Devers Delivers But Mena is The Man at Fitch Park
Ismael Mena rifled a two-run triple into the RF Corner in the 2nd inning and then scored on an error (relay overthrow at 3rd base), drilled a single, stole a base, and scored a run in the 5th (Jefferson Rojas RBI single), and hammered a line-drive bases-loaded bases-clearing triple off the CF Batter's Eye in the 6th for a grand total of five RBI and two runs scored, Christopher Paciolla doubled, singled, stole a base, and scored two runs, and SP Luis Devers (on the AA Tennessee 7-day IL - right shoulder inflammation) saw his first game action of 2023 and hurled two innings of shutout ball, as the Cubs defeated the Athletics 8-4 in a Cactus League Extended Spring Training game played Thursday morning at the Lew Wolff Training Complex at Fitch Park in Mesa, AZ.
Angel Rivera reached base four times (a double, a single, and two walks) and scored a run for the A's.
The game was pre-planned as an eight-inning affair.
Devers mixed a 90-93 MPH FB with a 80-83 CH, striking out two and inducing an inning-ending 5-4-3 DP, while allowing two doubles and two four-pitch walks. Both of the doubles resulted from leaving a meaty FB up in the zone (he has to keep his FB on the corners and edges to avoid hard contact), and the three swing & miss he induced (including the two swinging strike three) were on the plus-plus-CH.
With his big day at the plate, Ismael Mena is now hitting 290/328/500 (828 OPS / 210 ISO) in 22 Cactus League Extended Spring Training games (67 PA), including four doubles, a team-leading three triples (tied with the recently promoted Yeison Santana), one HR (inside-the-park), and a team leading (lowest / best) 13% K-rate (but unfortunately also a team worst 4% walk-rate). He has scored twelve runs (second on the team in runs scored to Jefferson Rojas), and he is second in stolen bases with seven (one CS), one behind team SB leader J. Rojas.
Over his last ten games, Mena is hitting a robust 357/387/679. Mena also has been playing Gold Glove caliber defense at all three outfield positions, although he is clearly most valuable to the team when he plays CF. In addition, he has plus speed on the bases with a long stride that makes it seem as though he runs faster when taking two or three bases at a time.
While Jefferson Rojas is certainly the best all-around player and Adan Sanchez the best pure hitter at Cubs Extended Spring Training, it is also clear that Ismael Mena and team HR-leader Anderson Suriel are the most-improved position players (not including rehab guys), what with the two of them having the two lowest (best) K-rates on the team while at the same time displaying an increase in exit velo, barrel rate, and line-drives, and both playing stellar defense (Mena in CF and Suriel at 1B).
Ismael Mena was part of the package the Cubs got back from the Padres in the Yu Darvish deal, and until recently it appeared that of the five players the Cubs acquired in the trade, only OF Owen Caissie would provide future value to the Cubs. However, there might be a second one if Mena continues to improve.
Here is the abridged box score from the game (Cubs players only):
EXST CUBS LINEUP:
1. Ismael Mena, RF: 3-5 (P-6, 3B, 1B, 3B, 4-3, 2 R, 5 RBI, SB)
2. Jefferson Rojas, DH: 1-5 (E-3, E-5, 1B, K, 6-3, R, RBI, SB)
3. Ed Howard, SS: 1-3 (1B, 4-3, 3-U, BB)
4a. Adan Sanchez, C: 0-3 (4-3, P-4, K)
4b. Jairo Diaz, C: 1-1 (2B)
5a. Anderson Suriel, 1B: 0-2 (F-9, F-7)
5b. Wally Soto, PH-1B: 0-2 (3-1, K)
6. Geuri Lubo, 3B: 1-3 (5-3, 2B, K, HBP)
7. Christopher Paciolla, 2B: 2-4 (2B, F-7, 1B, K, 2 R, SB)
8a. Frank Hernandez, LF: 0-2 (4-3, F-8)
8b. Brayan Altuve, LF: 1-2 (1B, K, R, SB)
9. Christian Olivo, CF: 0-2 (BB, 1-3, BB, 4-3, 2 R)
EXST CUBS PITCHERS:
1. Luis Devers: 2.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 GIDP, 1/2 GO/AO, 31 pitches (17 strikes)
2. Carlos Garcia: 3.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R (3 ER), 4 BB, 3 K, 3 WP, 1 GIDP, 5/2 GO/AO, 76 pitches (35 strikes)
3. Gleiber Morales: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R (1 ER), 4 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 2/1 GO/AO, 63 pitches (28 strikes)
EXST CUBS ERRORS: NONE
EXST CUBS CATCHERS DEFENSE:
1. Adan Sanchez: 1 PB
2. Jairo Diaz: 1 PB
WEATHER: Sunny with temperatures in the 90's
"Just because it isn't official doesn't mean it didn't happen"