Iowa Notes: Hoffpauir Hampered by Injury

On the injury front, Iowa first baseman Micah Hoffpauir hasn't played since Aug. 12, the result of a strained oblique muscle suffered in a laboring doubleheader at Memphis earlier this month.

Hoffpauir, who has a career-high 22 home runs and 80 RBIs in 117 games between Triple-A and Double-A this year, isn't sure when he may be cleared to return to the lineup, if at all for the remainder of the season.

"They haven't really given me a timetable on it," Hoffpauir said. "It all depends on how I'm feeling, and how it goes on the rehab front. I'm feeling a lot better now than I was. I still have some pain, but for the most part, it doesn't seem to be hurting anymore.

"It's a slow process," he added. "You have to get as much rest as possible to keep from re-injuring it, because it's one that could cause a lot of pain. Hopefully I can get back before the end of the season."

The 26-year-old Hoffpauir would certainly like to. He's having his best season ever at the plate in the power department, which isn't bad considering Hoffpauir didn't know how much playing time he would get at the beginning of the year after going back to West Tenn, where top first base prospect Brian Dopirak was slated to begin his first year above A-ball.

But Dopirak broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot just one game into the season and would require surgery on the bone. By the time he returned to the lineup, Hoffpauir had already been brought up to Triple-A – partially the result of Brandon Sing's forgettable season at the plate.

With three able first baseman in Hoffpauir, Dopirak and Sing all at Double-A or above, someone had to be the odd man out with regards to everyday playing time at the position. Initially, that someone may have been Hoffpauir, who admitted back in April that he had expected to see more playing time in the outfield this season prior to Dopirak's injury.

Instead, he's having one of the best seasons for any first baseman in the Cubs' farm system.

"I've driven in a lot of runs," Hoffpauir said. "My average (.267) isn't quite where I'd like it to be, but you can't complain about it."

Between Hoffpauir and teammate Michael Restovich, the I-Cubs have had no shortage on power. The two have combined to hit 48 home runs and rank 1-2 atop the Cubs' leader board in minor league home runs. Not surprisingly, the Triple-A team has totaled the most home runs (108) of any Cubs affiliate.

To provide a temporary replacement for Hoffpauir, the Cubs signed Jesse Hoorelbeke to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A.

If not for his injury, the organization could likely have called on Dopirak. However, the 22-year-old was still reeling from the effects of the broken bone and recently underwent follow-up surgery at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

Hoorelbecke is batting just .167 in 12 games for Iowa. Four of his six hits with the team have been home runs.

The loss of Hoffpauir was felt as the team dropped six consecutive games following his injury. They proceeded to win six in a row, and are 2-2 over their last four games, losing a 1-0 shutout to Oklahoma on Monday night.

Jae-Kuk Ryu, back in Iowa after almost a week with the big league team, allowed one run (a home run) on five hits for an eight-inning complete game. Neither team would need their bullpen. Ryu struck out seven and walked two, while Oklahoma starter Derek Lee two-hit the Cubs' offense for a complete game of his own. Game time was listed at two hours even.

"It was a pretty quick game," said Hoffpauir.

The Cubs fell to 71-66, three games behind first-place Nashville in the Pacific Coast League's American Northern Division with less than a week remaining in regular season play. If the team reaches the playoffs, they'll have to do it on the road after playing their home finale on Sunday against New Orleans.

"We got back into the swing of things, then just got beat up for about a week or so," Hoffpauir said. "We couldn't put any wins together, but then after that, everything's been going much better. We played really well at home and against New Orleans."

Cubs Remember Katrina

Speaking of New Orleans, everyone there remembers precisely what they were doing in the hours leading up to the biggest natural disaster in modern U.S. history. The Iowa Cubs are no different. Many of the faces on this year's I-Cubs team were there scheduled to face the Zephyrs just two days before Katrina made landfall, and recently reflected on the hurricane.

"[In June], we went into the Ninth Ward and saw some of the damage," said Iowa manager Mike Quade, who played college baseball at the University of New Orleans. "I know we had a lot of guys from the area on our team at the time. You're always worried about them and how they'll take it, but at the same time, there's always a sense that everything is going to turn out OK. Maybe that's because I live in the Gulf Coast area.

"The place I stayed at in college doesn't even exist anymore," Quade said.

Two players who hail from around the New Orleans area are infielders Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot. Both played college baseball at LSU and were especially concerned with friends and family in the area.

"It was tough," Theriot said. "We had a lot of family affected. Really all you can do is console everyone as much as possible. When you're out of a house, out of a vehicle and out of a job, there's really not much a thousand or two-thousand dollars can do to restore all those memories."

The Theriot family opened their home in Baton Rouge to help shelter friends and relatives who were immediately impacted by Katrina's wrath.

"As a family, we tried to get behind the people that were affected and give them the moral support they needed," Theriot said. "Money is a big deal and people need that to get back on their feet, but you can't put a price tag on memories, or a family portrait that's been hanging in your house for 30 years."

For his part, most of Fontenot's family had already relocated west of New Orleans and the community of Slidell, just north of the city, where he's originally from.

"Most of my family is now in the Lafayette and Lake Charles areas," Fontenot said. "Coming back to the city, it was hard to look at. It was hard to take."

Major League Baseball announced last week that it will formally reflect on the one-year anniversary of Katrina at the 15 parks playing host to games Tuesday. The Cubs are in Pittsburgh to face the Pirates at PNC Park.

"Major League Baseball was proud to be able to give our fans, players, and Clubs a means through which they could support the many people displaced by Hurricane Katrina," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement last week. "On this solemn anniversary, we would like to continue to provide assistance to those affected by the disaster by reminding our fans and the public of the enormous need that still exists for support and rebuilding in the Gulf Coast."

At the 15 parks Tuesday, Major League Baseball plans to urge fans to continue donating to Katrina relief efforts through various scoreboard ad's and announcements.

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