Pie, Guzman Make Strong Statements

OF Felix Pie continued his blistering start at Triple-A with three hits in his third straight multi-hit game as Iowa defeated Albuquerque, 7-1, on Sunday.

The five-tool package drove in four runs, tripled twice and stole his third base of the young season -- a clear sign that whatever lingering effects he may have had from last year's broken ankle are long gone.

Equally as impressive was the performance of right-hander Angel Guzman, long since heralded as the organization's top pitching prospect when healthy. Guzman's only blemish in his first career Triple-A start was the two hits he allowed on the afternoon. He struck out six of the 18 batters he faced and allowed just one walk.

ELSEWHERE ON THE FARM … In Birmingham, West Tenn got strong pitching for the fourth straight game to open the season in a 3-0 shutout in Double-A action. Sunday's Jaxx starter, right-hander David Cash, allowed just one hit in five innings while notching six strikeouts. Cash missed all of last season and much of 2004 after getting off to a strong start at Triple-A. He underwent surgery on his throwing arm that year after just three starts.

For the third time in as many tries, left-hander Clay Rapada notched a save. He has allowed only one hit in four innings to hold opposing hitters to a .077 average against.

Getting it done at the plate was Richard Lewis, making his first start in the outfield this season, and second baseman Eric Patterson. Lewis, the Southern League's 2004 MVP, has hit safely in his first four games to open the year while Patterson hit a run-scoring triple. Patterson also stole three bases, tying a career high set last year at Peoria on April 13.

In Daytona, not even the return of OF Ryan Harvey could stop the Cubs' Class-A affiliate from skidding to 0-4 to open the year. Harvey, sidelined in the first three games of Daytona's season with quadriceps tightness, was 1-for-6 with an RBI in the team's 7-4 loss to Brevard County in 12 innings on Sunday. He struck out four times.

Catcher Jake Fox broke out of a 1-for-10 slump in his first three games to tie a career-best four hits (all singles) and a stolen base. Struggling OF Jeff Culpepper was hitless in six at-bats and is off to a 0-for-16 start to the season.

On the bump, right-hander Mark Holliman made his professional debut after signing last August when minor league play was wrapping up. The third-round draft pick from Ole Miss worked five innings and notched seven strikeouts without a walk. He yielded a run on two hits.

In Wisconsin, Peoria combined for a two-hitter in a 2-1 win in Class Mid-A action on Sunday. Left-hander Jesus Yepez yielded the opposing team's only two hits in six innings. He gave up one run to go with two walks and two strikeouts.

Shortstop Dylan Johnston, last year's fourth-round draft pick, had two hits and scored both of the Chiefs' runs after hitting just .182 with the Arizona Rookie League Mesa Cubs and starting his professional career in a 1-for-21 hole.

"MINOR NEWS" … RHP Robert Ransom, who missed all of 2005 after undergoing shoulder surgery to repair a frayed labrum, doesn't expect to return to action any time soon after undergoing a second operation to remove scar tissue from his throwing arm in recent weeks. Ransom, drafted in 2003 out of Vanderbilt, is 6-2 with a 2.33 ERA in 17 career minor league games with the Cubs. He had been hoping to be healthy by Spring Training.

E-mail Steve Holley: staff@insidetheivy.com.

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