Monday, June 28, 2010

FIVE NEW SALON MEMBERS INDUCTED DURING PREGAME CEREMONY

The five newest members of Mexico’s baseball hall of fame, the Salon de la Fama, were inducted Saturday night in a pregame ceremony at Saltillo’s Parque Francisco I. Madero. Players Derek Bryant, Alonso Tellez and Gerardo “Polvorita” Sanchez were joined by pitcher Armando Reynoso and umpire Efrain Ibarra as Mexican League president Plinio Escalante and Salon director Mario Morales Salazar conducted the ceremony.

Bryant demolished Liga pitchers with a .355 batting average and 141 homers between 1982 and 1988, hitting .389 with 41 homers in just 100 games for Tampico in 1984. He also managed Monterrey to pennants in 1995 and 1996. Tellez, who now coaches in Reynosa, hit over .300 for his career and is in the LMB’s all-time Top Ten list with 2,522 hits and 1,289 RBIs, adding 226 homers. Tellez hit .307 or better every year from 1985 through 1997, mostly for the old Monterrey Industriales. Sanchez, who currently manages Monclova, set a Mexican League record by playing 1,415 consecutive games for Nuevo Laredo. He ended up spending his first 18 seasons with the Tecos, batting .289 with 199 homers, before finishing with the Mexico City Tigres in 2001. Sanchez is in the LMB’s All-Time Top 20 in ten different offensive categories.

Reynoso went 44-23 with a 3.93 ERA for Saltillo from 1988 through 1990 (going 20-3 his final year) before embarking on a 12-year major league career for four teams. He won 12 games for Colorado in 1993 and earned 21 wins between 1999 and 2000 for Arizona. Reynoso finished his MLB career in 2002 with a 68-63 record over 198 games. Ibarra, who died in February at age 70, began his umpiring career in the Mexican Central League in 1965 before becoming a full-time Mexican League ump two years later. He went on to become one of the most-respected arbiters in Mexico, working All-Star and playoff games in the LMB and Mexican Pacific Leagues as well as the Caribbean Series.

TIGRES GM VALENZUELA NAMED ASSOCIATE SCOUT FOR TAMPA BAY

Quintana Roo Tigres sports manager Mario Valenzuela has joined the Tampa Bay Rays staff as an associate scout. It’s Valenzuela’s second talent-searching stint for Tampa Bay, having done some scouting between 1999 and 2004. He also was a team scout for the Atlanta Braves from 1993 to 1996.

An offer was reportedly made to Valenzuela to return to work for the Rays last February, when Tampa Bay scouting chief Carlos Alfonso was in Cancun to take a look at fellow Cuban Leslie Anderson, one of 20 players who defected from the island nation on a boat to Mexico just prior to last year’s Baseball World Cup. The 28-year-old Anderson signed with the Rays for a reported $3.75 million.

Valenzuela, who will continue his duties with the Tigres, will be an associate under the Rays’ top scout in Mexico, Oaxaca Guerreros manager Eddy Diaz.

FOUR-WAY BATTLE FOR LIGA NORTE SECOND-HALF LEAD

Agua Prieta, Tijuana and defending champion Guaymas are all tied for the second-half lead in the Class A Mexican Northern League with identical 14-4 records, one game ahead of 13-5 Ensenada. Tijuana nudged out Caborca for the first-half crown with a 29-9-2 record.

Ex-Cubs farmhand Kevin Soto of Empalme leads the LNM with a .413 batting average in 53 games, former Mexican Leaguer Jayson Bass of Caborca has a commanding lead in homers with 15 and onetime Japanese Pacific League player Yuji Yoshioka of Ensenada is tops with 57 RBIs.

Pitchers Omar Urquidez of Empalme and Agua Prieta’s Jose Quintero each sport 8-1 records, Ensenada’s Alexis Candelario (who is a perfect 6-0) has a microscopic 1.28 ERA while Tijuana’s Carlos Teller leads the Norte with 74 strikeouts in 58 innings. Urquidez has pitched sparingly in the Mexican League in recent seasons (including four games for Nuevo Laredo this year), while the other three hurlers have all pitched affiliate ball in the low minors.

Guaymas (pictured) defeated Agua Prieta in the LNM finals last August for the 2009 pennant.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

DIABLOS RELEASE LIGA RUN-SCORING LEADER MATEO

When All-Star second baseman Carlos Valencia came back from an injury, it was a given that the Mexico City Diablos Rojos would release a player to make room for him while maintaining their current roster status. What may have been unexpected was that the Diablos let go former major league infielder Henry Mateo (pictured with Durham in 2009).

Valencia is one of the established stars of Mexican baseball, a perennial All-Star second baseman with a career .289 average and 135 careers homers in his tenth Mexican League season. He has also played for the Mexican National Team in the Olympics and Baseball World Cup. Valencia missed part of this season after undergoing surgery on his right tibia.

However, it’s not as if Mateo wasn’t getting the job done in Valencia’s absence. The ex-Montreal second baseman was hitting .338 at the time of his release, leading the Liga with 76 runs scored over 67 games for both Laguna and Mexico City. Mateo’s 21 stolen bases are second only to Alexis Gomez’ 29 swipes for Laguna.

One other reason for his release was the signing of Venezuelan reliever Francisco Butto, a former Phillies and Yankees farmhand who saved four games for the Caracas Leones in the 2009 Caribbean Series. Since LMB teams are limited in the number of import players they can carry, the Dominican Mateo became the odd man out with the Diablos.

YUCATAN MANAGER RIVERA SUSPENDED, FINED FOR UMP RUN-IN

For the second time this month, a member of the Yucatan Leones will have to sit out games after a disturbance with a Mexican League umpire. However, instead of a Yucatan player, this time the culprit is Leones manager Lino Rivera.

Rivera, a former pitcher in the Rangers and Tigers systems, was tossed from a game last Thursday in Puebla. Apparently, his actions were such that Liga President Plinio Escalante slapped Rivera with a seven-game suspension and a fine of 25,000 pesos (or about $2,000US).


Yucatan team CEO Wilbert Valle Acevedo sent a letter of protest to the LMB office in Mexico City, asking why Rivera’s suspension was for seven games. Escalante is said to have been at the game in Puebla when the Leones manager was ejected.


Valle said the Leones had no problems with umpires in the first half of the season, but Yucatan has lost former outfielder Willie Romero and now Rivera to suspensions following altercations with the men in blue. Romero was traded to Saltillo shortly after his two-game banishment. Rivera is in his second season managing in Yucatan, and has won 109 of 187 games in that span.

SARAPEROS LOADING UP FOR STRETCH RUN

With less than a month to go until the playoffs begin, the defending LMB champion Saltillo Saraperos have added a pair of players they hope will increase their chances for a second consecutive pennant. One of the new additions is a former big league starting pitcher, the other a veteran infielder.

Jose Mercedes (pictured), a 39-year-old former Brewers and Orioles pitcher, is back in Saltillo after being a major contributor to last season’s title effort by going 5-0 in nine starts with 20 strikeouts in 51.1 innings. The Dominican right-hander went 14-7 for Baltimore in 2000, his best season in the majors during an eight-year career in which he finished 33-39 with a 4.75 ERA. Mercedes replaces closer Miguel Saladin, a fellow Dominican righty who was 0-5 with 18 saves (5th in the LMB) and a 6.19 ERA in 36 games.

The Saraperos also traded the rights to outfielder Jose de Jesus Munoz to Veracruz for veteran infielder Jose Amador. The 30-year-old Amador is in his eleventh Liga season, batting .306 with 59 homers over 775 games. In 2006, the Mexicali product hit .368 with nine homers for Laguna and was picked for the All-Star Game in 2007 en route to a .308 season for the Vaqueros. Amador brings a .306 season average to Saltillo, where he may replace weak-hitting shortstop Carlos Eduardo Gonzalez, who is only batting .247 with no homers and 12 RBIs in 67 games for the champions.


Munoz is on loan to Reynosa, where he’s batting .213, but will report to Veracruz next year.

Monday, June 14, 2010

MEXICO CITY TO GET NEW BALLPARK

The Mexico City Diablos Rojos will be getting a new stadium to call home. An agreement was announced last week between the Diablos and the Distrito Federal government in which a new ballpark will be built on an undetermined site in Mexico’s capital city.

The team presently plays at the Foro Sol, which originally opened in 1993 as the Autodromo concert venue in 1993. Groups such as Rush, AC/DC, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones have performed there. The stadium has also been used as for baseball since 2000, when the long-standing Parque Segura Social was demolished to make way for a shopping mall. Foro Sol seats 26,000 for baseball games, but is often unavailable to the Diablos because it is booked for other events. The Diablos have had to move a number of home games to the former Mexican League city of Aguascalientes this season due to scheduling conflicts.

Once a site for the new ballpark is selected, work is expected to begin September 14.

YUCATAN TRADES ROMERO TO SALTILLO FOR MADERA

Just two days after serving a two-game suspension for shoving an umpire, outfielder Willie Romero was traded by the Yucatan Leones to Saltillo for first baseman Sandy Madera (pictured) in the Mexican League’s first high-profile player swap of the 2010 season.

In twelve Mexican League seasons, the 35-year-old Romero has hit .320 with 130 homers and 264 stolen bases while becoming an All-Star Game fixture. This will be the Venezuelan’s second go-round in Saltillo, where he played from 1999 to 2003. At the time of the trade, Romero was hitting .301.

The 29-year-old Madera was second among LMB batters with a .391 average in 67 games for Saltillo when he was swapped to Yucatan. The Dominican has played in the A’s, Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles organizations. Last winter, Madera led the Mexican Pacific League with a .413 batting average while playing for Los Mochis.

TOMATEROS BRING IN JIMENEZ AS SKIPPER

The Culiacan Tomateros have hired Puebla manager Alfonso “Houston” Jimenez to pilot their Mexican Pacific League team next winter. Jimenez, a member of the Salon de la Fama and the Liga’s 2009 Manager of the Year, led the Pericos to the first-half Zona Hidalgo title.

According to Culiacan general manager Jaime Pimentel, Jimenez will replace another Salon member, Francisco “Paquin” Estrada, at the helm of the Tomateros. Estrada took over the team from Nick Leyva last winter when Culiacan had a 6-13 record en route to a last place finish in the first half standings. The Tomateros rebounded to turn in a 19-13 mark and tied with Obregon for second place in the second half before reaching the playoff semifinals. Jimenez was third base coach under Estrada.

Jimenez played shortstop for Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Cleveland in the 1980’s, batting .185 over 158 major league games. After debuting with Puebla as a 16-year-old in 1974, Jimenez went on to play 14 seasons in the Mexican League, batting .282 for his career while topping the .300 mark four times. He also played in the Mex Pac between 1975 and 2000, racking up 1,339 career hits and scoring 754 runs in winter ball.


Jimenez was enshrined in Monterrey in 2007.

MEX PAC PLAYER DRAFT TO BE HELD JUNE 30

The Mexican Pacific League will hold its annual draft of non-reserved players June 30 when LMP team representatives gather in Culiacan. Mex Pac president Omar Canizales oversaw the draw to establish the order teams will be able to select the league rights to domestic and import players for the 2010-11 season.

The order of picks for Mexican players is: 1) Obregon, 2) Hermosillo, 3) Guasave, 4) Los Mochis, 5) Navojoa, 6) Mexicali, 7) Mazatlan and 8) Culiacan.


The draft order for import players will be: 1) Mazatlan, 2) Mexicali, 3) Navojoa, 4) Guasave, 5) Obregon, 6) Hermosillo, 7) Culiacan and 8) Los Mochis.

Monday, June 7, 2010

MARQUEZ PITCHES IN LMB-RECORD 812TH GAME

Minatitan Petroleros reliever Isidro Marquez pitched in the 812th game of his Mexican League career, breaking Salon de la Fama member Ramon Arano’s old record of 811.

The 45-year-old Marquez came on with one out and nobody on base in the top of the ninth hoping to hold a 9-5 Petros lead over the Yucatan Leones. The righty got Raul Sanchez to fly out to Dennys Abreu in left field before striking out Fernando Valenzuela, Jr. swinging for the final out.

Marquez made his Mexican League debut with Tampico in 1985 and spent three years with San Luis Potosi before being picked up in 1988 by the Dodgers organization, where he pitched for five seasons. He also spent two years with the White Sox’ AAA farm club in Nashville, but the Navojoa-born Marquez has played the vast majority of his career in Mexico, almost entirely as a reliever.

Marquez has a career 95-81 record with 268 saves in 20 LMB seasons. This season, he is 3-1 with a team-high six saves and a 3.22 ERA in 43 trips to the mound from the Minatitlan bullpen.

HALL OF FAMER SOTO FIRED AS TECOS MANAGER

Salon de la Fama member Carlos Soto, who was a player for the Nuevo Laredo Tecolotes in the 1970’s and 1980’s, was fired as Tecos manager Friday to become the eighth Mexican League skipper to be canned this season. Soto was let go after Nuevo Laredo got off to a 3-12 start to the second half of the current season after finishing 19-34 in the first half.

A catcher/first baseman as a player, Soto was enshrined in Monterrey in 2007 after a Liga career that netted him a .301 lifetime batting average with 264 homers and 1,043 RBIs between 1973 and 1991. Twelve of those seasons were with the Tecos, where he formed a power-hitting triumvirate with Andres Mora and Alejandro Ortiz called Los Tres Mosqueteros (or “The Three Musketeers”) in the 1980’s. All three have had their numbers retired in Nuevo Laredo.

Soto was replaced on an interim basis by Tecos coach Oscar Romero.

LEONES STAR ROMERO SUSPENDED FOR SHOVING UMPIRE

Yucatan’s All-Star right fielder, Willie Romero, was suspended by the Mexican League for two games after shoving home plate umpire Marco Antonio Nava during a June 3 game in Veracruz. Romero shoved Nava after being called out on strikes in the bottom of the first inning. He was batting an even .300 over 55 games for the Leones at the time of the altercation.

The 35-year-old Venezuelan began his pro career in the Dodgers system in 1993 and eventually spent nine summers in that organization. Romero signed with Saltillo in 2000 and (minus two short stints in the Diamondbacks and Orioles chains) has played summer ball in Mexico ever since. In five years with Yucatan heading into this season, he has never failed to hit at least .331 for the Leones. The 5’9” right-handed batter was named MVP of the 2008 Mexican League All-Star Game.

Romero served his suspension during Yucatan’s weekend series in Minatitlan.

SORIA FIRST MEXICAN TO EARN 100TH MLB SAVES

Monclova native Joakim “The Mexicutioner” Soria became the first Mexican major league pitcher to 100 saves mark in his career when he closed out the Kansas City Royals’ 5-2 win over the Detroit Tigers May 26 at Kauffman Stadium.

Soria came on in relief of Kansas City starter Luke Hochevar, who held the Tigers to two runs on six hits over eight innings, and induced consecutive groundouts by All-Stars Vladimir Guerrero, Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz to register his eleventh save in 13 opportunities in 2010. After the game, Soria said about his 100th save, “It means a lot because it’s a good number to get, but I want more.”The 27-year-old right-hander leads all Mexican pitchers in career MLB saves.


The old record of 93 saves by a Mexican MLB pitcher was held by the late Detroit closer Aurelio “Senor Smoke” Lopez.