched in four games at Kane County this year; RH Loiger Padron, a 22-year-old Venezuelan who spent four years in the DSL before throwing in 12 games last season in Mesa; and RH Orbandy Rodriguez, a 6-foot-6, 24-year-old who hasn't pitched since 2009.
Boise fans will get a first-hand look at slick fielding 19-year-old shortstop Carlos Penalver. The six-foot Venezuelan hit .273/.341/.322 in 49 games in the Arizona Rookie League last year. Penalver signed a $550,00 bonus on July 2, 2010, and spent 2011 in the Dominican Summer League (.272/.364/.341) in 72 games. He's swiped 28 bags in 40 attempts as a pro.
Trevor Gretzky, the son of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, plays his first pro games outside of Arizona after being selected in the 7th round in 2011. Gretzky hit (304/.372/.330) in 35 games in Mesa last season and plays first base and the outfield. Middle infielder David Bote (8th Round-2012) will be on his third team of the season playing four games for Daytona to start the year and then logging 17 more games at Kane County (.143/.308/.214). Daniel Lockhart, 20, (10th Round-2011) is the son of Cubs area scout Keith Lockhart and spent the last two years in the Rookie League. Also on the infield is 3B Jacob Rogers (40th Round-2012), who played at Mesa and Peoria last year (.326/.462/.507). The left-hander hit four homers in 42 games.
For the second straight season, OF Shawon Dunston begins the year at Boise after struggling last year in 19 games (.185/.254/.323) but responded to the promotion back to Mesa (.286/.357/.410) in 161 at-bats with 4 SB. His dad, Shawon Sr., played shortstop for the Cubs for 12 seasons.
OF/1B Jose Dore, 21, acquired from the Padres in March for PTBN/cash, has played 50 games in MWL (.222/.287/.345) and missed most of 2012 with an injury. He was an 8th round pick in 2010 by San Diego. OF Yasiel Balaguert, a 20-year-old Cuban, began 2012 at Peoria (.208/.232/.262) in 39 games and then played 32 games in Mesa hitting .235 with two homers. The final outfielder is Kevin Encarnacion, a 21-year-old switch hitter in his first season stateside after three years in the DSL.
Three catchers will be sharing playing time including 20-year-old Justin Marra, a left-handed bat who was a member of the Canadian Junior National team. He hit .322/.457/.467 in 29 games at Mesa last year. Lance Rymel, 23, a 28th round pick in 2012 from Rogers State, returns to Boise for a second stint, playing 25 games last year .188/.246/.344 with two homers in 64 at-bats. Rony Rodriguez, 23, a 2013 free agent signing from the University of Miami, is the third catcher on the roster.
Gary Van Tol makes his pro managerial debut after spending the past five seasons as the Cubs short-season bench coach. David Rosario returns for his third year as pitching coach and former MLB all-star Bill Buckner begins his second year as the Hawks hitting coach. The Boise Hawks have a new logo and this year's squad will sport new uniforms for the 2013 season.
The NorthSiders Report will include Boise in its daily minor league updates including player transactions, who's hot and not, and other stats and trends for the Cubs' short-season affiliate.