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Arismendy Alcantara gets pipeline from farm system flowing

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Updated: July 9, 2014 11:58PM



CINCINNATI — The day after the trade that sent their top two starting pitchers to the Oakland Athletics and started another second-half slide for the Cubs, All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro refused to acknowledge the pall that hung over the clubhouse.

“I know we’ll be pretty close soon,” he said, “because we’ve got great talent in the minor leagues. Those guys coming up will be good.”

But when? What’s the timeline? How soon does the clock start ticking now that this front office has scuttled three consecutive big-league seasons?

Wednesday maybe?

“Oh, yeah,” Castro said. “This is just the beginning.”

With rookie pitchers Dallas Beeler and Kyle Hendricks already in the clubhouse for post-trade starts, the first of the touted position prospects joined them in middle infielder Arismendy Alcantara ­— who debuted at second during Wednesday’s in place of Darwin Barney, who’s on a two-day paternity leave.

Everybody in the place, including Alcantara, knows he’s headed back to AAA Iowa after Thursday’s series finale against the Cincinnati Reds.

But Twitter lit up brighter than Alcantara’s smile from the moment news broke Tuesday night of his call-up, all the way through his 0-for-4 game that included two strikeouts and three sparkling plays at second base.

And if Alcantara — the guy general manager Jed Hoyer calls the “under-appreciated” of the Cubs’ top position prospects — can get this opportunity before the All-Star break, how far behind him can super kids Javy Baez or Kris Bryant be?

By then, Twitter might finally discover its traffic capacity — or at least how many tweets a “halloffame” hashtag can handle.

“It’s exciting,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “It definitely is.”

But the start of the farm system’s new pipeline opening up?

“Honestly, no,” Rizzo said, “because really we’re another half season away from that — September at the earliest, I feel.”

The Cubs have no intention of starting top prospect Bryant’s service-time clock this year. And they’re in no rush with Baez, even if he debuts this year — with Alcantara probably getting a shot to finish the year with the Cubs at some point.

“You never know,” Rizzo said. “You can’t put your eggs in [a basket of], ‘Oh, here it comes.’ It’s just going to happen.”

But Alcantara, who has been on hitting tear for Iowa for more than a month, said he never expected he’d reach the big leagues before Baez.

“One of my dreams is to be in the big leagues,” said the switch-hitter who rose from a preseason rank of 100 to a midseason rank of 33 on Baseball America’s prospect list. “I’ll try to enjoy it the most I can. Try to do my job and still enjoy the best day of the year.”

Rizzo said he’s especially happy for Alcantara because of how he worked under the radar to eventually earn Wednesday’s promotion.

“He’s not going to get the hype and recognition like the other guys,” Rizzo said, “but sometimes it makes it a lot easier transition without all of that.”

Alcantara, 22, said after the game he wasn’t nervous and got comfortable quickly — showing off a strong arm on a relay throw for an out at third, a pick up the middle for another out and a charge-and-whip throw on another close play.

If he’s under-appreciated compared to the Cubs’ other top kids?

“I don’t pay much attention to that,” he said. “I just tell myself, play my game. If they want to talk about me, fine. If they don’t, it’s OK. … If I do my job they will talk about me.”

Stay tuned.

If nothing else — if only for two days — this might be a first glimpse into the pipeline that’s been building for nearly three years. This might be a start.

“I think so,” Castro said. “We got a lot more people coming up.”

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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