Results tagged ‘ Blake Parker ’
* The addition of Blake Parker gives the Cubs another option for save situations, joining Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Justin Grimm. The Cubs are trying to fill in for Jose Veras, who will be used in a different role after his struggles in his first four games. Parker is the career saves leader at Iowa, and knows how hard it is to get the last three outs.
“It’s an unbelievably hard role, especially in the big leagues with the crowd involved and the umpires are a little bit tighter and the quality of the hitters is way better,” Parker said. “It’s the hardest job for a pitcher to get those last three outs. To just be able to come in and get outs is my thing, whether it’s the ninth or the sixth.”
The Cubs have seen two pitchers – Strop and Rondon – each record a save within the first 11 games of the season. Last April, the Cubs had three different pitchers record a save within the month of April for the first time since the save became an official MLB statistic in 1969.
“They give me various options,” Renteria said of Strop, Parker, Rondon and Grimm. “You still have to put them in situations where they feel comfortable.”
* The Cubs have two off days this week but will not tweak their rotation, which means Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Villanueva and Edwin Jackson will start next weekend against the Reds at Wrigley Field. Villanueva will stay in the rotation despite lasting three innings Saturday against the Cardinals.
* After an off day Monday, the Cubs play the Yankees in the first of eight Interleague series this season at Yankee Stadium. This will be the Cubs’ first-ever regular season games at the new Yankee Stadium, which will be the 122nd different ballpark in which the team will have played. After Tuesday, the Cubs will have played a regular-season game in every current Major League city and a game in every active ballpark.
“It was a little more traditional, and it was more of a pitcher’s ballpark,” Jose Veras said of the old Yankee Stadium. “The [new one] is a hitters ballpark now. It’s way different now.”
The Cubs did play the first two games in the history of new Yankee Stadium, however, when the teams met in exhibition action prior to 2009. The Yankees won both games.
* Top prospect Javier Baez was placed on the seven-day disabled list with Triple-A Iowa because of a sprained left ankle, injured while taking ground balls on Friday. Baez was 4-for-26 (.154) with two home runs in eight games this season.
* This weekend was manager Rick Renteria’s first exposure to the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.
“I noticed, looking outside my hotel room, that there were a lot of people waiting to get into [Busch] stadium and that was early in the morning,” Renteria said. “It’s neat. I think the fan base here and in Chicago are unique. I like my fan base.”
– Carrie Muskat
As expected, Blake Parker joined the Cubs on Sunday. The right-hander was recalled from Iowa and took Chris Rusin’s spot. Rusin threw five innings in relief on Saturday, and was optioned back to Iowa.
Chris Rusin was recalled from Iowa prior to Saturday’s game, and headed back after throwing five innings in relief of Carlos Villanueva. Rusin was needed to give the bullpen a breather, and he did just that. The Cubs didn’t have to use anyone else in the 10-4 loss to the Cardinals at Busch. No corresponding move was made immediately but Blake Parker was expected to be added to the 25-man roster.
* Arodys Vizcaino is all smiles after his two Cactus League outings. The Cubs right-hander, who has not pitched since 2011 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, was clocked at 98 mph on Friday in his relief outing against the Indians.
“I’m so happy right now,” Vizcaino said.
“His story is a great story because he’s trying to come back,” manager Rick Renteria said Sunday of the right-hander, acquired from the Braves in July 2012 in the Paul Maholm deal. “He’s worked very hard to get back to where he is right now and it’s still a progression. There are still some things that he’ll have to work through. We’ll be extremely patient with how we move forward with him.”
* Renteria said Sunday he had yet to speak with pitcher Edwin Jackson about the right-hander’s last outing in which he only threw fastballs. Jackson said he wanted to work on his fastball command, but didn’t tell Renteria or pitching coach Chris Bosio what his game plan was.
* Blake Parker knows it doesn’t matter what he did last year, or the year before. The right-hander is fighting for a spot in the Cubs’ bullpen and he’s not alone.
“There’s tons of guys here,” the reliever said, glancing around the Cubs’ clubhouse on Sunday. “You look around and you start putting yourself in places, and there’s a lot of competition in this locker room. There’s some unbelievable pitchers. Vizcaino is coming back from an injury, and I saw him the other day and he’s unbelievable to watch. It’s good for the team that you have a lot of competition. It only makes you better.”
But Parker has been a little inconsistent. In his first outing, he cruised through one inning of work. In his next two, he’s given up five hits and walked four over 1 1/3 innings. The problem, the right-hander said, are mechanical and mental issues.
“I felt like my last outing, I had a strong start,” he said of his relief appearance Friday. “I got a strikeout, and got 0-2 and threw a bad pitch and gave up a hit, and another hit, and kind of got away from attacking guys and got a little timid out there, which is what I meant by the [mental issues]. From that, [I tried] to make the perfect pitch, and my mechanics started to get out of whack, and then it spiraled downhill.
“It’s time for me to get it going and really focus on the things I need to focus on and get after it and work on the things I need to work on so I’m ready when the season starts.”
Parker is competing for a spot in the bullpen with right-handers Vizcaino, Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm, Neil Ramirez, Alberto Cabrera, Pedro Strop, and Carlos Villanueva.
* Anthony Rizzo did not hit a single home run last spring, then belted 23 during the regular season. Does Cubs manager Rick Renteria need to see the first baseman connect to know if Rizzo is ready for the season?
“No, I know he’s got power,” Renteria said Sunday. “Once you start to get into the flow of the game and you’re swinging the bat well, a gentlemen like ‘Riz’ who has pop, those come.”
Last spring, Rizzo batted .229, and so far this year, he’s 7-for-16 with two doubles and a triple.
“I actually don’t use the [Spring Training] stats as much as you might think,” Renteria said. “I’m more concerned with the approaches they’re having at the plate. One thing we want him to do is focus on his strength, which is the left center field gap. His approach has been working, and I think it’s a conscious effort.”
– Carrie Muskat
* Eric Chavez hit the first home run at Cubs Park, a two-run shot in the fifth, and Paul Goldschmidt added a two-run single in the sixth to lift the Diamondbacks to a 5-2 win Thursday over the Cubs and spoil their Cactus League opener at their new stadium. The game drew a Cactus League record crowd of 14,486, breaking the old mark of 13,721 set last March 23 between the Dodgers and White Sox in Glendale.
This was not only the first game at Cubs Park, but Rick Renteria’s first as a Major League manager.
“It feels just like another game,” the Cubs’ new skipper said. “We’re getting ready for the season and today’s the first day of basically a test to see how everybody’s doing. We’re going to use [Spring Training] to see what aspects of the game we need to improve on and basically see where everybody’s at.”
So no butterflies?
“No,” Renteria said, smiling.
* Blake Parker, coming off a season in which he appeared in a career-high 49 games, was the only Cubs pitcher to retire all three batters he faced in his one inning on Thursday in the Cactus League opener. The right-hander came into camp knowing he’s starting fresh.
“Every year you’ve got something to prove,” Parker said. “If you’re getting paid or not, you want to show them you worked hard in the offseason to be ready to pitch at any time.”
Renteria is sorting out the options for the bullpen. Parker knows that.
“You want to show these guys that you’re ready to play, whether it’s these guys or somebody else watching in the stands,” Parker said. “It’s just imperative to get ready for the season.”
* Emilio Bonifacio did exactly what the Cubs want from a leadoff man in his first at-bat when he tripled in the first. Renteria said he considers Bonifacio to be similar to Chone Figgins, who can play second, third, short and the outfield.
“He’s a guy who puts it on the ground and if he gets it through someplace, he’s got a chance to go like he did there, all the way to third base,” Renteria said of Bonifacio. “Those are some of the things he brings to the table.”
Renteria said Darwin Barney is the starting second baseman but expect to see Bonifacio get some playing time there.
* Kyuji Fujikawa, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last June, threw 25 pitches off the mound for the second time this spring on Thursday, and is continuing to make progress. The Cubs hope the right-hander can pitch sometime this season.
* Catcher John Baker livened up Thursday’s team meeting by playing a song on his guitar that was a variation on Eddie Vedder’s “(Someday We’ll Go) All the Way.”
“I wrote a song about what it means to be a Cub,” said Baker, who got an assist on the lyrics from Barney, Kyle Hendricks, Eric Jokisch, Brett Jackson and strength coach Tim Buss.
“Ricky likes to have people do things that make it a little more fun,” Baker said of Renteria.
The lyrics were tweaked so that they were from a player’s perspective, and ended with “This year, we’ll go all the way.”
* Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo will host his second “Cook-Off for Cancer” on May 16 in Chicago. The event, which features celebrity chefs, will be held at Revel Downtown.
* Up next: Lefty Chris Rusin, who is competing for a spot in the rotation, faces the Angels and Jered Weaver in Tempe in the Cubs’ first road game this spring. Rusin was 2-6 in 13 starts last season with a 3.93 ERA. James McDonald is scheduled to follow Rusin in his first game action since Sept. 1. McDonald appeared in 16 games last season, six with the Pirates, as he struggled with shoulder problems. Top prospect Javier Baez will start at shortstop for Chicago. The game will be broadcast on WGN Radio and on Cubs.com.
– Carrie Muskat
For the second straight game, the bullpen imploded, but this time the Cubs overcame the breakdown and may have found a new closer candidate. Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run homer in the 11th inning to beat the pesky Mariners, 5-3, on Saturday night, with Blake Parker picking up his first Major League save.
With the game tied at 3 in the 11th, Nate Schierholtz reached on a bunt single against Oliver Perez, and Soriano followed with his ninth home run. Soriano also hit a RBI single in the sixth, is now batting .386 in 25 career games as the designated hitter with nine home runs and 24 RBIs.
“The DH thing is working,” Dale Sveum said. “A couple days off hopefully helped him get to that form he was doing this time last year when he took off, too.”
Perez struck Soriano out in the ninth inning on Friday in the Mariners’ 5-4, 10-inning victory. Saturday was different. Perez threw two fastballs, then a breaking ball.
“When I saw the breaking ball, it gave me more confidence at home plate,” Soriano said. “I wanted to try to swing at a strike and make good contact, and he threw me a fastball in the middle and I had a good swing.”
At 37, Soriano may be a better suited to be a designated hitter. His name was bantered about last year prior to the Trade Deadline.
“Who knows? I just come to the ballpark every day and just try to do my job,” Soriano said. “I don’t want to put anything in my mind. The last couple years, always trade rumors and nothing happens. I just want to focus day by day and see what happens.”
The Cubs were wearing replica uniforms from the 1909 season, when they won 104 games under manager Frank Chance and finished second in the National League. That year, they were coming off their second straight World Championship, which, at this point, is the last one. They could’ve used Mordecai Brown on Saturday.
Seattle trailed 3-2 in the ninth and rallied with one out against Kevin Gregg as Henry Blanco walked and was lifted for pinch-runner Michael Saunders, who moved up on Nick Franklin’s groundout. Endy Chavez then lined a single to center to tie the game. It was Gregg’s first blown save in 13 opportunities.
“I got the ball up a little bit and he fought it off to get it over second base,” Gregg said of Chavez.
“It wasn’t the greatest pitch selection,” Sveum said.
That left Parker, who totaled seven saves at Triple-A Iowa this year. He had pitched 1 1/3 innings on Friday, but looked fresh and retired the side in order.
“He showed me a lot today,” Sveum said of the right-hander. “That’s a nice asset to know it wasn’t a deer in the headlights in that situation in the big leagues.”
“It’s a position I’m comfortable in for sure,” Parker said. “Going out there in tight situations is where any competitor wants to be. When it’s a close game and for all the marbles and everything’s on the line, usually that’s when most people are at their best. Gregg’s done a great job all year and I’ll go out and compete no matter what role I’m in.”
Before the game, Sveum hinted he may turn to Parker, who admitted he’s still learning how to pitch in the big leagues.
“You’re expected to pitch every day and that’s the approach I took and I got myself ready to pitch and I was ready when my number was called,” Parker said.
– Carrie Muskat
* Alfonso Soriano will play all six games on the Cubs’ West Coast Interleague trip to Seattle and Oakland, most likely as the DH.
“I like it, especially in a stadium when I can have a batting cage behind the clubhouse and the dugout, that’s good,” Soriano said Thursday. “Between innings, I can work on my swing and be ready with my at-bats.”
Soriano did not start Thursday against the Brewers, getting a second straight day off. The veteran outfielder was batting .245 overall, and .191 in 22 games in June with one home run and seven doubles.
“At my age, now I’m 37, I just hit for one week, it’s good,” Soriano said. “[Being the DH] the whole season, that’s totally different. But for six games, it’s not bad.”
* Starlin Castro was 2-for-5 on Wednesday in his first game back after a one-day breather, and could’ve had a third hit if Milwaukee third baseman Aramis Ramirez wasn’t hugging the line.
“Hopefully, that kind of game propels you moving forward and he can be the kid we all know he is,” manager Dale Sveum said of Castro.
* Reliever Blake Parker is experimenting with a new split change pitch.
“It’s still a work in progress,” Parker said. “I like it as a third pitch.”
Something’s working for the right-hander, who has thrown scoreless relief in seven of eight appearances.
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs shuffled their bullpen Thursday, promoting right-hander Zach Putnam from Triple-A Iowa and optioning right-hander Alex Burnett to the Minor League team. To make room on the 40-man roster, Kyuji Fujikawa, who needs Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.
Putnam was 1-1 with four saves and a 3.26 ERA in 17 games with Iowa. He had 22 strikeouts over 19 1/3 innings. The right-hander, whom the Cubs claimed off waivers from the Rockies, was one of the last players cut in Spring Training. He appeared in 11 Cactus League games, and gave up four runs on 14 hits over 10 innings while striking out six. He and Blake Parker were sharing the closer’s role at Iowa.
“I’ve always loved pitching in the back of the bullpen,” Putnam said.
Burnett was claimed off waivers from the Orioles and arrived about a half hour before the Cubs’ Interleague game against the White Sox. He made his first appearance Wednesday, and gave up one hit in one inning.
– Carrie Muskat
Guillermo Moscoso gave up one run on six hits and struck out seven over seven innings in Iowa’s 4-1 victory over Reno. Dave Sappelt hit a two-run homer and Brett Jackson had two hits and two RBIs. Ian Stewart was 0-for-3 with a walk. Blake Parker picked up his fifth save.
Matt Garza gave up three hits and walked two over 3 1/3 innings in Tennessee’s 5-4 win over Birmingham. Matt Szczur had two hits, two RBIs and two stolen bases, and Christian Villanueva had three hits, including two doubles, and one RBIs. This was Garza’s third rehab start, second with the Smokies, and he threw 66 pitches, 40 for strikes.
Daytona’s doubleheader against Dunedin was canceled because of unplayable field conditions.
Wilson Contreras had three hits, including his fourth home run, to help Kane County beat Clinton, 7-4. Michael Heesch picked up the win, giving up four runs on 12 hits over six innings. Pin-Chieh Chen had two hits.
Brent Lillibridge, Michael Brenly, Jeff Samardzija and Blake Parker advanced in the Cubs bunting tourney on Tuesday. Here are the players who have reached the sweet 16 and their next match:
Travis Wood vs Nate Halm, video guy
Jeff Samardzija vs Blaker Parker
Brent Lillibridge vs Michael Brenly
Edwin Maysonet vs Andy Lane, bullpen catcher
– Carrie Muskat