10/9 AFL, Instructs, Hodges & more
Arizona Fall League
* The Arizona Fall League opens its 20th season Tuesday with three games, including the Mesa Solar Sox’s contest against the Salt River Rafters in Scottsdale at Talking Stick. The Cubs have seven players on the Solar Sox roster: Javier Baez, Rubi Silva, Kevin Rhoderick, Matt Szczur, Tony Zych, Dae-Eun Rhee, and Nick Struck, who was named the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The majority of the rosters are composed of players who competed at Double-A levels last season. Baez, who turns 20 on Dec. 1, is the youngest player in the AFL. He spent most of the season at Class A Peoria, where he batted .333 in 57 games, and also played 23 games with Class A Daytona.
AFL games run from Tuesday until Nov. 15, with the championship on Nov. 17. The Solar Sox will play at HoHoKam Park on Wednesday at 12:35 p.m. MST against the Rafters.
* There’s definitely a different sound to the Cubs’ instructional league workouts this year at Fitch Park. Tim Cossins, 42, the Cubs new Minor League field coordinator, asked players and coaches to each submit a song, and the music is played during batting practice at Fitch Park. It does help get the energy level going during workouts in the 90-plus degree heat. Cossins replaces Brandon Hyde, who was promoted to director of player development. A former catcher, Cossins played eight seasons in the Minor Leagues, and managed five seasons in the Marlins’ Minor League system, including three at the Rookie League level and two years, 2005-06, at Class A Jupiter.
On Tuesday, Trevor Gretzky made an impressive catch in left field during one of the drills. Cubs outfield instructor Lee Tinsley says Gretzky is one of the most improved players in camp. It also was a good way for Gretzky to show off in front of his parents, Wayne Gretzky and Janet Jones, who were at Fitch Park.
Instructional league games finish this week, with the last game on Saturday. However, players will compete Thursday in their own “American Idol” type competition.
* Congrats to Jesse Hodges (@TCHodgy), who hit his first professional home run, a two-run shot, in Monday’s instructional league game against the Athletics. The Cubs signed Hodges after seeing him play in the World Junior Tournament in South Korea. A Canadian, he had a full scholarship at Grayson College, a junior college in Texas. His home run was well-timed as he connected in front of Cubs international scout Steve Wilson, who signed the infielder, as well as Hodges’ grandfather, who was at the game, and most of the Cubs brass, including Theo Epstein. I’ll have more on Hodges.
* Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer are in Arizona this week with the Cubs scouting staff for the end of the year meetings, and a chance to see some of the young players such as Albert Almora and Jorge Soler.
– Carrie Muskat