DJ Spins the Biggest Hit

Up from Minor League Camp (Fitch Park) to provide some back-up insurance on the bench, D. J. Lemahieu slugged a pinch-hit two-run homer in the bottom of the 10th to give a Cubs split squad a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in warm & sunny Mesa, AZ, this afternoon.

box score (Mesa)

The Cubs 2nd round pick in 2009 out of College World Series Champion LSU, Lemahieu comes into the 2011 season looking like a body-builder, having added about 25 pounds (mostly muscle) to his 6'4 frame at the Cubs off-season strength & conditioning program at Fitch Park (AKA "Camp Colvin"). He is regarded by most scouts and other observers as the Cubs best hitting prospect, but he has been doing it with an arm-locked opposite-field line-drive stroke that did not produce home runs. He worked extensively with Cubs minor league hitting coach Barbaro Garbey at AZ Instructs post-2009 on learning how to elevate his swing a bit and "turn on the ball," but he was mostly unable to replicate the training at Daytona in 2010, hitting 314/346/386 but with only two HR in 600 PA. (Somehow he managed 73 RBI, though).   

Lemahieu has played 2B-SS-3B in his short pro career (2010 was his first full season), and while he looks most-comfortable at SS, he has also almost-certainly outgrown the position. Scouts projected him long-term as a 2B or (even more-likely) a 3B in pro ball, but questioned if he could develop the HR power expected of a third-baseman. Granted today is just one game (and a Spring Training game to boot), but the HR Lemahieu hit today was probably not something you would have seen last year or anytime previous in his career. 

Ryan Dempster got the start for the Cubs today, and pitched very well, going four innings (46 pitches - 31 strikes, 4/4 GO/FO), allowing just one run on three hits and no walks. Manager Mike Quade has already named Dempster as the Cubs Opening Day starting pitcher, and he is obviously the most-advanced of the Cubs starters so far. He probably could easily have pitched a fifth inning today. Dempster's only bump in the road was an Aaron Miles lead-off triple to CF in the 3rd, with Miles eventually scoring on a ground out.

The Cubs got on the board first in the bottom of the 1st inning against Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley, as lead-off man Kosuke Fukudome reached second base on a double-error by SS Justin Sellers, and then scored on an RBI double by Marlon Byrd  (Sellers was acquired by the Cubs from OAK in the Michael Wuertz deal, only to be dealt to the Dodgers at the end of Minor League Camp in 2009 before ever having a chance to play in a regular season game in the Cubs system).  

The Cubs took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 4th, as Byrd doubled again (his 4th double in two days), and scored on a Jeff Baker two-out line-drive RBI single that knocked Billingsley out of the game.

Carlos Marmol threw a shutout 5th (striking out the side), but the Dodgers tied it up in the 6th against Thomas Diamond, as Gabe Kapler ripped a lead-off double, and scored one out later on a Dioner Navarro SF.

The Cubs came back to take the lead again in the bottom of the 7th, as Steve Clevenger raked an opposite-field PH double over the left-fielder's head, and scored a moment later on a Fukudome line-drive RBI single to right-center.  

But then the Dodgers tied it up (again) in the 8th against Jeff Stevens, as the right-hander labored through his one inning of work, allowing a walk, a single, and a Marcus Thames game-tying RBI double along the way.

Marcos Mateo pitched a 1-2-3 9th and Esmailin Caridad threw a 1-2-3 10th (and both looked very good), setting things up for some home team heroics. 

Lou Montanez worked a lead-off walk in the 10th, and then (with the Dodgers expecting a bunt) Lemahieu put an exclamation point on the day's festivities, turning a Luis Vasquez offering into crowd-pleasing walk-off dinger.  

Meanwhile, the other squad of Cubs was getting royally blanked in Goodyear by a Reds split squad, losing 10-0 on a combined two-hit shutout. 

box score (Goodyear)

I wasn't at this game, but from the box score it's fairly obvious that Casey Coleman had a poor outing (allowing three runs on four hits in 2.0 IP), and top pitching prospect Trey McNutt--making his Cactus League debut--allowed three walks, a double, and a home run (and a WP), getting only two outs (both strikeouts) before being relieved. 

Starting pitcher Todd Wellemeyer didn't pitch much better than Coleman, but he only allowed one run in his two innings, apparently thanks in part to a CS. 

The Cubs play only one game tomorrow, facing the Angels in Mesa.


Phil, what have you seen out of Lemahieu in BP?

Phil, along that same line do you see the Cubs (1) picking up ARam's option for 2012; (2) Vitters ready for 3B in 2012; or (3) Lemahieu (with HR power developing) a more realistic in-house option for 3B?

or (4) Marquez Smith taking a shot at playing third for a year and batting eighth.

Submitted by George Altman on Mon, 03/07/2011 - 4:53pm.
Phil, along that same line do you see the Cubs (1) picking up ARam's option for 2012; (2) Vitters ready for 3B in 2012; or (3) Lemahieu (with HR power developing) a more realistic in-house option for 3B?


GEORGE A: You're asking a good question, but I have no idea what the Cubs will do.

I guess if Aramis Ramirez reverts to pre-2010 form and stays healthy, I would think the Cubs will probably pick up his option for 2012, unless they need the $16M in 2012 salary to help pay for Albert Pujols. But if Ramirez does not revert to pre-2010 form, I don't think he'll be back even if the Cubs don't need to divert $16M to Pujols.

If Aramis Ramirez does not return in 2012, the Cubs could just muddle along like they did for about 30 years after Ron Santo was traded, but as far as in-house options are concerned, I would say Lemahieu will be played at both 2B and 3B at AA in 2011, and then will play wherever he is needed once he reaches MLB (2B, 3B, 1B, maybe super-sub 1B-2B-3B-LF-RF). Defensively he's a similar player to Jeff Baker, and also like Baker, Lemahieu murders LHP but sometimes will struggle vs RHP. The big issue with Lemahieu is HR power, whether he can sustain a power stroke in addition to being the best young hitter in the organization.

Josh Vitters might remain at 3B, or he could move to 1B. He has the actions of a third-baseman and is capable of making all the plays there, it's just that he sometimes gets lazy, especially with his throws. But whether he plays 3B or 1B, he must hit (and hit HR) to get to the big leagues.

Marquez Smith is probably more of a stop-gap until Lemahieu or Vitters emerges at 3B, but then Casey McGehee did not project as an everyday 3B until he grabbed the job in Milwaukee and wouldn't let it go, so...

Thanks, Phil. Appreciate the feedback as always. Would love to see more home-grown talent (Lemahieu/Vitters) have success as everyday players vs. trusting Hendry to make a better FA/trade acquisition to fill 2B and 3B.

Submitted by The Real Neal on Mon, 03/07/2011 - 9:56am.
Phil, what have you seen out of Lemahieu in BP?


REAL NEAL: D. J. Lemahieu is a lot of fun to watch in BP because he has plus-bat speed and tries to rifle everything up the middle, the way players are taught to take BP. No question Lemahieu is the Cubs best pure hitting prospect.

With his new found strength & power, though, I expect Lemahieu to explore "turning on the ball" when he gets an inside pitch he can handle, just as Ryne Sandberg did when he was taught a pull-power stroke by Jim Frey in 1984.

In fact, Ryne Sandberg might be an apt comparison to make with Lemahieu, not in terms of speed or defense, but just as far as Lemahieu being the same type of hitter Sandberg was early in his career, with the possibility that he might be able to develop some HR power later (like maybe starting this season).

Thanks. Maybe Ryno could help him... wait, nevermind. Maybe Mike Quade could... wait nevermind.

BTW PHIL: Helluvah nice headline! lol


Totally missed it.

Playoff Odds from BP:

Cardinals still the favorites - though I sort of like the Reds. Other than Votto and Arroyo, it's hard to find guys on their team that aren't likely to repeat what they did last year.

callis on twitter sez:

See him as more useful bench piece than regular. Can hit the fastball. @carl9730: Have you formed much of an opinion on Marquez Smith? #Cubs

Pena 1/14 with 5 K's so far...keep getting your reps in Colvin.

Those are KHill-like numbers!

Its ok, though. The IF-ers like throwing to him ;)

Hopefully Pena adds 5mph to the infielders throwing arms?


Koyie Hill's nickname should have been Cinco Zoom Zoom all this time.

And Welington Castillo throws a perfect strike to nail the runner on a hit and run.

Goodbye KHill.

angels are running like hell this spring...they're looking like they're gonna make speed a huge part of 2011 unless they're just checking out how fast their guys are. 17sb 2cs for the team this spring...well, 3cs now.

silva is gonna take out 3-4 guys in the dugout after this inning...i mean, doughnuts.

10 hits in 2.1

Silva blames defense. Pummels Colvin.

7 of them just in the 3rd along with a least silva's day is done. wellemeyer is somewhere celebrating early and hoping for more of the same.

In 2010, the story around Cubs camp seemed to be that early season slumps by Ramirez and Derrek Lee were tied into neither veteran working with Jaramillo.

"I always worked with Rudy," Ramirez said. "I don't know who came up with the idea that I didn't. But my work is different from some of the other guys who work with Rudy as well. Guys like Marlon and Soriano hit every day in the cage. I hit maybe 3-4 times a week in the cage in early spring training.

"I just go there to fine tune things. But Rudy is there for me all the time. We work on a lot of things, but he's not the type to change you. He helps you stay within your own swing."

Aram is a putz.

More then enough credible sources that said he didn't listen to anybody last year.

Aram is a putz.
J.J. Ramirez?

j.russell is working his way out of the "starter mix" quite effectively.

scott moore grand slam...cubs still down by 6 runs... *puke*

7 run 6th...down by 3.

They can come back.

Cubs want weekend festival around Wrigely for Yanks, Cards and White Sox weekend series.

So the Silva trade is looking kinda shitty.

he'll get a few more chances, but it seems like dumpseter/z/garza/wells should get their slots barring a screwup by wells...

that leaves silva/cashner...wellemeyer making things interesting, too.

The suits never like cutting guys that are owed a lot of money... even when they're a drag on the team, the suits don't like it.

Silva can host the street festivals and be Ricketts' valet, but stay away from the field.

Just kidding.

M. Ramirez clears the bases, Cubs lead 13-12 in the eighth

and the Cubs should have more, they ran themselves out of a couple runs


Jeff "Not Ready for Primetime" Samardzija summarily gives up a home run in the ninth to blow the save.

Shark, you son of a bitch, I am mildly displeased.

Cubs @Win!

how about that!


carlos silva really really really likes maddux...

also, silva's feeling pretty down about himself.

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  • You can start the CRUNCH EARLY AM REPORTER. Then you can blog to yourself, and argue with yourself about Jon Lester.

    The E-Man 10 min 56 sec ago view
  • my current job has me coming in at 7am (eastern)...i miss staying up til 2am to watch west coast games.

    crunch 1 hour 53 min ago view
  • Remember when west coast road trips were a good time to catch up on some reading?

    Old and Blue 2 hours 10 min ago view
  • Taboola field is more appropriate.

    Old and Blue 2 hours 11 min ago view
  • we can only hope...

    The things you have to do to pay for James Shields contract.

    Rob G. 2 hours 52 min ago view
  • I wonder if they'll have to make use of the Guaranteed Rate logo, which is a giant red arrow pointing downward.

    Brick 2 hours 58 min ago view
  • unsurprisingly, the White Sox continue a tradition of stupid stuff....

    @DannyEcker BREAKING: Guaranteed Rate has purchased naming rights to U.S. Cellular Field. Will be known as Guaranteed Rate Field thru 2030.

    Rob G. 3 hours 1 min ago view
  • that was a very kind 3rd strike to hendricks to end the 3rd.

    man on 3rd, 0 outs and got 2 pop-ups and a K...Maddux-lite indeed

    Rob G. 3 hours 11 min ago view
  • how did Fowler not score from 2nd on a double?

    by making bad decisions...

    Rob G. 3 hours 18 min ago view
  • he held on a popup (in case he needed to tag up) that bounced off the wall then jogged to 3rd. there were 0 outs so that probably played into the casual nature of how he played it.

    crunch 3 hours 29 min ago view
  • Not watching -- how did Fowler not score from 2nd on a double?

    billybucks 3 hours 49 min ago view
  • uh, Fowler?

    Rob G. 4 hours 9 min ago view
  • Well I assume Ross is going to catch Lester in the playoffs, and it looks like Contreras is going to catch everyone else. I could see the Cubs keeping three catchers on the playoff roster as it would give them flexibility and Montero would have a left handed bat with some pop (at least historically) off the bench.

    Rob Richardson 5 hours 13 min ago view
  • Aren't Montero and Ross already in a tie for third catcher?

    Charlie 5 hours 20 min ago view
  • Higher than Chris Perez's mailbox.

    John Beasley 5 hours 27 min ago view
  • Contreras starting at catcher for a day game after he caught the night before. What do people think the odds are that Montero is left off the post-season roster, or is at best the third catcher?

    Rob Richardson 5 hours 54 min ago view