Pitching prospects highlight outing
February, 26, 2014
By Jesse Rogers
MESA, Ariz. -- One Chicago Cubs prospect looked sharp on the mound, while the other appeared rusty as the Cubs took the field in their new stadium for an intrasquad game on Wednesday.
Kyle Hendricks, the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year last season, retired all eight hitters he faced. Arodys Vizcaino, the top-ranked arm in camp, walked the first two batters he faced and struggled through his inning of work.
Cactus League play begins on Thursday.
“I was real happy with it,” Hendricks said after Wednesday’s game. “Not just the results. I was putting pitches where I wanted to.”
Hendricks said he threw some good changeups and was pleasantly surprised his curveball was working as hitters struggled to make good contact off him. That’s his game; he’s not going to make it to the majors blowing hitters away.
Vizcaino, on the other hand, is a flamethrower. But he couldn’t locate his spots after missing two years of action due to arm troubles. He walked the first two batters, gave up a stolen base and then a base hit.
“I was tired out there,” he said. “It was my first game. My arm felt good, but I missed my spots.”
Before Wednesday’s game, manager Rick Renteria said the only thing he’s concerned about regarding Vizcaino is his health. If his arm feels good on Thursday, then Wednesday was a successful first step -- as bad as the results may have been.
Renteria also was asked about Hendricks. His demeanor was evident even in an intrasquad affair.
“I see him as a very even-keeled individual,” Renteria said. “He goes about his business the right way every single day."
These men offer two very different styles of pitching. One is in the mode of Greg Maddux -- Hendricks’ favorite player -- and the other has an electric arm. Hendricks flies under the radar when it comes to top prospects, while Vizcaino has been among the highly touted -- before and after Tommy John surgery.
Which style will make it to the big leagues? This spring and subsequent season will help answer that question.
Youth is served: At one point in Wednesday’s intrasquad game, one side had an all prospect lineup in the game, including the Cubs’ “Big Four.”
Kris Bryant was at third base, Javier Baez was at shortstop, Arismendy Alcantara was at second base, Albert Almora was in centerfield and Jorge Soler was in right.
“That was a good feeling,” Baez said. “We’re not on the team yet, but we will be soon.”
Baez said he was impressed by Bryant’s agility and hands at third base. The No. 2 overall pick in June’s draft made several nice plays on hard-hit balls.
“My defense usually comes later for me, so it felt good to get to some ground balls right away,” Bryant said.
Playing long ball: New Cub Justin Ruggiano hit a long home run in the intrasquad game after striking out in his first at-bat.
“It’s all about getting your timing right now,” he said. “I missed a couple of pitches in my first at-bat, didn’t want to be late so made sure I made the adjustments. That’s promising for me.”
Welington Castillo also homered, as did Christian Villanueva.