Cubs in Fall League Opener

It doesn't feel like fall anywhere, but the 2007 edition of the Arizona Fall League opened play on Tuesday with all three of the Cubs' position players tabbed for the annual postseason event seeing playing time.

Sam Fuld, the only Cubs player in Tuesday's starting lineup for the Mesa Solar Sox, led off in right field and picked up two hits, including a double to right in his first at-bat.

Josh Lansford came into the game as a defensive replacement at third base in the sixth inning and would stretch his only hit into an RBI double in the seventh.

Joe Simokaitis also served as a defensive replacement, taking over at shortstop in the sixth inning and picking up a single to left-center in the ninth.

Combined, the three Cubs prospects finished 4-for-8 with two doubles. Mesa won the game, beating three-time defending Fall League champion Phoenix, 7-3.

The Cubs selected three position prospects and four pitching prospects – two starters and two relievers – for the Fall League back in late August.

Of the relievers selected, neither right-handers Rocky Roquet or Matt Avery saw playing time in Tuesday's opener. Pitchers Justin Berg and Sean Gallagher, the latter who replaced injured right-hander Grant Johnson after the initial Solar Sox roster was released, are expected to make their Fall League debuts this week.

According to Cubs Farm Director Oneri Fleita, the process of selecting which farmhands are sent to Arizona each fall has a lot to do with the needs of a specific team and not always which players are the "top prospects."

Each team in the Fall League houses prospects from five different major league organizations. The Solar Sox house prospects the Cubs, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals organizations.

"Once a team starts getting put together, we talk as a group of five Farm Directors," said Fleita. "If the team needs a player at a certain position, you get down toward the last couple of guys you're trying to place [on the roster] and you have to do what's best for the team."

The Fall League also gives players that may have spent time on the shelf with injury in the past season a chance to get more innings or at-bats.

Enter Lansford, the Cubs' sixth-round pick in the 2006 draft.

The 23-year-old third baseman batted .273 with 17 doubles in 84 games at Class A Peoria in 2007. He missed the final six weeks of the season with a sprained MCL. Each major league club is allowed to carry only one player on a Fall League roster that spent the past minor league season solely at the Class A level.

"In (Lansford's) case, you're fulfilling a couple of things," explained Fleita. "He missed a bit of the season with a knee injury, so sometimes the Fall League allows you to get back some at-bats that a position player might have missed, or some innings that a pitcher missed over the course of a season.

"You're [also] looking at guys that maybe by going there and playing, they'll have a chance to skip a level or move up a level."

Each player has his own idea of what he wants to work on in the Fall League, although some players are more specific about their goals than others.

Roquet, whose velocity can reach the mid to upper 90s, said he wants to work on fastball location and on getting more consistent with his slider.

Fuld said that, "nothing specific comes to mind" when asked what he would be looking to hone in the Fall League.

"I just want to continue to play hard," he said. "As long as my effort level is there, both during the games and in practice, I think that's all I can ask for."

Mesa plays Phoenix again Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. MDT at HoHoKam Park.

Burke Gets Late Summons to Hawaii

Ryan Harvey is hurt – again.

Outfielder Kyler Burke received a late invitation to join Hawaii Winter Baseball due to an injury sustained by Harvey, the Cubs' first-round draft pick in 2003.

Harvey, 23, appeared in five games with the Honolulu Sharks in Hawaii and was 6-for-17 before suffering what Fleita said was a "season-ending injury."

The extent of the injury and even the exact nature of it is not immediately known.

Harvey last played a week ago Thursday. The outfielder batted .246 with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs in 59 games this past season with Class High A Daytona. He missed most of the first half due to a hamstring injury.

Burke, 19, batted .254 with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs in 63 games with Class Low A Boise this past season. The outfielder was acquired from San Diego in late June along with catcher Rob Bowen for catcher Michael Barrett.


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