The organization’s 2004 Minor League Player of the Year fractured his left foot after taking an awkward turn around the second base bag in his season opener with Double-A West Tenn on April 6 at Birmingham.
Cubs Director of Player Development Oneri Fleita told Scout.com on Wednesday that Dopirak had undergone surgery to repair a fractured metatarsal bone in the foot and is expected to miss the next 6-8 weeks.
“When he rounded the bag, he landed really awkward on it,” described Ron Potesta, the Diamond Jaxx fourth-year broadcaster. “When I first saw it, I thought that maybe he had just slipped and pulled his ankle, but the injury obviously proved worse than that.”
The 22-year-old Dopirak (dah-PAIR-ik) spent the first several days after the accident walking around in a soft cast and preparing to fly to Chicago for an evaluation by team doctors.
Micah Hoffpauir, who expected to begin the year at Triple-A, has thus far gotten all of the playing time at first in Dopirak’s absence.
Hoffpauir has started at first base each of the past three seasons for Iowa, West Tenn and Daytona, but had planned on getting most of his work in the Jaxx outfield before Dopirak went down.
“It was tough on Brian and tough on all of us,” Hoffpauir said. “He was going to be our main strength in the middle of the lineup. We still have a chance to be a good ball club and we’ve got a lot of talent in the lineup. It could still be a very powerful lineup.”
Dopirak batted .307 with 39 home runs and 120 RBIs in 2004 at Class-A Lansing en route to being named Midwest League MVP and Baseball America’s pre-season Cubs No. 1 prospect the following spring.
Numbers-wise, he hit a steady decline in 2005, batting .235 at Daytona with 16 homers and 76 driven in.
Dopirak was looking forward to his first year at Double-A after batting .355 in 17 games with the big league club this spring. He remained in traditional Brian Dopirak good spirits after the setback.
“I can’t wait to get back on the playing field,” an ecstatic Dopirak said following the injury. “Hell yeah, buddy.”
ELSEWHERE ON THE FARM … In Des Moines, INF Mike Fontenot saved the Iowa Cubs from being no-hit on Wednesday. He picked up the team’s only two hits in a 2-0 loss to Nashville and is 6-for-17 in his first seven games. RHP Bobby Brownlie suffered his second loss in three appearances with the club, yielding a run on three hits in one inning. Brownlie has allowed 11 hits to 20 batters faced in 3 1/3 innings.
In Sevierville, Tenn., the Dopirak-less Diamond Jaxx turned in yet another strong effort on the mound but lost, 2-1. Jaxx starter Carlos Marmol’s second start was an exact replica of his first. The right-hander allowed just one hit in six innings, walking two and facing 18 batters all told (the same as his ’06 debut last Friday). He struck out eight.
RHP Lincoln Holdzkom was tagged with the loss, giving up the Smokies only two runs with RHP Rocky Cherry throwing an inning and two-thirds of scoreless ball to open the year with 5 2/3 shutout innings and six strikeouts to one walk. The pitching staff remains stellar with a combined league-leading ERA of 1.43.
OF Chris Walker turned in a season-high three hits atop the order and is 6 for his last 13 on a club that’s hit .247 as a team through their first seven games – good for fourth in the league. Catcher Pete Farina, fresh up from Extended Spring Training, made his Double-A debut and was 0-for-4 with a strikeout. He was brought up to aid the Jaxx catching department after Jose Reyes was sidelined almost a week with a sore thumb.
In St. Lucie, Fla., Daytona got its first win of the year with a 2-0 shutout over the Mets after previously starting 0-6. RHP Sean Gallagher worked six shutout innings, giving up six hits while striking out four. He is winless in two starts despite an ERA of zero. RHP Angelo Burrows got his first win in relief since coming over from the Atlanta Braves farm system last August.
Oft-injured OF/DH Nic Jackson hit his first home run since May 17, 2004, but the offense continued to struggle with just five hits. The team has hit .204 in its first seven contests.
In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Peoria continued to struggle at the plate as well in spite of the efforts of SS Dylan Johnston, who is batting above .350 to start the year. Johnston, the fourth-round pick from Hamilton High School in Arizona in last year’s draft, recorded his first career triple and third two-hit game in three nights in a 7-3 loss.
RHP Todd Blackford, acquired with Burrows from Atlanta in the Todd Hollandsworth exchange late last season, threw five another five innings in his second start, this time allowing two runs on three hits. He has allowed one hit to right-handers this year in 16 at-bats.
“MINOR NEWS” … RHP Lee Gwaltney, who succumb to a torn labrum late last season, was hoping to return to live action relatively early this season, but likely won’t be assigned to a Cubs affiliate until July. The Cubs still have Gwaltney, a former Phillies pitching prospect, rehabbing in Mesa this spring. The 25-year-old was 6-4 last season between Peoria, Daytona and one start at West Tenn. He posted a 2.58 ERA in 33 appearances.
E-mail Steve Holley: firstname.lastname@example.org.