Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tigres lock up winter league championship

Photo courtesy of los Tigres de Aragua

Aragua 9 at Lara 2

W: J. Silva (1-2, 3.18); L: G. Gonzalez (2-3, 4.19)
HR: None.

Boosted by late player additions, los Tigres de Aragua wrapped up their second straight Venezuelan Winter League Championship with a 9-2 trouncing of los Cardenales de Lara. It was the Tigres fourth championship in the last five years.

With one out in the top of the second inning, Hector Gimenez (Tampa Bay) and former Miracle Alex Romero (Arizona) hit back-to-back singles to get onto base. A Luis Maza (LA Dodgers) ground out and a Ronny Cedeno (Chicago Cubs) single plated the pair giving Aragua its first two runs.

In the top of the sixth, an Edgardo Alfonzo (Texas) double lead to another run. Alfonzo moved to 3rd on a Miguel Cabrera (Detroit) ground out. Following a pair of walks to Romero and Maza, Cedeno singled to drive him in, making it 3-0, Tigres.

Jesus Silva (Florida) kept Lara off the board through five innings. Cesar Izturis (St Louis) doubled in the bottom of the inning, moved to 3rd on a Luis Ugueto (F/A) ground out, and scored on a Marco Scutaro ground out. A walk to Jose Lopez (Seattle) would bring Yohan Pino (Minnesota) up to the mound. Pino, who is recovering from bronchitis, did not appear to be on his game. He'd walk Robert Perez (F/A) to load the bags and allow a single to Selwyn Langaigne (F/A), however, Lopez would be taken out at home for the 3rd out.

Alberto Callaspo (Kansas City) singled in the top of the 7th, then moved to second on a Luis Rodriguez (San Diego) sac bunt. Following a ground out to Alfonzo, Cabrera would be intentionally walked by Lara's Ivan Blanco (Seattle). A pitching change to Roger Luque (F/A) also saw Gimenez draw a walk, loading the bases. Martin Prado (Atlanta) would come into the game to pinch hit for Romero, and yet another pitching change saw Marcos Carvajal (Florida) take over the mound for Lara. Prada would triple to clear the bags, making it 6-1 Tigres.

Pino would stay in the game to start the bottom of the 7th, allowing a walk to Guillermo Rodriguez (San Francisco) before being removed in favor of Kevin Tolar (F/A). Tolar would put up two outs before allowing a double to Isturis what plated G-Rod, giving Lara their second run of the game.

An Alex Delgado (F/A) single and a walk to L-Rod paid dividends when Alfonzo doubled the pair in to tack two more runs onto the Cat's total.

Delgado would bring in Prado with a line drive in the top of the 9th to finish off the Tigre's scoring.

Cabrera was 0-for-3 with 2 walks and a run for the Cats. L-Rod was 0-for-4 with a walk and a run, Romero was 1-for-2 with a walk and a run, and Maza was 0-for-4. The last three were all former Twin prospects. Victor Moreno, currently with Baltimore, was also in the Twins system at one time, throwing 1.2 innings for Aragua and allowing a single during that period. Only Ugueto, 0-for-4 for Lara, represented a former Twin prospect on the Lara team.

The game finishes off the Caribbean Winter League season. I have received the minor league spring training schedule from Brad Steil in the Twins office, and will get that posted in the next day or so.


The Twins traded lefty Johan Santana to the Mets for outfielding prospect Carlos Gomez and pitchers Philip Humber, Deolis Guerra and Kevin Mulvey. Minnesota will receive New York's Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 7 prospects, according to Baseball America's ranking.

Humber, a 25-year-old right-hander, has made one start and four relief appearances for the Mets during the past two years, and went 11-9 with a 4.27 ERA last season for Triple-A New Orleans. The 22-year-old Gomez batted .232 in 125 at-bats with New York last year and .275 with 19 steals in the minors.

Guerra, who turns 19 in April, was 2-6 with a 4.01 ERA at Class A St. Lucie, and Mulvey, who will be 23 in May, was 12-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 26 starts at Double-A Binghamton and one at New Orleans.

New York and Santana have until 5 p.m. EST Friday to reach an agreement. If the Mets and Santana strike a deal, the players would have to pass physicals and the pitcher would have to formally waive his no-trade clause in order for the deal to be finalized.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tigres sniff Venezuelan Championship

Finals vs Lara
Photo courtesy of los Tigres de Aragua

Lara 1 at Aragua 3

W: J. Santiago (5-1, 2.45); L: G. Carrara (1-3, 5.33); SV: F. Butto (6)
HR: None.

Los Tigres de Aragua moved to within 1 game of winning the Venezuelan League Championship Monday, defeating Lara, 3-1. The series now reverts to Antonio Herrera GutiƩrrez de Barquisimeto Stadium in Lara for Tuesday's 7:30 PM AST match.

Both starters worked four scoreless innings. The Tigres would get on the board first in the bottom of the fifth when Alex Romero (Arizona) singled and Ronny Cedeno (Chicago Cubs) drew a walk. With two outs, Alberto Callaspo (Kansas City) hit a deep line drive to right to score the pair. A fielding error by Lara's Robert Perez (F/A) allowed Callaspo onto 2nd base. He'd try to come home on a Luis Rodriguez (San Diego) line drive, but would be tagged out at the plate.

Los Cardenales opened the top of the 7th with Jose Lopez (Seattle) doubling to left field. With one out, pinch hitter Guillero Rodriguez (San Francisco) moved Lopez to 3rd with a line drive to right. After a walk to Tomas Perez (Houston), a pitching change to bring in Victor Moreno (Baltimore), and a coaching visit to the mound, a wild pitch would allow Lopez to score for the only Red Bird run.

The Cats answered back in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Cedeno singled his way onto base, and moved to second on Raul Chavez's (Pittsburgh) ground out. Callaspo singled out to left to bring in Cedeno, making it 3-1.

Moreno and Frank Butto (F/A) would hold the Cardenales for the remainder of the game to give the victory to the home town team.

Miguel Cabrera (Detroit) in the designated hitter roll was 2-for-3 with a walk but did not figure into the scoring. Romero was 1-for-3 with a run, Rodriguez was also 1-for-3.

Tigers de Aragua

Cardenales tie up series again

vs. Lara
Photo courtesy of los Tigres de Aragua

Lara 5 at Aragua 3

W: R. Dorman (4-0, 1.65); L: H. Estrada (0-2, 5.40)
HR: LAR: L. Ugueto (1). ARA: H. Gimenez (3).

Los Cardenals de Lara tied up the series for a second time, taking a 5-3 win over los Tigres de Aragua at Jose Perez Colmenarez Stadium. It's the first time in Venezulan Winter League playoff history that Lara has won a game on Aragua's home turf.

Horacios Estrada (F/A) would suffer the loss for the Cats, giving up 3 runs on 4 hits and 1 walk over 5 innings worth of work.

Lara took the lead in the top of the 4th inning. Marco Scutaro (Toronto) walked with one out, then moved to second on a Jose Lopez (Seattle) single. Robert Perez (F/A) plated Scutaro with a fly ball to center, and Lopez scored on a similar hit by Selwyn Langaigne (F/A).

The Red Birds padded their lead in the top of the 5th when former Miracle Luis Ugueto went yard over the left field wall.

The Tigres took one back in the bottom of the inning, with Luis Maza (LA Dodgers) drawing a walk with two outs, then moving to 3rd on a Ronny Cedeno (Chicago Cubs) single. Raul Chevez (Pittsburgh) plated Maza with a fly ball to left.

Lara added one in the top of the 8th, with Lopez singling, then moving to second on a wild pitch by Jason Karnuth (Detroit) and to 3rd on a single by Perez. Following a fly out to Langaigne, Guillermo Rodriguez (San Francisco) ground out at first, but it was enough for Lopez to cross the plate.

Wilki Gonzalez (Chicgo White Sox) would reach first on a wild pitch by Karnuth, and Cesar Izturis (St Louis) would single to move him to 3rd. Izturis then stole 2nd base. Ugueto would be walked to load the bases, before Scutaro ground into a force out that allowed Gonzalez to score. A fly out and a pop out ended los Cardenales threat, but they already had a 5-1 lead.

The Tigers would attempt a rally in the bottom of the ninth, when Miguel Cabrera (Detroit) singled his way onto base. He'd be replaced by Ramon Castro (F/A) as a pinch runner, but the change in legs was meaningless as Hector Gimenez (Tampa Bay) homered over the center field wall. The Cats could not find two more runs in their bag of tricks however, so the contest when to the Cardenales.

Ugueto was 1-for-3 in the contest with 2 walks, a run and an RBI. Juan Rincon (Minnesota) pitched one inning of relief for Lara, allowing 1 hit and striking out 1.

Cabrera was 1-for-4 in the designed hitter role, Luis Rodriguez (San Diego) was 0-for-4, Alex Romero (Arizona) as 0-for-2 and Maza as 0-for-3 with a walk and a run.

The teams play one more in Maracay before returning to Lara for the remainder of the series.

Tigres de Aragua

Tigres regain control of series

Finals vs. Lara
Photo courtesy of los Tigres de Aragua

Lara 4 at Aragua 5 (13 innings)

W: R. Garcia (2-0, 2.12); L: R. Luque (0-1, 1.42)
HR: None.

It took 13 innings, but los Tigres de Aragua managed to take back the lead in the best-of-seven Championship series with a 5-4 win over los Cardenales de Lara Friday at Jose Perez Colmenarez Stadium.

The Cats opened up the scoring in the bottom of the first inning. Back-to-back singles by Alberto Callaspo (Kansas City) and Luis Rodriguez (San Diego) got things rolling. A fly ball single to right by Edgardo Alfonzo (Texas) plated Callaspo, while Rodriguez came home during Miguel Cabrera's (Detroit) double play ground out.

Lara took one back in the top of the 4th when Robert Perez (F/A) and Selwyn Langaigne (F/A) both doubled. Perez would only go to 3rd on Langaigne's fly ball, but would score when Jose Lopez (Seattle) reached on a fielder's choice.

Aragua would add to their lead in the bottom of the sixth when Cabrera lead off with a walk, then moved to second on a wild pitch by Marcos Carvajal (Florida). Martin Prado (Altanta) would also walk before Lara brought Ivan Blanco (Seattle) onto the mound. Willie Romero (F/A) would ground into a double play which took Cabrera out at 3rd, but a Luis Maza (LA Dodgers) single would bring in Prado.

The top of the 8th proved big for Lara, as Guillermo Rodriguez (San Francisco) singled and Cesar Izturis (St Louis) reached on a force attempt when Cabrera miss-threw the ball. Luis Ugueto hit into a sac bunt that brought in G-Rod, but a second throwing error by Cabrera saw Ugueto safe at first. Frank Butto (F/A) would come onto the mound for the Cats to replace Yohan Pino (Minnesota) who would end up being charged for 3 runs on 1 hit while striking out 1 in .2 innings worth of work. Marco Scutaro (Toronto) would be walked, and Adam Jones (Seattle) would be hit by a pitch to force in Izturis. After Perez struck out swinging, Langaigne was walked to bring in Ugueto. Victor Moreno (Baltimore) would be called to the mound to get the final to outs in the inning, but the Cardenales had taken the lead.

Los Tigres answered back though in the bottom of the ninth when Maza singled, moved to 2nd on a sac-bunt by Ronny Cedeno (Chicago Cubs), and scored on Hector Gimenez's (Tampa Bay) fly ball single to right, tying the game and forcing the contest into extra innings.

In the bottom of the 13th, with one out, Cedeno would double, and Gimenez would be intentionally walked. Callaspo would single to center to score Cedeno, breaking the deadlock and handing the victory to the Cats.

Juan Rincon (Minnesota) pitched one inning for the Red Birds, allowing 1 hit and striking out 1.

The series rests on Saturday and the two teams will play Sunday and Monday in Aragua before the series reverts back to Lara (if necessary).

Tigres de Aragua

Pino developed a case of acute bronchitis and was removed from the roster following the game. Reports say he should be available to the team on Tuesday again.

The Twins locked up Justin Morneau with a six-year, $80 million deal Friday, the longest and richest contract in franchise history. The Twins also signed right fielder Michael Cuddyer to a 3-year, $24 million deal with a club option for 2011. Meanwhile, the Pioneer Press is reporting that the trade involving Johan Santana is likely to occur within the next 10 days. Right now it appears the Mets are the fore-runners in the Santana sweepstakes.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Lara evens series

Finals game 2
Photo courtesy of los Tigres de Aragua

Aragua 2 at Lara 5

W: G. Gonzalez (2-2), L: Silva (0-1) S: F. Rodriguez (1)
Hr: None

Los Cardenales de Lara tied up the series at 1 game each on Thursday. Jesus Silva (Florida) making his first start for Aragua did not work out as well as expected. The former Bravos starter gave up 5 runs (earned) on 7 hits and 2 walks while striking out 3 over 4.2 innings.

Lara lost no time getting on the board with Luis Ugueto (F/A) leading off with a single to right field. Marco Scutaro would be hit by a pitch for a walk before Adam Jones (Seattle) hit a sac-bunt to move to the pair. Silva then issued a walk to to Robert Perez (F/A) to fill the bases before a double by Selwyn Langaigne (F/A) scored the first 2 runners. Perez would be taken out at the plate for the second out of the inning, and Jose Lopez (Seattle) would ground out to end the first stanza.

Back-to-back singles in the top of the third by Ronny Cedeno (Chicago Cubs) and Alex Delgado (F/A) put runners on base. Alberto Callaspo (Kansas City) hit into a double play that nabbed Delgado at second, but saw Cedeno safe at 3rd. Luis Rodriguez (San Diego) hit into the outfield and took an extra base on a fielding error by Langaigne as Cedeno scored to make it 2-1 Lara. Edgar Afonzo (Texas) hit to left to bring in Rodriguez for the only two Aragua runs.

With one out Cesar Izturis (St Louis) found his way onto base with an infield hit and took second when Cedeno threw the ball into the dugout. Following a strike out to Ugueto, Scutaro walked. Jones' outfield hit scored Izturis and a double to right brought in Scutaro and Jones to make it 5-2 Lara.

Miguel Cabrera (Detroit) was 4-for-4 for the Cats but did not figure into the scoring, Rodriguez was 1-for-4, Luis Maza (LA Dodgers) as 0-for-3 while Alex Romero (Arizona) as 0-for2.

Ugueto was 1-for-4 with 1 run for the Cardenales. Juan Rincon (Minnesota) worked one inning for the home team getting 1 ground out and 2 fly outs.

The series returns to Jose Perez Colmenarez Stadium for three games on Friday and Sunday before returning to Lara for the final two games in the best-of-seven series (if necessary).

Tigres de Aragua