Caribbean Series Notebook

The two most dominant pitching performances in the first four days of the Caribbean Series have been thrown by a pair of guys, Venezuela’s Brad Knox and Mexico’s Edgar Gonzalez, still looking for work for the 2009 season less than two weeks before pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Both pitchers are hoping that their achievements in the Caribbean Series help them get an invitation to spring training.

Knox pitched 6 1/3 hitless innings in the series opening game against the Dominican Republic, yielding one run on a total of five walks. This performance comes after the former Oakland farmhand, who posted a 7-4, 5.33 record for AAA Sacramento last season, was impressive in his second winter league stint in Venezuela as a member of the Leones de Caracas.

“Everything was working for me,” said Knox about Monday’s opening game. “I had a new catcher (Alex Delgado) and he called a great game. I hope it did open some people’s eyes.”

Knox wasn’t even at his best that day, said Venezuela pitching coach Tom Pratt.

“He was a little rusty with his command,” said Pratt, “but he still had the pitchability, competitiveness, duration and strength. He executed pitches when he really needed to.”

Pratt believes that Knox shouldn’t be out of work too much longer.

“The talk is that he should be contacted real soon with the way he’s pitching down here,” said Pratt..

Gonzalez’s situation is different in that the major league veteran was hurt with a strained right elbow in July while a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The right-hander showed that he’s got his velocity and command back by pitching seven shutout innings on Tuesday in a game that eventually was won by Venezuela, 1-0, in 11 innings.

“I showed everybody about how’s my arm,” said Gonzalez. “The fastball was 92-93, and I showed my changeup and slider ‘¦ everything.”

His performance in the Series comes after a strong winter league season for Hermosillo when he went 4-1, 4.46 with six quality starts.

“I think it’s going to help me a lot,” said Gonzalez about what he’s done in winter ball this year.

Puerto Rico won its first 2009 Caribbean Series game, snapping an 11-game losing streak, by defeating the Dominican Republic, 3-0, in the afternoon game. The two teams had combined for just one victory coming into today, and the atmosphere in the stadium reflected the lack of enthusiasm for the game.
Even the Dominican fans were uncharacteristically quiet, especially after Puerto Rico jumped to an early lead on Jesus Feliciano’s lead-off homerun. It was the only run that Puerto Rico would need for their first win since returning to the Series after a one-year absence. Andy Gonzalez also hit a solo shot for the winners.

Josue Matos pitched five scoreless innings for the win. The Dominican team was unable to take advantage of Matos’ six walks, stranding a game total of 10 runners. Detroit prospect Josh Rainwater was equally strong for Puerto Rico with three scoreless innings. Ivan Maldonaldo came on with two outs in the 9th inning to pick up the save. Julio Mateo yielded all three of the Puerto Rico runs for the loss.

• Eduardo Perez, former big leaguer and ESPN Baseball Tonight broadcaster, is managing the Puerto Rican team in the Caribbean Series. It’s appropriate that Perez have this honor as he was one of the main advocates for the return of winter league ball after a one-year hiatus.

To fill the void last winter, Perez created the Winter Training Program for professional and amateur players on the island. He’s cautiously optimistic that winter baseball in Puerto Rico is back to stay.

“I feel very good about the future of winter ball in Puerto Rico,” said Perez. “The future really depends on how well the league will treat its players ‘¦ the big leaguers and young players also. It’s a matter of respect; it’s a matter of honor of going out there and playing the game the right way.”

Perez, who took over as Ponce’s manager just one day before the start of the season, is pleased with his first managing experience.

“Our team has a lot of pride out here; they really believe in themselves,” said Perez. “We’re going to play and we’re going to represent Puerto Rico the best we can. One thing I like about being here is getting on the plane as representatives of Puerto Rico ‘¦ that’s a big honor.”