Down on Cubs Farm: Minor League Baseball returns


by - Staff Writer -
Patrick Gorski - USA Today Sports
Patrick Gorski - USA Today Sports

After more than 19 months without Minor League baseball, the 2021 season kicked off Tuesday night as three of the Cubs' four affiliates were in action. This year's seasons will look entirely different as the season will be much simpler, unlike seasons of the past.

Each team will play six-game series beginning on Tuesday and end on Sunday, with Monday being used as a travel day. They will also only play teams within their division all season. That means instead of seeing 12-15 opponents on the schedule, you will see the same 6-9 teams all year as they will make up the full 120 game slate.

INDIANAPOLIS INDIANS 3 – IOWA CUBS 0

It was a quiet night for the defending Division champs as they were silenced by Chase De Jong and the Indians' staff. Making his Iowa debut was Joe Biagini, who got the start as he hoped to make a great first impression. After allowing a leadoff homer to Travis Swaggerty to open the game, Biagini allowed three more singles, including a Dylan Busby RBI single, to give Indianapolis a 2-0 lead.

That would be all Biagini allowed, as he went six innings allowing both those runs to go with six hits and a pair of strikeouts. Unfortunately, his counterpart De Jong was much better as he kept the Cubs hitless through five innings. That was until Sergio Alcantara led off the sixth inning with Iowa's first hit, followed by an Ian Miller walk and Rafael Ortega single to load the bases with no outs. This was the best scoring chance for Iowa as they would come up empty courtesy of De Jong striking out the side to finish with 10K's.

Swaggerty added a ninth-inning RBI for the game's final run as the Cubs were blanked 3-0 in their home and season opener. Players of note who saw game action were Jason Adam throwing two scoreless innings of relief. Both Ortega and Alcantara picking up both hits while Cameron Maybin and Nick Martini combined to go 0-8 with five K's.

MONTGOMERY BISCUITS at TENNESSEE SMOKIES (Postponed)

QUAD CITY RIVER BANDITS 4 – SOUTH BEND CUBS 7

In their first game at Four Winds Field since winning the 2019 Midwest League title, the Cubs turned to Peyton Remy to open their new season. While Remy was good in his start walking one and striking out six, he only lasted 4 2/3 innings as he wouldn't qualify for the win.

Much like the Iowa offense, South Bend got off to a slow start, but Cam Balego got them on the board first with an RBI single in the fourth for the 1-0 lead. The River Bandits responded in the top of the fifth when Jeison Guzman picked up an RBI ground out to tie things up before a wild pitch allowed Nathan Eaton to score, making it 2-1 River Bandits.

This was about the time when South Bend began to wake up offensively, scoring six runs across their next three innings to secure the win. A Bryce Windham sacrifice fly tied things in the sixth before a Delvin Zinn sacrifice fly in the seventh, and Tyler Druuna RBI single gave South Bend a 4-2 lead. Vinny Pasquantino connected for a solo shot in the top of the eight ahead of a John Rave ground out, and once again, things were tied 4-4.

It was in the bottom of the eighth when South Bend put the game away as Zinn came through with a two-RBI double before later scoring on a Luis Vazquez single. Zinn led the offense with three RBI's, as Cayne Ueckert closed the door in the top of the ninth to secure the win.

Other notable names in action were top 10 prospect Cole Roederer who went 1-4 with a walk and strikeout, and fellow top 10 prospect Chase Strumpf reaching base three times (pair of hits and a walk).

MYRTLE BEACH PELICANS 3 – CHARLESTON RIVER DOGS 6

No team in the minor league system has more hype than Myrtle Beach this season, but that didn't show up on Tuesday night. After three great innings to start the game, Pelicans starter Manuel Espinoza unraveled in the fourth as Charleston pushed across five runs to take a 5-0 lead. Only one of those runs came on a Brett Wisley homer as the Pelicans defense did them no favors.

Still trailing by five in the top of the fifth, the Pelicans bats came to life and started to show fans what they are capable of this season. That all began with leadoff man Darius Hill as he ripped a two-RBI double to right. Hill will be a critical part of their offense this year as he looks to be the table-setter. A few batters later, it was 2020 first-round pick Ed Howard coming through as his first career professional hit led to an RBI single, closing the gap to 5-3.

Charleston put the game away in the sixth when Wisley took Alex Whitney deep for his second of the night, capping off a 6-3 opening day win. Along with Howard, 2020 third-round pick Jordan Nwagu made his pro debut going 0-3 with a pair of K's. Yohendrick Pinango, who participated in the Dominican Rookie League last summer, went 1-4 and will be an exciting prospect to follow this season. Jose Albertos also started his season off on a good note throwing a scoreless inning of relief.

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