AAA-Iowa CubsALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The I-Cubs pulled out a showstopper in their series opener in Albuquerque on Thursday night, downing the Isotopes, 5-4. The Cubs went into the ninth inning down two runs, but doubles from Trenidad Hubbard, Damian Jackson, David Kelton and Jason Dubois plated three runs for the rally-happy Cubs.
Will Ohman picked up the win in relief for Iowa, and Bryan Corey recorded his fifth save of the year. Left-hander Jimmy Anderson got the start for the Cubs, going six innings and giving up four runs (two earned). The Cubs fought back hard to help get Anderson off the hook, scoring four runs in the game's final two innings.
Iowa had the welcome addition of second baseman Brendan Harris back in the lineup Thursday. Harris returned from off-season knee surgery and was not greeted too kindly by Albuquerque, going 0-for-4 at the plate with a strikeout. Other Cubs prospects hit well, though. David Kelton and Jason Dubois each had multi-hit games. Kelton was 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles, while Dubois was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI.
Former Boston Red Sox Damian Jackson also had a great day, going 3-for-4 with a double, a triple and a single, coming up just a homer short of the cycle.
PROSPECT WATCH: Reliever Nate Bland has been quietly effective for the I-Cubs so far in 2004. Bland has thrown 10 innings, only giving up one run for an of 0.90. He has struck out nine while only walking three on the year. Bland's WHIP currently sits at 1.000, as he continues to throw well for the Cubs.
ON DECK: RHP Jon Leicester will go for the Cubs on Friday against Isotopes starter Kevin Olsen. Game time is set for 8:11 CT. The Cubs are now 12-9 on the year and have gained sole possession of first place in the Central Division of the Pacific Coast League.
AA-West TennesseeJACKSON, Tenn. - A massive rain storm hit Pringles Park in the eighth inning of Thursday's game between the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx and Birmingham Barons. The game was suspended and will be picked up where it was left off as part of a partial doubleheader Friday. Birmingham had a runner on second base with one out when the game was called.
LHPs Carmen Pignatiello and Heath Phillips both started the game, but neither will figure in its outcome. Geovany Soto had a two-run double and three runs scored. The suspended game will be made up at 5:30 CT, and then the regularly scheduled contest will take place 30 minutes after the conclusion of game one. RHP Ricky Nolasco will start game two for the Jaxx against Birmingham's Dennis Ulacia.
Class-A Daytona CubsSARASOTA, Fla. - Apparently it does rain in Florida after all... The Daytona Cubs were hoping that rain would clear, but no such luck, as their game with Sarasota was called. The newest Daytona Cub, LHP Jon Connolly, joined the team on Thursday being acquired from the Tigers for AA lefty Felix Sanchez. Connolly was set to pitch against the Cubs on Friday, but will now be in the Daytona dugout, as the Cubs will face the Lakeland Tigers on Friday. Connolly may pitch, although it is uncertain with Thursday's rainout.
Class-A Lansing LugnutsLANSING, Mich. - The Lansing Lugnuts were clearly well-rested Thursday as they returned to the friendly confines of Oldsmobile Park following a day off. Lansing busted out to score 11 runs in an offensive barrage highlighted by Kevin Collins and Alan Rick homeruns. Five players for Lansing had two hits on the game, as the Lugnuts pounded the Dayton Dragons, 11-4.
RHP Randy Wells picked up his first win of the year on the game, going five innings and only giving up one run. Wells continued to struggle with his control, however, giving up six walks in those five innings. He now has a 1.68 WHIP, but an impressive 20 strikeouts in just 19 innings of work.
Lansing jumped in front thanks to a four-run first inning on an RBI by Jacob Fox that was followed by Collins' three-run homer. Fox was filling the role of DH Thursday and went 2-for-2 with a walk to up his average to .344 on the year.
PROSPECT WATCH: Not just one prospect in this report, but the entire Lugnuts pitching staff. Aside from only reliever Ed Campusano, every Lugnut pitcher has an ERA under 3.52. The Lugnuts have only allowed just 45 earned runs in 172.2 innings for an incredible team ERA of 2.35. Lansing pitchers have 154 strikeouts so far on the year for an incredible .89 strikeouts per inning.
ON DECK: LHP Sean Marshall will go for his second win of the year Friday when Lansing plays game two against Dayton at Oldsmobile Park. Game time is set for 6:05 CT. The Lugnuts are now 11-9 on the year and four games back of first place South Bend.
NOTES: With the trading of Felix Sanchez to the Tigers, the Cubs have opened a spot on the 40-man roster spot for LHP Glendon Rusch. Rusch, signed by the Cubs during spring training, is expected to be added to the 25-man roster in time for Friday's series opener in St. Louis, which begins at 7:10 CT. He was 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in four starts at Iowa, which spanned 19 innings. To make room for Rusch on the 25-man roster, the Cubs will likely return RHP Michael Wuertz to AAA. Wuertz got off to a promising start with the big league club after a fantastic spring training, but has been dismal since, giving up 10 earned runs in just 8.2 innings for an ERA of 10.38.
The Cubs acquired LHP Jon Connolly from the Tigers in exchange for Sanchez. Connolly is a finesse pitcher who relies more on offspeed pitches and pinpoint control to be effective. Last season while at Class Mid-A West Michigan, the 20-year-old struck out 104 batters in 166 IP for a K/9 ratio of 5.63. He also finished 2003 with a 1.41 ERA and 1.000 WHIP in 25 starts.