Updated: 5 p.m.
Four players – all of which are position players – will join Class AA Tennessee in Huntsville, Ala., beginning Tuesday, as outfielder Chris Walker, infielders Robinson Chirinos and Nate Spears, and catcher/first baseman Alan Rick were promoted from Daytona late Monday night.
Of the players promoted, Walker was arguably the most logical choice. The 27-year-old began the year in Tennessee and was promoted to Triple-A Iowa in late April after batting .312 in 19 games at Double-A.
Walker got off to a good start at Iowa, picking up six hits in his first 14 at-bats before cooling off and eventually being delegated to reserve duties.
“A lot of people asked if I was on rehab,” he said. “It wasn’t that and I was never hurt. A couple of moves were being made from up top and I was going to be the fifth outfielder in Triple-A or the fifth outfielder in Double-A.”
Walker won’t be faced with that dilemma at Tennessee. On Monday, OF Jorge Cortes was promoted to Iowa after batting .280 in 79 games.
In five games with Daytona, Walker was 7-for-19.
In a separate move, INF Carlos Rojas was promoted from Tennessee to Iowa Tuesday. Best known for his defense, the 23-year-old Rojas began the year at Triple-A before being sent to Tennessee after batting .247 in 25 games with Iowa. He proceeded to hit .198 in 38 games at Double-A.
Chirinos, Rick and Spears are all set to make their Double-A debuts.
Signed by the Cubs in 2000 out of Venezuela at age 16, the 23-year-old Chirinos is now in his seventh season of minor league ball. He had a team-best .385 on-base percentage with Daytona.
“He’s a very solid player that can play a lot of positions,” Cubs Farm Director Oneri Fleita said of Chirinos. “He knows how to work the count and I think he’s started to show some flashes of power to where he can develop into a pretty good looking hitter and a guy that can play a lot of positions.
“He’s got a long career ahead of him,” predicted Fleita.
Chirinos batted .259 with 14 doubles and 19 extra base hits in 79 games with Daytona, where he saw the bulk of his playing time at shortstop. He also appeared in 13 games between second and third base.
“Chirinos is a leader with great baseball instincts,” Daytona manager Jody Davis said. “I had him last year (at Peoria) and he’s done everything I’ve asked him to do. Last year, he mostly played second base for me, so moving over to short this year is a new challenge for him.
“With his baseball instincts, he’s made it look pretty easy,” Davis added.
For his part, Rick batted .231 in 55 games with Daytona. Drafted as a catcher out of high school in the fourth round of the 2002 draft, the 23-year-old Rick has started the bulk of his games at first base this season with teammates Mark Reed and Jake Muyco getting most of the reps behind the dish.
Primarily a light hitter for much of his career, Rick reworked his stance midway through last season in Daytona and began getting into more of an open stance before finishing with a .287 average over his final two months.
“I changed it a little bit to where I don’t stride as much and am not as open as I was last year. I still have the same approach,” Rick explained.
He added: “It’s the first time I’ve ever been called up in the middle of the season and I was real happy about it. Jody said I’d been here long enough.”
In 78 games with Daytona, Spears batted .261 with 17 extra base hits. The Cubs acquired the left-handed hitting infielder from Baltimore in January, 2006, as part of the trade that sent Corey Patterson to the Orioles.
The 22-year-old Spears leaves Daytona with a .355 average (11-for-31) over his last 10 games. He batted .246 in 97 games with Daytona a season ago.
Tennessee was in need of second base help after INF Gary Cates recently suffered a broken finger in a game against Mobile on July 13.
Heading to Daytona are three players from Peoria and one from Boise. Catcher Steve Clevenger headlines this group, followed in no particular order by OFs Matt Camp and Alfred Joseph, and INF Jonathan Mota.
Clevenger was a promising seventh-round pick in the 2006 draft from Chipola (Fla.) Junior College that hit .286 in 63 games a season ago at Boise as an infielder. Beginning last fall in the Instructional League and on into Extended Spring Training, he made the switch to catcher.
A left-handed hitter, the 21-year-old batted .373 with nine doubles and 18 RBIs in 22 games upon making the return trip to Boise this summer.
Like Clevenger, Camp was also drafted a year ago and went to Boise for his professional debut. The 13th-round pick from North Carolina State batted .289 with a Northwest League-leading 87 hits in 74 games.
After batting just .187 in his first month with Peoria earlier this season, the 23-year-old Camp came on strong to hit .284 over his final 40 games with the Chiefs prior to his promotion to Daytona.
Joseph joined the Cubs in 2004 as a 15th-round draft pick out of high school. After spending most all of his first three years in short-season/rookie ball, the 20-year-old batted .246 in 77 games with Peoria this season.
An infielder that has played short, second and third base this season, Mota leaves Peoria after batting .277 with a team-best 17 doubles in 67 games. The 20-year-old was signed by the Cubs out of Venezuela at age 16 in 2003.
In Peoria, three players from the Cubs’ 2007 draft class are set to make their Midwest League debuts while one familiar face returns to action as RHP Jose Ceda rejoins the team Tuesday following a two-month stint in Arizona.
The 20-year-old Ceda was 2-2 with a 4.70 ERA in six starts with Peoria earlier in the year. The Cubs acquired Ceda from San Diego last year in the trade that sent Todd Walker to the Padres on July 31.
Cubs scouts admire the right-hander’s ability to run his fastball up into the mid to upper 90s with consistency, plus his 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame.
“His arm works real well. He throws in the mid 90’s. We love the guy and think he has a great ceiling. We’re excited to have him,” Fleita said of Ceda last season, adding that “he’s a great-looking kid with a body like that of a Jose Mesa or a Lee Smith.”
Prior to going on the DL in mid-May, Ceda had held opposing hitters to a .173 average against in 23 innings with Peoria. He struck out 24.
Joining Ceda in Peoria are 2007 draft picks Darwin Barney, Clark Hardman and Leon Johnson, all of whom are fresh up from the Arizona Rookie League.
Barney was the Cubs’ fourth-round pick in this year’s draft from Oregon State. He was a catalyst on the Beavers’ back to back College World Series championship clubs and batted .302 in 67 games this past season.
“He doesn’t quite have the thump to his bat that (third-round pick Tony) Thomas does, but he’s a steady defensive player that runs about right at average; not a bad baserunner,” Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken said of Barney. “He makes most of the plays in the field. He’s got the ability to compete successfully when it counts.”
In five games in the Arizona Rookie League with Mesa, the 21-year-old shortstop was 8-for-18 with three doubles and four walks. He racked up five hits in just his second game with the team on July 12.
Hardman was chosen by the Cubs in the ninth round of this year’s draft from Cal State Fullerton. With the Titans, the 21-year-old outfielder led the team with a .380 batting average in 62 games this past season.
“He makes good contact, is better than an average runner, and is a true center fielder,” Wilken said of Hardman, who was 5-for-15 in four AZL games.
Johnson was selected by the Cubs in the 10th round of this year’s draft from BYU. After spending two years on a mission in Siberia, the 22-year-old outfielder returned to hit .248 in 54 games with BYU this past season. Well known for his speed, he stole 29 bases in 37 attempts.
“Other than his stolen base stats, his (overall) stats are not indicative of the kind of player that he’s going to be,” BYU head coach Vance Law told InsideTheIvy.com. “He can play all three outfield positions. His arm is getting strong and he’s got an accurate arm.”
Johnson batted .433 (29-for-67) with five doubles, five triples, and 13 stolen bases in 18 games in the Arizona League prior to joining Peoria.
No other roster moves are known at this time.
InsideTheIvy.com staff writer David Fultz contributed to this report.