Hart Shows Heart in Defeat

For five innings, everything was going Kevin Hart's way. The right-hander had a perfect game going as he entered his sixth inning on the hill and was enjoying a quiet, fast-paced Easter Sunday in the Southern League.

Then, as Hart (0-1) tells it, things went from "a real good day to not the best day" in the blink of an eye.

The starting pitcher for Double-A Tennessee (2-2) on Sunday, Hart allowed five consecutive Jacksonville Suns batters to reach base in the sixth inning and was charged with five runs before all was said and done.

The Smokies lost, 8-2. Matt Craig and Issmael Salas hit solo home runs in the second and third innings, respectively, to carry the Tennessee offense.

For his part, Hart was making his first start since joining the Cubs from the Baltimore Orioles' farm system last December. (He was traded for INF/OF Freddie Bynum during the Winter Meetings.)

And what a start it was – for those aforementioned first five innings. Hart had retired all 15 batters he had faced until allowing an infield single through the hole at shortstop to Suns catcher A.J. Ellis to open the sixth inning.

He proceeded to allow two doubles, a single and a walk (not in that order) before departing in favor of right-handed reliever Greg Reinhard, another new face in the Cubs' organization this season.

Jacksonville scored all eight of their runs in the sixth inning. After the game, Hart was able to shake things off.

"That's just baseball," said the 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander, who went 6-11 with a 4.61 ERA in 27 starts a season ago for Class High-A Frederick in the Carolina League.

"(Ellis) had a great at-bat to lead off the inning, a nine-pitch at-bat. He parked a little single through the left side. To me, it was no big deal. If I'm going to lose a perfect game, the guy deserves to break it up like that."

What happened next was a mixture of what Hart described as "a couple of bad pitches," and "a couple of good swings put on some good pitches."

His rough finish in Sunday's loss not withstanding, Hart was able to take more positives than negatives from the outing – his first ever at Double-A.

"To me, I proved to myself that I have the ability to throw well at this level," Hart said. "I feel it gave me a lot of confidence going into the rest of the season. Stuff like that is going to happen and you have to take it and learn from it."

Prior to his 2007 debut, Hart spent a good portion of his first Cubs Spring Training working to sharpen up his mechanics with the help of Minor League Pitching Coordinator Alan Dunn and Smokies pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn.

The bulk of Hart's success relies on his sinker. He also features a four- and two-seam fastball, a back-and-forth variation of a slider/curveball (or "slurve"), a changeup, and a splitfinger in his repertoire.

"I've always thrown a little bit across my body, so we worked toward smoothing out my delivery," Hart explained of his work with Cubs coaches this spring. "It's really made a huge difference as far as me being able to locate my fastball and getting a little more sink on my delivery."

Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken was intrumental in bringing Hart over from the Orioles, whose farm system is ironically enough overseen by former Cubs Director of Scouting John Stockstill, Wilken's predecessor.

"(Hart)'s a guy with two to three average pitches," Wilken told us last December. "We really liked what we got to see from him."

* * *

The last time Ryan O'Malley was in Round Rock, Texas, it was on the eve of his unscripted major league debut against the Houston Astros last August.

The 27-year-old left-hander stifled Houston hitters in a 1-0 shutout win and pitched similarly that day to his first start of 2007 for Triple-A Iowa.

The problem on Sunday was run support, or lack thereof. O'Malley surrendered just one run and one hit in 4 2/3 innings, as Round Rock completed a doubleheader sweep of Iowa (1-3) with a 1-0 victory.

Third base prospect Scott Moore, who begun his season 0-for-8, recorded Iowa's lone hit in the nightcap behind O'Malley.

Earlier in the day, fellow southpaw Les Walrond went five innings and allowed a run on four hits only to suffer the same fast as O'Malley: run support blues. Walrond picked up a no-decision on his end Sunday. Last season, he won six of his first seven decisions for Iowa before an eventual late-season promotion to Chicago.

Iowa lost behind Walrond Sunday, 2-1.

Northsiders Report Top Stories