Junior Lake will finally get some regular playing time, but it will be at Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs decided to option the struggling outfielder, who was batting .216, to Iowa to make room on the active roster for Dan Straily, who was scheduled for a spot start Saturday against the Mets.
Lake, who batted .284 in his rookie season last year, has not looked like the same hitter, and his at-bats have been limited.
“This gives him an opportunity to go down there and get some at-bats for the next two and a half, three weeks,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said after Friday’s game.
“We tried to do everything we could throughout the course of the season, especially early, to put him in a decent place,” Renteria said. “Obviously, it’s very difficult for the young man. Right now he’s a little disappointed but I think he’ll catch a breath of fresh air, play again, get some at-bats, have some fun again, and we’ll see him here soon.”
Lake has struck out 102 times in 98 games, and hit just .114 in 19 July games. The young outfielder is popular on the team, and Cubs catcher John Baker brought him a beverage post-game for a toast.
“I need to play,” Lake said. “I don’t know if [going down] is good. Everybody wants to play here. I need more [at-bats]. That’s what I think — I need to play.”
Lake was told he’ll be back in 15 days when Major League rosters expand.
Renteria said he and the Cubs staff have discussed what to do to get Lake on track.
“I think we have a window here, and we have a need for a spot right now,” Renteria said.
The Cubs will be short-handed on the bench for Saturday’s game. The addition of Straily to the roster will give them
– Carrie Muskat
Junior Lake was optioned to Triple-A Iowa after Friday’s game to make room on the 25-man roster for pitcher Dan Straily, who will start on Saturday. The plan is for Lake to get at-bats in the Minors, and return on Sept. 1 when rosters expand.
– Carrie Muskat
Mets manager Terry Collins saw Javier Baez during the Cubs exhibition games in Las Vegas this spring. Collins was impressed.
“Big-time power,” Collins said of Baez. “Big, big-time power. Real aggressive at the plate. Right now, probably the wisest thing is to keep the ball out of the middle because he’s got four homers in nine games, and it shows you what kind of power he’s got, and we saw that out there [in Las Vegas]. So you have to make sure you make some pitches against him.”
Collins, meeting with the New York media before Friday’s game, said the Cubs’ youngsters are very athletic.
“You look at them, start with [Junior] Lake,” Collins said. “We haven’t seen a lot of Baez except for seeing him play the infield. We know he can hit. [Arismendy] Alcantara, this guy was an infielder, they put him in center field — you talk about being athletic. He’s got a plus-arm, they stuck him in center field, he’s a switch-hitter. They’re really athletic. And I really believe that’s how you re-tool. You take those guys that are a little bit versatile and can do a lot of things for you — can run, can throw. The hitting, the hitting for power is all part of the experience side. We were just commenting today when we were going over the video of some of those guys, and boy, they’ve got some athletic people coming up.”
– Carrie Muskat
Dan Straily feels like himself, and that’s a good thing for the Cubs. The right-hander, acquired from the Athletics on July 4, will make a spot start for the Cubs on Saturday in the second game of their series against the Mets. In his last outing for Triple-A Iowa, Straily gave up two hits over six innings and picked up the win. He has not given up an earned run in his last three starts.
“I got out of the little funk I was in, some mechanical flaws if you will that had taken over my game,” he said Friday. “You have one good game, and it’s like, ‘OK, I had a good game.’ Two in a row, OK. Three in a row, OK, hopefully, we got it.
“I definitely feel more like the pitcher I know I am, not the guy I had been this year,” he said. “It’s a real good feeling to go out there and throw the baseball and feel like I was in command.”
What’s been a surprise for Straily is that his velocity has increased since Spring Training. At the beginning of the year, his fastball was clocked in the mid 80s. Now, it’s 87-92 mph.
“It’s nice to know I have it back there again,” he said of his velocity.
He was 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 27 starts with the Athletics last season, but was 1-2 with a 4.93 ERA this season. He also has made 10 starts at Triple-A Sacramento.
Iowa pitching coach Bruce Walton, Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio and others have studied Straily’s mechanics, and combined to make some minor changes. The right-hander feels good about where he’s at.
“Maybe this whole change of scenery thing is what it’s made out to be,” he said. “Maybe that’s all it is.”
– Carrie Muskat
Travis Wood makes the start Friday night for the Cubs against the Mets. Here’s the lineup:
Kris Bryant hit a walk-off, two-run homer in the 12th to lift Iowa to a 6-5 win over Las Vegas. It was Bryant’s 40th homer of the season (Tennessee and Iowa combined) and he leads all Minor Leaguers. Mike Olt also homered for the second straight game. He has seven homers and 18 RBIs since July 31, tops in the PCL.
Dustin Geiger delivered a walk-off RBI single to give Tennessee a 1-0 win over Huntsville. C.J. Edwards started the game, and threw six shutout innings, giving up four hits, one walk and striking out one. Albert Almora and Taylor Davis each had two hits.
Jose Rosario gave up two runs over five innings in Daytona’s 6-2 win over Brevard County in the first game of a doubleheader. Billy McKinney had four RBIs. Brevard County posted a 2-1 win in the second game. Justin Amlung took the loss, giving up two runs — none earned — on seven hits over five innings.
Trey Martin hit a three-run homer to help Kane County beat Quad Cities, 4-1. Duane Underwood did not get a decision, giving up three hits and walking four over five scoreless innings.
Rashad Crawford hit his first professional home run, a three-run shot, in Boise’s 7-2 win over Hillsboro. Jesse Hodges was 4-for-4, and David Bote had two RBI.
Tyler Pearson hit a solo home run in Mesa’s 6-2 loss to the D-Backs. Jake Stinnett took the loss, giving up four runs on six hits over two innings.
The Cubs dealt 2009 first-round pick Brett Jackson to the Diamondbacks late Thursday for Minor League right-handed pitcher Blake Cooper.
Cooper, 26, was 4-2 with a 3.57 ERA in 41 relief appearances combined for Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno this year. He was named to the 2014 Southern League All-Star team, posting a 1.85 ERA in 24 games with Mobile. However, he had a 6.00 ERA in 17 games at Reno, giving up 16 earned runs on 25 hits and 17 walks over 24 innings at Reno. A 12th-round pick in 2010, Cooper was 16-15 with 16 saves and a 3.27 ERA in five Minor League seasons.
Jackson, who turned 26 on Aug. 2, was the 31st player taken overall in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. Injuries slowed the outfielder, limiting him to 61 games last season at Triple-A Iowa.
In 81 games at Iowa this year, he was batting .210 with eight doubles, four triples, five homers and 20 RBIs. Jackson was called up to the big leagues in August 2012, but batted .175 in 44 games. His strikeout totals were high; in 2012, he fanned 158 times over 106 games at Iowa.
The move opens a spot on the Cubs’ 40-man roster. According to the Arizona Republic, Jackson will be assigned to Triple-A Reno.
– Carrie Muskat
Kris Bryant hit a walk-off home run in the 12th inning Thursday to lead Triple-A Iowa to a 6-5 win over Las Vegas. It was Bryant’s 40th home run of the season, tops in the Minor Leagues. He is the second player in the last five years to reach the mark, joining the Rangers’ No. 1 prospect Joey Gallo, who did so last year. Bryant is also the first Cubs’ Minor Leaguer to hit that many home runs in at least 40 years, according to Baseball-Reference.
Bryant had been hitless in his four at-bats Thursday before coming to the plate in the bottom of the 12th to face Las Vegas reliever Chase Bradford. He had struck out three times and had only reached base when he was intentionally walked in the ninth.
Bryant belted a fly ball over the center field fence for a two-run blast, and finished the game 1-for-5.
Ranked No. 3 on MLBPipeline.com’s Top 100 Prospects list, Bryant began the season with Double-A Tennessee. After a dominating first half (he was winning the Southern League’s Triple Crown at the All-Star break), he was promoted to Iowa. In 122 games between the two levels, he is hitting .336/.442/.684 with 40 home runs and 15 stolen bases. He has scored 108 runs and driven in 103.
Because the Cubs are in a stretch in which they play 21 straight days, they are tweaking the rotation to give the starting pitchers a breather. Dan Straily will be called up from Triple-A Iowa to start Saturday against the Mets. Here’s the updated probables:
Friday: LHP Travis Wood (7-9, 4.86) vs. RHP Zack Wheeler (7-8, 3.53)
Saturday: RHP Dan Strailey vs. LHP Jonathon Niese (6-8, 3.46)
Sunday: RHP Jake Arrieta (6-4, 2.77) vs. vs. RHP Rafael Montero (0-3, 6.12)
Monday: RHP Kyle Hendricks (4-1, 1.73) vs. RHP Bartolo Colon (11-10, 3.85)