SANTIAGO, D.R.–First it was Mexico upedning Licey in the Wednesday opener, and then it was Aguilas getting raked over the coals by Venezuela in an 8-5 victory, completing a day of upsets at El Stadio Cibao.
Venezuela (2-3) doesn’t have much punch in their offense, but it was more than enough against the lackluster performance of Aguilas’pitching staff Wednesday. Starter Bartolo Colon, who is without a contract and was auditioning for a big league job, allowed two runs on five hits and was chased in the fifth inning.
"He was OK, but there is no stamina there; he doesn’t maintain anything for more than two-inning stints,"said a scout with a National League club. "He started to lose it in the third–the velocity slowed some and he was leaving his sinker up in the zone–and then he was done.
Venezuela racked up 15 hits in the victory, setting up a much more meaningful game tonight between Aguilas (3-2) and Licey (4-1). If Aguilas knocks off Licey, there will be a one-game playoff Friday to decide the Caribbean Series winner. If not, Licey will be crowned champion tonight.
SANTIAGO, D.R.–Licey’s undefeated Series run ended with one swing of the bat on Wednesday.
Mexico designated hitter Robert Saucedo launched a three-run blast in the top of the 10th inning to hand Licey (4-1) its first loss of the Series. It was Saucedo’s second home run of the game, after hitting just seven homers all winter for Mazatlan. The first came off Omar Beltre in the second inning, but the crushing blow came against Oneli Perez.
"He’s got power, but he’s a straight pull hitter," Mazatlan general manager Chino Valdez said. "Next to Vinny Castilla, he’s had the best power in Mexico the last few seasons. In Mexico, they know how to pitch him–soft away. The pitch from Perez was soft, but he left it in the middle of the zone. He can handle that pitch all day." [...] Continue Reading »
SANTIAGO, D.R.–And on, and on, and on . . .
Licey closer Carlos Marmol started the ninth inning against Mexico. Even though he had to wait forever between his last warmup pitch and his first offering to a live hitter.
The Mariachi band in center field kept playing while everyone, Marmol, the umpires, etc., were ready to go . . . for a full two minutes.
Licey led 4-1 against arguably the toguhest closer in the tournament. After having to stand around in the stretch with his right foot on the rubber unsure of when he would actually get the sign from the home plate umpire to begin, Marmol blew up in the frame.
Mexico rallied for three runs against the Cubs righthander . . . and now Licey is batting in the bottom of the ninth.
SANTIAGO, D.R.–If Licey and Aguilas both win today and Aguilas knocks off Licey Thursday, the two would meet in a one-game playoff to decide which Dominican team is the Caribbean Series champion.
But no one’s getting ahead of themselves.
"Thursday’s a lifetime away," said Licey catcher and Royals farmhand Matt Tupman, who’s finishing up his first season in winter ball. "We can’t think about Thursday at all. We have to focus on now. We’re in the driver’s seat in the Series, but nothing is close to over."
Licey and Mexico are currently tied 1-1 in the third inning of the early game, but there’s more focus, at least among big league clubs in the States, on tonight’s matchup. [...] Continue Reading »
SANTIAGO, D.R.–The first workout I went to in the Dominican Republic last week, there were at least 50 scouts present, most of which were there to see 15-year-old outfielder Ezdra Abreu. On Wednesday that number multiplied significantly since 15-year-old righthander Michael Inoa is currently considered the top arm available when the July 2 signing period begins.
Wednesday, however, was a little different. There were no catered meals. There were no large groups of scouts. The only thing this workout, which took place in the Tirena Alta section of Santiago, had in common with the others was the sound of roosters crowing and goats babbling at one another off in the distance.
This workout had just one international scouting director and his scouting staff present to see somewhere between 50 and 70 players. It took a while to get on the field, as each player came forward to the scout, who gathered information on his position, name and birthdate. The scout judged weights roughly by sight, and did the same thing with heights, standing up and looking them in the eye, pausing and then saying simply, ‘OK.’ [...] Continue Reading »
If you want even more coverage from the Caribbean Series, check out Chris Kline’s podcasts recorded in press boxes, on fields and at showcases around the Dominican Republic.
In the first podcast, Kline talked with Pirates Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo and Yankees English teacher Ron Anderson. In the second podcast, Kline saw down with Luis Polonia–he’s still playing in the Caribbean Series–and Mariners righthander Justin Lehr. Kline also checked out a showcase and got a glimpse at one of the better teenage pitching prospects in the country.
The podcasts can be listened to or downloaded from here, or you can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.
SANTIAGO, D.R.–The fans of the Dominican Republic will celebrate a Caribbean Series victory no matter what. It’s just a matter of figuring out which team–Aguilas or Licey–will be crowned champion.
Aguilas downed Mexico 4-1 on Tuesday night, making their Thursday night rematch against Licey crucial.
But Aguilas needs to get past Venezuela today, and has Bartolo Colon on the mound.
I will blog more from the ballpark, but I received another cryptic text message early this morning to be at the same hotel, as another workout takes place at 10 a.m. local time. Hopefully we’ll have some more July 2 information . . .
SANTIAGO, D.R.–Nelson Cruz hit a 1-0 fastball down the middle in the bottom of eighth inning, lifting it out of El Stadio Cibao and Licey past Venezuela, 2-1.
Venezuelan righthander Victor Moreno had just entered the game for his first inning of work with the score tied 1-1, but made a huge mistake, leaving a fastball up in the middle of the zone and Cruz pounced on it.
"I saw it, the ball was very big and I just let it all go," Cruz said. "Last night’s game was so emotional, but you start to realize just how emotional every one of these games are. You can’t take anything for granted."
Venezuela (1-3) fought hard, and the game was scoreless through six innings. Licey (4-0) struck first in the bottom of the seventh, when Yordany Ramirez beat out the backend of a doubleplay at first base with one out. That allowed Jose Offerman to score and the crowd erupted.
SANTIAGO, D.R.–Normally at workouts or ‘showcases’ in the Dominican Republic, three or four scouts sit in the stands and watch.
But Luis Polonia, who has run an academy in the D.R. for the last seven years that has produced 27 signees, teamed up with Born To Play Sports to have an event to coincide with the Caribbean Series. More scouts and front-office personnel were in town than usual, and the workout itself had a feel to what one is like in the States.
And even though there were 25-30 players present, most scouts were there to see 16-year-old righthander Micheal Inoa, who is expected to be one of the top players when the international signing period begins on July 2.
Inoa, a 6-foot-7, 200-pound righty, creates easy velocity through relatively sound mechanics. At the workout, Inoa consistently sat at 91-92 mph with his fastball, topping out at 94. He also throws a softer breaking ball which was inconsistent at times, and will also show a splitter. Inoa turns 17 in September.
In the two innings he worked, just one hitter made contact, and that was a popup to the shortstop. [...] Continue Reading »
SANTIAGO, D.R.–Even though Monday night’s tilt between Licey and Aguilas was a great game, and the fans present were certainly 110 percent involved in everything, there weren’t as many of them at El Stadio Cibao as I, or many of the other American media here expected.
Which is a little shocking.
Even more so might be the number of Licey fans that made the 2 1/2 hour drive up from Santo Domingo–hearing them yell "Licey! Licey! Campeon! Campeon!" had to be a little depressing for Aguilas fans after watching their offense sputter in the 5-2 loss.
"We hate hearing that chant here," Aguilas outfielder Luis Polonia said. "But the outlook in our clubhouse every day is still going to be positive. We’ll get them again (on Thursday). This is the Caribbean Series, one big party. You don’t get to do everything else you would normally do during any season. There is no practice. You just show up and go. Last night, we were a little flat."
* I arrived back at the hotel after midnight, and was running short on pesos. I had to find an ATM fast, and the one in the stadium wasn’t taking my card for whatever reason. So I asked the concierge if there was one close by. She was kind enough to provide me with an armed escort for the two-block walk.
Let that sink in. [...] Continue Reading »
SANTIAGO, D.R.–Licey made one thing clear during Monday night’s surprise 5-2 win against Aguilas Monday night: this isn’t a one-team show.
The Tigers led 1-0 for the first six innings of the game, then scored again on the seventh on catcher Matt Tupman’s two-RBI double that brought home Jose Bautista and Ronnie Belliard, leaving the home club facing a 3-0 deficit.
But things got worse when Aguilas manager Felix Fermin opted to bring in Santiago Ramirez, who elevated in the zone against Yordanny Ramirez and the latter Ramirez drilled it off the left-field foul pole for a commanding 5-0 lead. [...] Continue Reading »
SANTIAGO, D.R.–Having live bands playing on a big league stage behind the center field wall is cool and all, but it even had Aguilas left fielder Luis Polonia a little ticked off Monday night.
Ït’s not the bands or the music at all," Polonia said. Ït’s the time. It takes too much time.
The bands play at every half inning, which normally the league standard is two minutes. But for the Series, they added another minute (though sometimes the lapses have reached six minutes) to allow for commercials and entertain the fans during those spans.
Polonia was waving at the band every time the Licey leadoff hitter stepped in the box Monday, trying to get them to stop. But they just kept playing. And fans kept clapping, cheerleaders kept dancing on top of dugouts and thundersticks kept on hammering away.
Those delays aren’t going to end anytime soon, and they don’t seem to bother anyone except maybe some of the media and those guys who are out there working on the field.
SANTIAGO, D.R.–The Mexico fans came out in full force–dressed as cows, cowboys, wrestlers and even an inflatable horse–but it still wasn’t enough to wake up their country’s bats on Monday.
Venezuelan starter Giovanni Carrara kept the Mexico offense stalled for five innings, and the bullpen did its job as Aragua shut down Obregon, 5-0.
Venezuela jumped on Mexico righthander Justin Lehr for two runs in the third and tacked on another in the fifth before chasing him. The Mariners’farmhand allowed three runs on eight hits, struck out three and walked two over 4 1/3 innings.
Aragua totaled 11 hits, and was led by center fielder Selwyn Langaigne, who went 3-for-5 with three RBIs.
Venezuela will face Licey in the early game Tuesday beginning at 3 p.m. Eastern.
SANTIAGO, D.R.–Sunday night, while people in the States were going through the regular routine of Super Bowl parties, I was here in El Stadio Cibao, watching Aguilas knock off Venezuela, 3-1. In fact, I literally found out who won the Super Bowl 15 minutes ago.
And my condolences go out to BA staffers (and obviously Patriots fans) Aaron Fitt and Ben Badler.
Anyway, so the first night when I left the stadium, I had no problems getting a taxi back to the hotel. You have to walk about two blocks, and Sunday was a completely different challenge. Sticking out like an obvious sore thumb, I was immediately encircled by a handful of children asking me for money.
"No comprende," I said. "No habla Espanol."
Their numbers quickly multiplied, and soon adults joined them as I continued to move briskly toward the surrounding streets outside the stadium complex. From what I understood, they said they needed money for water, but of course I could be completely wrong.
SANTIAGO, D.R.–After two days, it’s the Dominican Republic 2, Everybody Else 0.
Aguilas scored two runs early and righthander Derek Lee made just one mistake, allowing a solo home run to Luis Ugueto, though this wasn’t as easy as the club’s 13-6 victory over Mexico on Friday. [...] Continue Reading »
SANTIAGO, D.R.–It took 11 innings, but Licey finally eked out a 2-1 win against Mexico to remain undefeated in the Caribbean Series and set up an even more meaningful matchup when they square off against Aguilas Monday night. [...] Continue Reading »
SANTIAGO, D.R.–So I went down in front of the Mexico dugout to get some pictures of their fans–always the craziest at the Caribbean Series–and when I came back, there was a hole in the roof of the press box.
Apparently while I was gone, a TV cameraman above the box simply fell through the ceiling, crashing on top of several reporters.
The good news is everyone is OK. The bad news is, we were in an enclosed room before, limiting the amount of noise from the stands somewhat. But now, with a 10-foot-plus hole where the ceiling used to be . . . well, let’s just say it’s a little bit louder.
Oh, and the game? Mexico and Licey are tied 1-1 after four innings.
. . . right?
Lehr, a righthander in the Mariners’ system, was waiting anxiously for photographers to snap the Mexico team photo, while slapping his fist into a catcher’s mitt. But the name on the glove, etched in gold script, read "Jeff Clement." [...] Continue Reading »
SANTIAGO, D.R.–The other day, I was talking to a National League scout and he told me simply, "Always get to the park early. The earlier you’re there, the more you’ll know."
I’m actually notorious for showing up at ballparks early, but when I arrived at El Stadio Cibao before noon for a 3 p.m. tilt, all I really learned is that it smells like a frat house the day after homecoming. [...] Continue Reading »
SANTIAGO, D.R.–There are rumors swirling around the Dominican Republic, as well as the Internet, that the Indians have signed 16-year-old shortstop Edward Salcedo, but as of today he is still a free agent. [...] Continue Reading »
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