Bad Day for Atkins, I-Cubs

NEW ORLEANS — It was a ‘Bad Day' for Mitch Atkins and the Iowa Cubs. The New Orleans Zephyrs struck for eight first-inning runs en route to a 9-1 victory Sunday at Zephyr Field over Iowa with Atkins (5-9) lasting only two-thirds of an inning. He was charged with seven runs on four hits, walking two and hitting a batter.

Trailing 3-0, Atkins allowed a two-run single to New Orleans pitcher Clay Hensley to extend the Zephyrs' lead to 5-0. That was all for the right-hander in the shortest start of his career, which snapped a string of five consecutive quality starts.

He threw 34 pitches (20 strikes), leaving fittingly as Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" rang out over the stadium's sound system.

"He just was never locked in to start the game," Iowa (43-40) manager Bobby Dickerson said of Atkins, who now has a 6.77 ERA in 17 starts at Triple-A after being named the Cubs' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2008.

"He still was just one pitch away. You're looking at eight runs in the first, but still if he gets their pitcher out, the game is totally different. It just blew up from there."

Perhaps Iowa's most effective pitcher Sunday wasn't really a pitcher at all.

Matt Matulia, an infielder drafted with the Cubs' 24th round pick from The Citadel in 2006, made only his second career appearance on the mound and worked a perfect eighth inning in relief.

He threw nine pitches, eight strikes, prompting Cubs Minor League Catching Instructor Jody Davis to joke that he thought Matulia should have started the game.

"He's an all-purpose guy for us," Dickerson said of Matulia. "He just threw strikes."

Matulia hadn't played in over a month until Sunday. He has been serving as a player-coach, tossing batting practice before games and assisting coaches after games.

"He'll do pretty much whatever is asked of him," Dickerson said. "He's pretty versatile. I think one day he'll be able to manage, be a hitting coach, or a scout even."

Matulia said coaching was something the Cubs talked to him about in spring training.

"I'm kind of starting a new career," he said. "I'm enjoying it and am learning a lot from these guys. Hopefully, I'll get a job (coaching)."

It's not the first time the Cubs have done this with a player. In 2006, Casey Kopitzke served as a player-coach at Iowa. Kopitzke was named the Cubs' minor league catching instructor a year later and is now managing at Class Low-A Boise.

Iowa collected eight hits at the plate and had numerous scoring chances, stranding 11 runners on base and going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. They loaded the bases twice and did not score in either inning.

Catcher Steve Clevenger led the offense with two hits, singling sharply up the middle in his first at-bat before pulling a fastball into right field in the sixth inning.

Shortstop Darwin Barney reached base twice with a single and a walk. He has hit safely in four of his first five games since being promoted to Iowa from Class AA Tennessee, where he was named to the Southern League All-Star team.


At Zebulon, N.C., the Smokies (40-44 overall, 8-6 second half) collected 12 hits for the second straight night Sunday and got eight scoreless innings of two-hit ball from RHP Casey Coleman. He struck out four and walked three, throwing 96 pitches, 56 strikes to lower his ERA to 2.56 through 16 starts. CF Jim Adduci (4-for-5) led the team in hits and drove in three runs. RF Tyler Colvin (3-for-5) added two doubles and hit his eighth home run overall. He is batting .298 in 31 games with Tennessee.


At Daytona Beach, the Cubs (39-39, 6-5) collected six hits in the loss Sunday. DH Josh Vitters (2-for-4) doubled, tripled and drove in two runs and SS Starlin Castro (1-for-4) hit his third home run and first since May 14. RHP Rafael Dolis started and tossed five scoreless innings, allowing no hits and one walk. He struck out five. LHP Dustin Sasser (5-3) suffered the loss in relief, allowing four runs and five hits in two innings.


At Peoria, the Chiefs (41-38, 3-7) collected seven hits in the loss Sunday. C Michael Brenly (3-for-4) led the team in hits and collected his 10th double. LF Nelson Perez (1-for-4) hit his eighth home run. 3B Aramis Ramirez was 1-for-2 with a walk in a rehab appearance. CF Reed Johnson was 1-for-4 with a run. RHP Marcus Hatley (5-5) started and suffered the loss, allowing three runs and five hits in three innings.


At Boise, the Hawks (4-12) collected 12 hits in the victory Sunday. 3B George Matheus (4-for-5) led the team in hits and drove in four runs. CF Brett Jackson (1-for-4) reached base twice with a single and a walk. RHP Danny Keefe (1-0) got the win in relief. He allowed two runs and two hits in 1 2/3 innings.

Northsiders Report Top Stories