4/30 Extra bases from Des Moines
Notes from a trip to see the Iowa Cubs:
* You’ve heard about Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo, but they may not be the best player on the Triple-A Iowa roster. Keep an eye on Adrian Cardenas.
“I think he’s the best hitter on our team, in my opinion,” Rizzo said of Cardenas, whom the Cubs claimed off waivers from the Athletics in February.
The infielder appreciated the compliment from his Iowa teammate.
“It might have a lot to do with the fact that I don’t chase that many pitches,” Cardenas said. “I’m not for making contact and putting the barrel on the ball most of the time. I’ve taken it to another level on timing and when to be aggressive and when to take it back.”
He gives credit to working with Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo and Iowa hitting coach Dave Keller.
“I feel I’m becoming an all around real good hitter,” Cardenas said.
Through Saturday, he was batting .324. He’s focused on baseball as well as his studies. Cardenas, 24, had a 10-page final due Monday to complete his African-American literature class at New York University. He’s not just trying to win a job on the Cubs roster; he’s working on his degree. This summer, Cardenas will be playing for the I-Cubs and working on a report for his studies, focusing on Cuba and the Cuban revolution. Cardenas is Cuban-American.
“It’s something I’m passionate about and something I’m excited to learn about,” he said.
At the ballpark, he’s all baseball. On Friday, when the Iowa Cubs game against Nashville was postponed by rain, Cardenas was one of many players in the batting cage, getting extra work.
“I’ve never seen so many people have the same goal in mind which is to get better and take their game to the next level,” he said of the Minor League team. “It’s everybody, from top to bottom.”
* Rizzo can only play first base and knows that Bryan LaHair is doing well at that position with the Cubs.
“People always say, ‘LaHair’s doing great, what are you going to do?’” Rizzo said. “Well, LaHair is a great player. I’ve said that to every one of my friends, my parents. He’s a good hitter and I remember seeing him last year here and the numbers he put up. It’s just something I can’t control.
“I’m here,” Rizzo said. “There’s nothing I can do about it. Every day here, when I don’t feel like doing something, I just think of the massive contracts signed by a few other guys in the league and it’s motivation.”
LaHair is able to play the outfield corners, so the Cubs could make room if they felt Rizzo was ready. The two talked about being in the same lineup some day.
“That’d be pretty cool,” Rizzo said. “I’d catch if I had to.”
He’s that eager to get to the big leagues. Blake Lalli, now the No. 1 catcher for Iowa after Welington Castillo was called up, had to pitch one day this season.
“I’d pitch, too,” Rizzo said.
* Brett Jackson has 27 strikeouts in 21 games, which is higher than he’d like.
“I haven’t had the April I’ve wanted,” Jackson said. “You always want to have higher numbers than .250 and 25 strikeouts or whatever. It’s been an adjustment for me. I feel as if I’m adjusting into the player I want to be and I don’t think strikeouts will be a concern in the future.”
Iowa hitting coach Dave Keller isn’t worried about Jackson. This is part of the young outfielder’s development.
“It takes awhile for every hitter, I don’t care who it is, whether it’s Manny [Ramirez] or [Albert] Pujols or [Alex Rodriguez] or [Derek] Jeter,” Keller said. “Ask anybody and they’ll tell you it takes awhile before you understand how to hit with two strikes and there’s no panic that’s involved.”
* The pitcher to watch at Triple-A Iowa is Chris Rusin. He has a 2.63 ERA in five starts, giving up eight earned runs over 27 1/3 innings. He’s struck out 13 and walked six.
* Junior Lake has not joined one of the Cubs’ Minor League teams because he’s been rehabbing at the extended Spring Training camp in Mesa, Ariz. Lake has been slowed by back problems. The Cubs hope he’ll be assigned to a team in the next 10 days or so.
* Edgar Gonzalez, who was batting .286 in nine games with the Iowa Cubs, has been released and will reportedly join the Tokyo Giants. He is the brother of Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
– Carrie Muskat