Sunday, October 30, 2011

BBM ON HIATUS UNTIL LMP PLAYOFFS; FREE SEASON GUIDE AVAILABLE

Because of scheduling conflicts and needed prioritizations elsewhere (sorry to be so cryptic), Baseball Mexico will be taking the Mexican Pacific League's regular season off with plans to be back in time for the January playoffs and the Caribbean Series in February. There's no crisis or anything like that...I just don't have the time right now to do justice to this blog or newsletter. I AM happy to send a full color PDF file of the 30-page BBM 2011-12 Mex Pac Guide for free to anyone who wants a copy. It has Opening Day rosters, stadium photos, team directories, highlights and stats from last season along with profiles of each LMP city.

There are three websites you can access daily to keep up with the Mex Pac in BBM's absence: One is the MLB Caribbean Leagues page, which posts results daily and offers timely stats and standings of all four CS leagues. Second, there's Puro Beisbol, which may be the best baseball site in Mexico and a longtime source of story material for both BBM and the earlier Viva Beisbol site/newsletter. The third is the Mexican Pacific League website itself, for obvious reasons. The Puro Beisbol and Mex Pac links are to English translations...Puro Beisbol can be tricky to work with, but worth the effort.

If all goes according to plan, I should have BBM back and running at the end of December when the playoffs are just about to get underway. Again, my apologies for what will end up being about a 10-week hiatus, but sometimes even a favorite hobby like this has to take a backseat and this is one of those times. Thanks for understanding.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

MORENO, ORTIZ TOP LIST OF FIVE SALON CANDIDATES

Longtime Mexico City Tigres pitching star Angel Moreno and former Nuevo Laredo slugger Alejandro Ortiz were the top vote-getters among Election Committee members picking nominees for entry into the Salon de la Fama next year.

Moreno got 73 votes and Ortiz picked up 60. Also moving on to the next stage are Francisco Garcia (28), Pablo Gutierrez Delfin (26) and ex-Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Ismael Valdez (who tied with former catching great Homar Rojas with 24 votes before outpolling Rojas 6-5 on a second ballot).

Moreno turned in a 240-170 record in 26 seasons in the Mexican League between 1976 and 2006, nine of them with the Tigres. He reached double figures in wins 16 times, and had over 2,000 strikeouts in his career. In 23 Liga seasons, 15 with the Tecolotes, Ortiz crashed 434 homers and drove in 1,597 runs while topping the .300 mark six times. He hit 27 or more homers ten years in a row between 1984 and 1993, forming a devastating trio with Andres Mora and Carlos Soto in Nuevo Laredo.

Twenty-two players received votes in Monday’s balloting. The five who earned the nod will be joined in final voting next year by Hector Heredia, Nick Castaneda, Chico Rodriguez, Antonio Pulido and former Mets catcher Alex Trevino. Three players and one writer will be selected to the Salon in 2012.

Friday, October 7, 2011

CARIBBEAN CHAMPION YAQUIS HOST PRESEASON EVENT

The Caribbean Series champion Obregon Yaquis hosted the Mexican Pacific League’s annual preseason “Dinner of Champions” Tuesday night in the Sonora city, at which food and awards were both served with equal relish to attendees.

Yaquis team president Lic. Rene Rodriguez gave the evening’s welcome, followed by a few words from Mex Pac president Omar Canizales. A number of baseball luminaries were also on hand, including Salon de la Fama members Ronnie Camacho, Vicente Romo and Dr. Arturo Leon Lerma.

Among trophy recipients from last winter, Los Mochis’ Edwin Salas earned the Melo Almada Award for Rookie of the Year, Mochis southpaw Alberto Castillo was given the Vicente Romo Award for Pitcher of the Year, Hermosillo’s Luis Alfonso Garcia took away the Ronnie Camacho Award as home run champion, Eduardo Arredondo of Guasave was handed the Matias Carrillo Award as LMP batting champion and a third Mochis player, Justin Christian, received the Hector Espino Award for Most Valuable Player.

Matias Carrillo of Guasave got the Benjamin Reyes Award for Manager of the Year while Obregon skipper Eddie Diaz was honored as the Champion’s Manager. Yaquis president Rene Rodriguez and GM Francisco Minajares were also awarded for their front office work.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

VENADOS WIN TIJUANA BEISBOL FEST

Trailing 2-1 in the top of the ninth inning, the Mazatlan Venados rang up four runs and went on to defeat the Obregon Yaquis, 5-2, Sunday afternoon to clinch the third annual Tijuana Beisbol Fest title at Estadio Cerro Colorado in the border city. It was Mazatlan's first appearance at the four-team preseason tournament.

Oswaldo Morejon (pictured), Lorenzo Buelna and Brandon Sing each singled to open the ninth for the Deer, with Sing’s singleton driving in Morejon with the tying run. Hector Paez then sliced yet another single to plate pinch-runner Jose Bernardo Lopez with the eventual game-winner.
Said Gutierrez gave the Yaquis a 2-0 lead in the fifth with a two-run homer to left, but Christian Quintero made it a 2-1 game in the seventh with an RBI single for the Venados to set up the ninth inning explosion. Mazatlan finished with a 2-0-1 record, Culiacan came in at 2-1, Obregon was 1-2 and Mexicali went 0-2-1 over the three-day, round-robin format.

On Saturday, a Home Run Derby was held with one contestant from each team: Mexican League home run champ Jorge Guzman for Mexicali, Refugio Cervantes from Culiacan, Iker Franco of Obregon and Sing for Mazatlan. Cervantes won the Derby with eight homers, while Guzman was runner-up with six.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

GALLARDO TOPS LIST OF FIVE MEXICANS IN MLB PLAYOFFS

Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo (pictured) left no doubt among baseball fans Saturday that Mexico is being represented in the MLB playoffs. Gallardo, who was born in La Piedad, Michoacan in 1986, tossed eight innings of four-hit ball for the Brewers and earned the 4-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, striking out nine batters and walking one in the opening game of their National League Division Series.

The right-handed Gallardo, who was 17-10 with a 3.52 ERA in the regular season, is one of five Mexican-born players performing in the MLB postseason all pitchers. Among the other four is a Milwaukee teammate, reliever Marco Estrada. Estrada, a Sonora native who attended Long Beach State, was 4-8 with a 4.08 ERA in 92 innings for the Brewers, striking out 88 hitters.

Two other Mexicano pitchers work for the St. Louis Cardinals: Starter Jaime Garcia and closer Fernando Salas. Garcia (from Reynosa) went 13-7 with a 3.56 ERA this year after finishing third in balloting for the National League Rookie of the Year in 2010, while Salas (a Sonoran) was 5-6 with 24 saves and a 2.28 ERA in 75 innings for the Cards.

The lone American Leaguer from South of the Border is Yankees pitcher Luis Ayala, a seven-year MLB veteran making New York the sixth big league city he’s hurled in since 2003. After not pitching in the majors last year, the Los Mochis-born Ayala went 2-2 with a 2.09 ERA in 52 appearances for the Yanks in 2011.

Friday, September 30, 2011

MEXICAN LEAGUE HANDS OUT GOLD GLOVES

The Mexican League has given out its Gold Glove awards for the 2011 season, with two players each from the champion Quintana Roo Tigres and Veracruz Aguilas earning notice for their fielding.

Second baseman Carlos Gastelum (.994) and left fielder Doug Clark (.995) from the Tigres were awarded for their prowess with the glove, while Aguilas third baseman Jesus Castillo (.974) and right fielder Victor Cruz (.993) were honored for their work in the field.

Also named to the Mexican League Gold Glove team were Monterrey pitcher Walter Silva (1.000), Saltillo catcher Jonathan Aceves (1.000), Tabasco first baseman Michel Abreu (.997), Puebla shortstop Ivan Cervantes (.981) and Campeche center fielder Ruben Rivera (1.000).

The LMB website says Gold Glove awards go to Liga players with the best fielding percentage at their respective defensive positions, in direct contrast to Major League Baseball, in which Gold Gloves are a popularity contest voted upon by managers and coaches and don’t always have a thing to do with fielding. Rafael Palmeiro won an American League Gold Glove as a first baseman in 1999 even though he only donned a glove 24 games for Texas that season. He did hit .324 with 47 homers and 148 RBIs, which maybe proves that the best defense really is a good offense.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A-GON TAKES RED SOX COLLAPSE PHILOSOPHICALLY

After seeing his Red Sox complete a stunning collapse that saw them lose the American League wild card playoff berth on the last day of the regular season, Boston first baseman Adrian Gonzalez took the disappointment calmly.

“It’s definitely something we didn’t plan for,” Boston Globe writer Peter Abraham quoted Gonzalez as saying. “We were wholly confident that we would make the playoffs, but it didn’t happen. We didn’t do a better job with the lead. I’m a firm believer that God has a plan, and it wasn’t in His plan for us to move forward. God didn’t have it in the cards for us.”

Instead of blaming the Man Upstairs, the Red Sox All-Star who grew up in Tijuana pointed to the schedule: “We play too many night games on getaway days and get into places at 4 in the morning. This has been my toughest season physically because of that. We play a lot of night games on Sunday for television and those things take a lot out of you.”

The Red Sox had a nine-game lead over Tampa Bay for the wild card berth on September 3, but hit the skids over the final month of the regular season to lose out to the Rays on the final day of the schedule.

Abraham took umbrage at Gonzalez’ philosophical view of his team’s collapse, but it’s hard to place much blame on the four-time All-Star. In his first season in Boston, Gonzalez batted .338 with 27 homers and 117 RBIs, leading the American League with 213 hits. He also fielded .997 at first base, committing just 4 errors in 1,351 chances. Over the final ten games of the season, he batted .417 by going 15-for-36 plus 8 walks for an on-base percentage of .639.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

REPORT: OSUNA’S RIGHTS SOLD TO JAYS FOR $1.5 MILLION

The Puro Beisbol website is reporting the Mexico City Diablos Rojos has sold the rights to 16-year-old right-handed pitcher Roberto Osuna to the Toronto Blue Jays for US$1.5 million.

Osuna, an Hermosillo native and the nephew of former MLB pitcher Antonio Osuna, pitched 13 times for the Diablos last season, going 0-1 with a 5.43 ERA in 13 appearances, including two starts. He’s listed at 6’2” and 230 pounds, and is said to be able to hit the low to mid 90’s with his fastball.

Osuna had caught the eye of a number of major league organizations, but Toronto appeared to have the inside track for some time. Osuna will keep 25 percent of his signing bonus (US$375,000) and the rest goes to the Diablos, as is customary in Mexico. He was added to Guasave’s Mexican Pacific League roster last summer.

The sale of Osuna marks the second-highest payment for a Mexican prospect. The Pittsburgh Pirates purchased the rights to another 16-year-old hurler, Luis Heredia of Mazatlan, from the Veracruz Aguilas last year for US$3 million, with the Aguilas keeping US$2.25 million of that.

Prior to Heredia’s signing, the most paid for a young Mexican player was the US$1 million spent by the Kansas City Royals for righty Luis Cota. Unlike Osuna or Heredia, Cota signed directly with KC as a tenth-round draft pick in 2003 and spent five years in the Royals organization, going 15-26 with a 5.36 ERA in 82 starts and never climbing higher than High Desert in the Class A California League. Now 26, Cota spent time the past year working as a prison guard in Arizona.

Friday, September 23, 2011

CABORCA TOPS ENSENADA IN 7 GAMES, WINS LIGA NORTE TITLE

A bases-loaded triple by Adan Velazquez (pictured) in the seventh inning pushed the eventual winning runs across the plate as the Caborca Rojos went on to defeat the Ensenada Marineros, 5-3, in Game 7 of the Mexican Northern League championship series on August 16. The Marineros built a 3-0 lead until the fateful seventh, when the Rojos plated all five of their runs en route to dethroning Ensenada as the kings of the Liga Norte. Ramon Cairoz had tossed six frames of scoreless ball for the Marineros, but Caborca teed off on relievers Marlon Arias, Florencio Bustillos and Francisco Butto, a former Caribbean Series MVP.

Tijuana won the regular season title with a 48-30 record, 1.5 games ahead of the 46-31 Rojos. However, Caborca beat the Truenos 4 games to 3 in one semifinal series while Ensenada eliminated Puerto Penasco in six games, setting up the title set.

Jeremy Acey of Caborca led the LNM in batting with a .427 average and his 99 RBIs were tops in the league. Another Rojos extranero, Jason Bass, hit a Norte-best 20 homers.

Daniel Perez, who won the final game for Caborca led Liga Norte pitchers in wins with an 11-2 record, Wington Concepcion of Tijuana had a 1.71 ERA and Agua Prieta’s Santos Hernandez topped all hurlers with 125 strikeouts in 84 innings.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

TIJUANA TO HOST THIRD BASEBALL FESTIVAL

Tijuana will once again host a three-day baseball event featuring four teams from the Mexican Pacific League. The Caribbean Series champion Obregon Yaquis will be in the Baja California Norte city from September 30 through October 2 along with the Culiacan Tomateros, Mazatlan Venados and Mexicali Aguilas. This will mark the first time the Venados have played in the tournament after local fans in Tijuana requested they be invited.

The Beisbol Fest began in 2009, a year after the Tijuana Potros Mexican League franchise shifted to Reynosa. Since then, the border city has had teams come and go. Tijuana presently has a franchise in the summer Class A Mexican Northern League, although it has been mentioned as a possible future MexPac city if expansion talk ever becomes reality (a foolish move given the ongoing mess in Navojoa).

The Beisbol Fest is being promoted by Pro3 Sports & Entertainment and will take place in the 19,500-seat Estadio Cerro Colorado (formerly known as Calimax Stadium). The four teams will play a round-robin format, with a Home Run Derby also planned for October 1.

Monday, September 19, 2011

LIGA NAMES TERRERO MVP, CARRILLO TOP MANAGER

The Mexican League has named its 2011 award winners and, as expected, Mexico City outfielder Luis Terrero has been tabbed as Most Valuable Player. The former MLBer dominated the offensive ranks among Liga batters, leading the circuit in five individual categories and finishing second in three more as he turned in a .390 batting average with 38 homers and 110 RBIs in 97 games for the Diablos.

Other players awarded were Reynosa’s Marco Tovar as Pitcher of the Year after registering a 12-4 record and leading the LMB with a 3.11 ERA; Sandy Nin of Quintana Roo as Reliever of the Year following an 8-4 season with a 2.80 ERA and a league-leading 24 saves; Rookie of the Year Alejandro Martinez, who went 7-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 13 starts for a sixth-place Minatitlan team; and Comeback of the Year winner Pablo Ortega, who went from a 2-6 record and an 8.24 ERA for Quintana Roo in 2010 to a 10-3 season with a 3.29 ERA and three more playoff wins for the Tigres this summer.

Quintana Roo skipper Matias Carrillo was named Manager of the Year after leading the Tigres to a Southern Zone regular season crown and the franchise’s tenth Liga pennant in 2011.

It’s hard to argue against any of these choices: The Mexican League pretty much got it right.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

VAZQUEZ BELTS 32 HOMERS, NAMED INTL LEAGUE 2011 ALL-STAR

Although Jorge Vazquez has yet to receive that call to play for the New York Yankees, the 28-year-old Culiacan native made the most of his season with the Yanks’ AAA affiliate at Scranton/Wilkes Barre by cracking 32 homers, driving in 93 runs and being named an International League All-Star for 2011.

Vazquez’ 32 longballs was tops in the IL, leading runner-up Stefan Gartrell of Gwinnet by six, and “Chato” drove in 93 runs for the year, one behind Gartrell for the league lead. The 5’11, 225-pounder batted .262 for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, picking up 119 hits in 118 games but also striking out 166 times (second in the IL to Ryan Strieby of Toledo). Vazquez finished the season in strong form, hitting .314 with six homers in 24 games the final month of the schedule. He was selected Player of the Week twice this year.

The 2011 season was Vazquez’ third in the Yankees system after he was signed by New York as a free agent on December 7, 2008. In that time, he’s hit 63 homers with 217 RBIs in 261 games at the AA and AAA levels Prior to that he’d spent ten seasons in the Mexican League, mostly with the Tigres franchise playing in Puebla (Angelopolis) and Cancun (Quintana Roo). His top two seasons were in 2005 and 2005, when he hit .379 and .359 while whacking a combined 64 homers and 194 RBIs.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

HEREDIA STRUGGLES THROUGH TOUGH YEAR FOR PIRATES GCL TEAM

Heralded pitching prospect Luis Heredia found the going tough in his first season of pro ball in the Pittsburgh Pirates system.

The 6’6” 17-year-old righthander struggled his way to one win in eleven starts for the Pirates’ Gulf Coast League rookie team in 2011, going 1-2 with a 4.75 ERA in 30.1 innings. He had a fair strikeout total of 23 (a rate of 6.8 whiffs per nine innings), but his early control problems never completely went away. Heredia dished up 19 walks and hit four batsmen, also a rate of 6.8 per nine frames for free passes.

The campaign ended on an upswing for the Mazatlan native, however. Heredia pitched scoreless ball over nine innings in three appearances (two starts) between August 8 and 19 before getting racked up for three runs on four hits in three entradas against the Phillies in his last start of the season on August 25.

Heredia's lone win against the Tigers on September 8 began his scoreless stretch, but even that was somewhat flawed. While Heredia did toss three shutout innings with two strikeouts, he gave up two hits and two walks in his only relief outing in ten appearances for the Pirates under manager Tom Prince.

Given his $3 million bonus and mid-90’s fastball, Heredia remains one of Pittsburgh’s top prospects and should develop once the Pirates let him throw more than just heaters as he matures.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

BASEBALL MEXICO’S 2011 Mexican League All-Star Team

1B-Barbaro Canizares, Oaxaca (.396/20/76): Led the Liga in batting, hit .526 over last 10 games of season to win title.

2B
-Jose Amador, Saltillo (.355/18/79R): Bright spot in dismal year in Saltillo. Hit .324 or better each month of season.

3B
-Marshall McDougall, Reynosa (.327/15/79): Ex-Florida State star returned from Asia to provide clutch hitting for Broncos.

SS
-Domingo Castro, Reynosa (.321/2/58R): Slap hitter with little power has topped .300 mark all three years in Reynosa.

LF
-Luis Terrero, Mexico City (.390/38/110/30SB): Ex-MLBer had monster year, only second 30/30 season in Liga history.

CF
-Leo Heras, Mexico City (.342/18/60/25SB): Solid first year with Diablos, 5’8” 155-pounder socked career-high 18 HRs.

RF
-Jorge Guzman, Veracruz (.290/39/97): Led Liga in HRs to form great 1-2 punch with Victor Diaz, raised BA 52 points.

C
-Iker Franco, Quintana Roo (.276/23/74): Solid vet and clutch hitter led champs in HRs and RBIs, 72 HRs in last 4 years.

DH
-Edgar Quintero, Monterrey (.357/32/78): Longtime star was backbone for surprising Sultanes despite tailing off late.

LHP
-Marco Tovar, Reynosa (12-4/3.11/80K): Former reliever led Liga in ERA, tied for top in wins in second full year as starter.

RHP
-Francisco Campos, Campeche (12-5/3.42/113K): Only got better as season progressed. The Salon de la Fama awaits.

RP
-Sandy Nin, Quintana Roo (8-4/2.80/24SV): Led circuit in saves, won or saved 32 games. Only 15 walks in 70.2 IP.

MGR
-Daniel Fernandez, Veracruz (54-49/.524/3rd): Rebuilt moribund team around pitching, led them to LMB South finals.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

SUMMER 2011 BBM AWARDS Most Valuable Player: Luis Terrero, Mexico City Diablos Rojos

With two weeks to go in the regular season, Luis Terrero had a valid shot at winning no less than EIGHT offensive titles in the Mexican League for 2011: Batting average, hits, homers, RBIs, runs scored, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, on-base-plus-slugging percentage and stolen bases. And remember that the Liga is very much a hitter’s league.

While it’s true that Terrero had to settle for leading the LMB in runs, RBIs, slugging percentage and OPS while finishing second in batting average, homers and on-base percentage (he was “only” third in stolen bases) takes nothing away from what ended up being one of the most remarkable offensive seasons in any professional league in the past several years.

Talk is cheap, so let the numbers do the talking for us: .390 batting average, .485 on-base percentage, .770 slugging percentage, 1.254 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 38 homers, 109 runs, 110 runs and 30 steals. We have hardcore researchers who read BBM: They’re all invited to find a single-season performance with those kinds of totals in Organized Baseball over the recent past. There may be someone who can match them, but I can’t think of him.

Luis Terrero not only deserves to be named Most Valuable Player by the LMB itself, anything short of a unanimous vote reflects a case of denial that belongs in the same room as Lindsay Lohan at the Betty Ford Clinic.

Friday, September 9, 2011

LIGA NAMES TERRERO MVP, CARRILLO TOP MANAGER

The Mexican League has named its 2011 award winners and, as expected, Mexico City outfielder Luis Terrero (pictured) has been tabbed as Most Valuable Player. The former MLBer dominated the offensive ranks among Liga batters, leading the circuit in five individual categories and finishing second in three more as he turned in a .390 batting average with 38 homers and 110 RBIs in 97 games for the Diablos.

Other players awarded were Reynosa’s Marco Tovar as Pitcher of the Year after registering a 12-4 record and leading the LMB with a 3.11 ERA; Sandy Nin of Quintana Roo as Reliever of the Year following an 8-4 season with a 2.80 ERA and a league-leading 24 saves; Rookie of the Year Alejandro Martinez, who went 7-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 13 starts for a sixth-place Minatitlan team; and Comeback of the Year winner Pablo Ortega, who went from a 2-6 record and an 8.24 ERA for Quintana Roo in 2010 to a 10-3 season with a 3.29 ERA and three more playoff wins for the Tigres this summer.

Quintana Roo skipper Matias Carrillo was named Manager of the Year after leading the Tigres to a Southern Zone regular season crown and the franchise’s tenth Liga pennant in 2011.

It’s hard to argue against any of these choices: The Mexican League pretty much got it right.

SUMMER 2011 BBM AWARDS Pitcher of the Year: Francisco Campos, Campeche Piratas

One of the things modern baseball managers need to be concerned with is overworking their pitchers. When one of those pitchers is 38 years old, in his 21st season of pro ball and relatively slight of stature at 5’11” and 185 pounds, the risk of having that hurler wear down in the hot summer months rises exponentially. Unless that pitcher is Francisco Campos.

The Campeche veteran not only didn’t lose steam over the steamy weeks of July in the Yucatan peninsula in the southern tip of Mexico, he actually seemed to get stronger. In his last ten starts in the regular season between June 1 and July 25, the man they call “Pancho Ponches” because he’s been perhaps the top strikeout artist in Mexico over the past two decades put together a 7-1 record with a 2.89 ERA, striking out 68 batters over 65 innings with just 16 walks (including only four free passes in 32.2 innings over his last five starts. In fact, in his last regular season outing against the eventual Liga champion Tigres in Cancun, Campos struck out nine while walking one batter in 5.1 frames. So much for wearing out.

For the season, the native of Guaymas registered a 12-5 record with a 3.42 ERA, including 138 whiffs and 38 walks in 137 innings while tying for the Liga lead in wins. Since debuting as a 17-year-old in 1995 with the Piratas (except for a 5-0 record in five starts with Monterrey in 2005, he’s never pitched for another LMB team), Campos has gone 146-85 with 1,604 strikeouts in 2,181 innings along with an ERA slightly under 3.00.

Campos may not just be the Liga’s best pitcher in 2011…he has a valid argument for being the best pitcher in Mexico of this generation.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

SUMMER 2011 BBM AWARDS Playoff MVP: Pablo Ortega, Quintana Roo Tigres

Observers might’ve had an inkling that Ortega was in for a solid postseason when he narrowly missed a perfect game in his final start of the regular season, but even the wily right-handed veteran would’ve been hard-pressed to predict how well he’d pitch en route to the Tigres’ tenth Mexican League pennant since their first LMB season in 1955.

Ortega went on to win three games in four decisions among his five starts, giving up just four earned runs over his 32 playoff innings to post a microscopic 1.13 ERA. Although his control wasn’t as sharp as he’d have liked it in issuing 13 walks while hitting four other batsmen, the 35-year-old Nuevo Laredo product scattered 24 hits through three playoff rounds (and just one homer) in picking up a win in each series. Ortega helped Quintana Roo’s four-game sweep of powerful Mexico City in the Mexican Series by combining with relievers Juan Sandoval and Sandy Nin on a 1-0 shutout in front of a sellout crowd at home in Cancun on August 22.

The playoffs capped a terrific comeback year for Ortega, who looked like he might’ve been all but finished after a disastrous 2010 season in which he went 2-6 with an 8.24 ERA in 17 games for the Tigres after going 36-14 the previous three Liga campaigns. Instead, he turned in a 10-3 record during the 2011 regular season and finished third in the LMB with a 3.29 ERA, trailing only Reynosa’s Marco Tovar (3.11) and Puebla’s Andres Meza (3.14) before his sterling playoff work.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

SUMMER 2011 BBM AWARDS Manager of the Year: Daniel Fernandez, Veracruz Aguilas

The Aguilas had an entirely forgettable 2010 in which they went 39-66 (winning just 15 of 52 games in the second half), but Veracruz native Fernandez took the reins last winter and led the Red Eagles to a solid 54-49 record and a berth in the Southern Zone finals against the Tigres. Veracruz was probably best-known for the 1-2 power punch of Liga home run champ Jorge Guzman and Victor Diaz, who combined for 73 longballs, but it was pitching that was the main reason for the Aguilas’ 16-game improvement over their 2010 showing.

Fernandez cobbled together a pitching staff led by starters Joel Vargas (11-7/3.60) and Juan Acevedo (9-5/3.68) plus relievers Hector Navarro (3-3/4.25/15 saves) and Jailen Peguero (5-0/1.40/8 saves) into one with the Liga’s lowest ERA at 4.24. Granted, the starting rotation was thin after Vargas and Acevedo, which makes the Aguilas’ season all the more remarkable, given that their .273 team batting average was the worst in the circuit.

The 2011 season serves as sweet vindication for Fernandez, a former Mexico City Diablos Rojos star who was dumped unceremoniously by the Diablos two years ago, one season after leading them to their last LMB pennant in his first year as mananger and then to the league’s best regular season record in 2009. Fernandez then spent 16 games in 2010 on the Tabasco managerial merry-go-round before getting canned with a 5-11 record with the hapless Olmecas.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

SUMMER 2011 BBM AWARDS Newcomer of the Year: Doug Clark, Quintana Roo Tigres

Having spent more than one winter in the Mexican Pacific League, the 35-year-old native of Springfield, Massachusetts is no stranger to baseball south of the border. However, 2011 was Doug Clark’s first season in the Mexican League after spending the previous three summers playing in Korea, and he made the most of it for the Quintana Roo Tigres.

A former MLBer with the San Francisco Giants in 2005 and Oakland Athletics in 2006, Clark had a strong first year in Cancun by batting .315 in 97 games for the Tigres and turning in one of just two 20/20 seasons in the Liga with 21 homers and 20 stolen bases. He played in the All-Star Game after batting .346 with 13 homers before the break, although he tailed off a bit in the second half of the season after playing continuously since the spring of 2010. While Clark’s 67 runs scored and 58 RBIs weren’t head-turning numbers, he had a knack for getting a hit when it counted late in games. Then came the playoffs.

Over 16 games, Clark’s .259 average was somewhat negligible, but his productivity wasn’t. His 14 runs and 14 ribbies were both among the postseason Liga leaders, his 4 homers tied Willie Romero and Albino Contreras for the Tigres team lead, his 4 stolen bases was tops among all players in the playoffs, and he went 6-for-12 in the Mexican Series against Mexico City as the Tigres swept the Diablos for their tenth LMB pennant. Not bad for a guy who didn’t play varsity baseball in high school before walking on at the University of Massachusetts, where he was on scholarship as a football wide receiver.

Monday, September 5, 2011

SUMMER 2011 BAMMYS COMING THIS WEEK

Winners of the Summer 2011 Baseball Mexico Awards (otherwise lovingly known as the Bammys) will be announced this week, beginning Tuesday with the Mexican League Newcomer of the Year. Other awards include Manager of the Year (Wednesday), Pitcher of the Year (Thursday), Playoff MVP (Friday) and Most Valuable Player (Saturday). The BBM Summer All-Star Team will be released Sunday.

The BBM Awards are given out twice a year: Once for the Mexican Pacific League season in winter, and once for the Mexican League season in summer. Here is a list of past Bammy winners...

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Summer 2010: Sandy Madera, Yucatan Leones
Winter 2011: Barbaro Canizares, Obregon Yaquis

MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Summer 2010: Eddie Diaz, Oaxaca Guerreros
Winter 2011: Matias Carrillo, Guasave Algodoneros

PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Summer 2010: Bobby Cramer, Quintana Roo Tigres
Winter 2011: Jose Silva, Culiacan Tomateros

PLAYOFF MVP
Winter 2011: Iker Franco, Obregon Yaquis

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Summer 2010: Willis Otanez, Puebla Pericos
Winter 2011: Justin Christian, Los Mochis Caneros

Saturday, August 27, 2011

QUINTANA ROO CLUBS MEXICO CITY, 13-9, TO CLINCH MEXICAN SERIES TITLE

An unlikely hero emerged from the bullpen and Carlos Gastelum’s grand slam in the seventh inning busted open a tied game as the Quintana Roo Tigres polished off the Mexico City Diablos, 13-9, Friday at Foro Sol to complete a four-game sweep of their rivals and win the franchise’s tenth Mexican League pennant since 1955.

Both teams were putting runs on the board in the early going as Gastelum homered in the first inning and Doug Clark went deep in the third and the two most storied teams in Mexican baseball battled to a 5-5 tie heading into the fourth inning. Enter Jorge Campillo (pictured) in relief of Tigres starter Enrique Lechuga.

Campillo, a former MLB pitcher with Seattle and Atlanta who has fought with injuries over the years, turned in four superlative relief innings for manager Matias Carrillo’s side, blanking the potent Diablos on one hit in four innings of work, just long enough for Gastelum to swat his second homer of the night in Quintana Roo’s five-run seventh, breaking the tie and sending the Tigres to a win and a pennant. Mexico City’s Luis Terrero scored on a Ivan Terrazas double off Eder Llamas to close the gap to 8-6 in the eighth, but Albino Contreras bashed a three-run homer in the top of the ninth to stretch the Tigres’ lead to 11-6. The Red Devils put another three scores on the board in the bottom of the ninth, but they went for naught.

Gastelum ended up with five RBIs and Sergio Contreras batted 5-for-5 for Quintana Roo. Alexis Gomez and Leo Heras both had three hits for Mexico City with Gomez driving in three runs. Campillo won his first playoff game while Salvador Robles took the loss for the Diablos. The pennant is the first for the Tigres in Cancun and for Carrillo as a skipper.

Friday, August 26, 2011

TIGRES BEAT DIABLOS, ONE GAME AWAY FROM LIGA PENNANT

Iker Franco went 2-for-3 with four RBIs while Willie Romero reached base five times, scored twice and drove in two more runs as the Quintana Roo Tigres outlasted the Mexico City Diablos Rojos, 9-6, Thursday night before 23,553 fans at Foro Sol in the capital city. With the victory, the Cancun club took a commanding 3 games to 0 lead in the Mexican League championship series.

The contest was tied at 4-4 when Quintana Roo broke out for three runs in the top of the seventh inning as Red Devils reliever Federico Castaneda opened the frame by plunking Albino Contreras, giving up a Carlos Gastelum single and walking Sergio Contreras before making way on the mound for Martin Sotelo, who promptly walked Romero on five pitches to push across the go-ahead run. Arturo Lopez then replaced Sotelo, but after getting Doug Clark to line out to right, Sotelo dished up a two-run single to Franco to make it a 7-4 game.

The Diablos got two runs back in the bottom of the inning when Juan Sandoval came in to pitch for the Tigres with one runner on base and allowed a Luis Alfonso Cruz single before walking three straight batters to send two runners across the plate before Sandy Nin (pictured) came out of the pen to get pinch-hitter Mario Valdez to strike out looking to end the threat. Nin pitched the rest of the way for his sixth playoff save. Pedro Castellano led off the eighth with a homer off Jean Machi, who then induced two Quintana Roo outs before giving up consecutive doubles to Carlos Gastelum and Sergio Contreras to bring the score to its eventual 9-6 final margin.

Game 4 of the championship series was scheduled for Friday in Mexico City.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

ORTEGA OUTDUELS QUEVEDO AS TIGRES GO UP 2 GAMES TO 0

Pablo Ortega combined with two relievers to outpitch Marco Quevedo and three others as the Quintana Roo Tigres squeaked past the Mexico City Diablos Rojos, 1-0, Monday night before a sellout crowd of 7,607 at Cancun’s Estadio Beto Avila. With the win, the Tigres took a 2 games to 0 lead over their ancient rivals in the Mexican League championship series.

Iker Franco’s single in the bottom of the second inning drove in Willie Romero with the game’s only run for Quintana Roo as Ortega turned in yet another strong outing on the mound, giving manager Matias Carrillo seven innings of scoreless pitching while scattering six hits and one walk while striking out five Diablos before giving way to Juan Sandoval. Liga saves leader Sandy Nin came on in the ninth and held Mexico City scoreless in picking up his fifth save of the playoffs.

For his part, Quevedo was able to keep pace with Ortega in his 5.1 innings of work, letting in the one run on four hits, although control problems led to four walks and a pitch count of 97 before being pulled in the sixth. Although Orlando Lara walked the one batter he faced before Diablos skipper Mako Oliveras yanked him, Federico Castaneda and Jean Machi limited the Tigres to two hits the rest of the way, so pitching wasn’t the problem for Mexico City…Ortega was as the 34-year-old righty took his third postseason win in four decisions while lowering his playoff ERA to 1.13. Of his 96 pitches, 71 went for strikes. If the Tigres go on to win the pennant, Ortega should be a prime contender for Playoff MVP.

The two teams will take Tuesday off to travel to Mexico City, where Game 3 is slated for Foro Sol on Wednesday.

Monday, August 22, 2011

TIGRES TORCH DIABLOS, 8-2, IN LIGA CHAMPIONSHIP OPENER

Five players collected two hits apiece while Mexico City starter Roberto Ramirez was chased after less than two innings as the Quintana Roo Tigres walloped the Diablos Rojos, 8-2, Sunday in the opening game of the Mexican League championship series in Cancun.

Iker Franco singled and homered while Willie Romero and Doug Clark (pictured) both singled and doubled as the Tigres scored five runs in the first inning and another two in the second to take a 7-1 lead they never came close to relinquishing. Ramirez was manhandled for all seven runs on eight hits and a walk in 1.1 innings, although to be fair, only two of those runs were earned. Nerio Rodriguez, normally a starter since signing with Mexico City last month, came on in relief of Ramirez and let in no runs through the fifth, but the damage was already done. Francisco Cordoba earned the win for Quintana Roo.

The scheduled title set opener was washed out Sunday. The two teams will meet again tonight in Cancun as Marco Quevedo starts for Mexico City against Pablo Ortega of the Tigres.

Friday, August 19, 2011

OLD RIVALS TIGRES, DIABLOS TO MEET IN LIGA TITLE SERIES

In what must be a dream matchup among longtime Mexican baseball fans, the Mexico City Diablos Rojos will face the Quintana Roo Tigres in the Mexican League championship series. The two teams shared ballparks in the nation’s capital for over four decades, and have remained fierce rivals even after the Tigres left Mexico City in 2002. The Diablos have won 15 Liga pennants while the Tigres was copped nine flags since 1955.

Monterrey forced Mexico City into a seventh game in their LMB North final series before the Diablos prevailed, 4-1, on Wednesday. Miguel Duarte and Jean Machi combined to scatter seven Sultanes hits with 12 strikeouts while Luis Alfonso Cruz went 4-for-4 with a run and RBI and Carlos Valencia socked a solo homer. Monterrey overcame a 3 to 1 series deficit by winning 10-4 last Sunday as Edgar Quintero doubled, singled twice and drove in three runs, then drubbed the Diablos, 17-6, Tuesday night with Chris Roberson going 4-for-5 with a triple, homer and three ribbies.

The Tigres punched their ticket to the LMB finals by eliminating Veracruz, 4-2, in Game 6 Wednesday in Cancun. 5’7” pitcher Jose Ramirez combined with two relievers to limit the Aguilas to seven hits for his third postseason win while Albino Contreras was one single shy of hitting for the cycle, scoring twice and whacking a two-run homer. Quintana Roo was trailing 2 games to 1 before reeling off wins on three consecutive nights: a 3-1 triumph Monday behind Enrique Lechuga’s six innings of six-hit ball followed by a 4-3 thriller in 11 innings Tuesday when Doug Clark scored from second on a Jaime Trejo single and a throwing error by Aguilas left fielder Jose Orozco and Sandy Nin pitched three perfect innings in relief for the win.

The title series opens Saturday in Cancun. The Tigres have home field advantage because the Southern Zone won the All-Star Game at Saltillo in May.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

ALL-TIME GREAT 3B RODRIGUEZ DIES AT AGE 82

A man considered by many to be the greatest third baseman in the history of the Mexican League has passed away. Leo Rodriguez, who was voted into the Salon de la Fama in 1980, died Tuesday morning at the age of 82.

Rodriguez broke into the LMB with Union Laguna as a 19-year-old in 1949, batting .300 in 86 games. He went on to spend five years in Torreon, batting .280 or better four times and topping the .300 mark twice. Rodriguez then spent 1954 with Cananea of the Arizona-Texas League, where he hit an amazing .430 with 259 hits in 141 games and after hitting .385 and .349 the next two seasons for the Mexico City Tigres, went on to play four years with Hollywood and Columbus in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league system between 1957 and 1960 (batting between .268 and .292.

Rodriguez returned to the Mexican League for good in 1961 and played five years with the Mexico City Diablos Rojos, batting .301 or better every year while never striking out more than 33 times a season. Not a power hitter, Rodriguez only hit 82 homers in his career, but he was a .315 career hitter in 13 LMB seasons and was a superb fielder. He played for three Liga pennant winners (Laguna in 1950, Tigres in 1955 and Diablos in 1964) and was player-manager for Hermosillo’s Mexican League champs in 1963-64. After retiring as a player, Rodriguez spent years coaching with the Monterrey Sultanes.

A moment of silence was held in honor of Rodriguez before Tuesday night’s Sultanes-Diablos game at Foro Sol.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

AGUILAS EVEN SOUTH FINALS ON PAEZ’ RBI DOUBLE

Hector Paez (pictured) drove in Victor Diaz from first with a two-out, pinch-hit double to right field in the top of the ninth inning to give the Veracruz Aguilas a 7-6 lead over Quintana Roo that reliever Jailen Peguero preserved in the bottom of the frame to even the Mexican League Southern Zone Final series at a game apiece Friday night in Cancun.

The Aguilas had a 6-3 lead over the Tigres until Quintana Roo tied the game up in the bottom of the seventh on consecutive RBI hits from Doug Clark, Willie Romero and Albino Contreras. Peguero, who came in after Clark’s double, then retired Kevin Flores and Jaime Trejo to end the seventh and struggled through a scoreless eighth before Paez’ heroics in the ninth stanza. Game 3 of the series is set for Sunday in Veracruz.

A crowd of 23,537 attended Friday’s LMB North Final Game 3 in Monterrey as the Sultanes defeated Mexico City, 7-4, as Edgar Quintero went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs for the winning team. Sergio Perez, who hit just three regular season homers, went yard twice for Monterrey to back pitchers Dan Serafini and Juan Delgadillo.

The Diablos came back one night later and outlasted the Sultanes, 5-4, as Mexico City starter Marco Quevedo gave up just one hit in 5.2 shutout innings and Mario Valenzuela doubled in two runs in the fifth. The Diablos were up 5-1 in the ninth before Monterrey scored three runs off Mexico City closer Jean Machi to make it a one-run contest, but Machi got Sandy Madera to hit into a fielder’s choice to end the contest. The Diablos now lead the series, 3 games to 1.

Friday, August 12, 2011

ORTEGA SPARKLES AS TIGRES WIN LMB SOUTH FINAL OPENER

Another day, another dandy outing for Pablo Ortega. The Quintana Roo Tigres veteran pitcher, who authored a no-hitter in his last regular season start, tossed six innings of three-hit shutout ball Thursday night as the Tigres blanked the Veracruz Aguilas, 10-0, in Cancun in Game 1 of the Mexican League Southern Zone Finals.

Even though he only allowed two walks, Ortega did have to work a bit for his second playoff win in three decisions, delivering 95 pitches before making way for reliever Enrique Gomez in the seventh inning. The Tigres got all the runs they’d need in the third when Carlos Gastelum singled in Jaime Trejo and Carlos Sievers plated Gastelum on a line-drive double to center, but a Willie Romero (pictured) fifth inning grand slam made it an 8-0 Quintana Roo lead thar effectively salted the game away.

Meanwhile in the LMB North Finals, Mexico City took a 2 games to 0 lead over Monterrey with a 10-3 whacking of the Sultanes Wednesday night at Foro Sol. Luis Alfonso Cruz belted his fourth postseason homer with a three-run shot, while Luis Terrero added a three-run bomb of his own and Ivan Terrazas stroked a two-run longball in support of starter Nerio Rodriguez, who let in one run on four hits in five innings.

On Friday, Veracruz will visit Cancun and Mexico City plays in Monterrey. The Sultanes host the Diablos Saturday.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

DIABLOS TOP SULTANES ON GIL SINGLE IN 11TH

If there’s a “cover curse” on Baseball Mexico covers like there supposedly is on Sports Illustrated, nobody’s told Geronimo Gil.

The Mexico City Diablos Rojos veteran, who graces the front page of the BBM Mexican League 2011 Season Guide, delivered a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 11th inning to hand the Red Devils a 6-5 win over Monterrey in Game 1 of the LMB North final Tuesday at Foro Sol.

Mexico City was actually being handed a 5-0 shutout in the bottom of the ninth when skipper Mako Oliveras sent in Oscar Robles, Mario Valdez and Mario Valenzuela consecutively as pinch-hitters. Although Robles struck out, Valdez and Valenzuela both walked (with Ivan Terrazas scoring on a Ricardo Rincon wild pitch) to set up Luis Alfonso Cruz’ two-run single, a Luis Terrero RBI single and a game-tying Gil sacrifice fly that plated Cruz and sent the contest into extra frames.

In the LMB South semifinals, Campeche whacked Veracruz, 6-2, Monday night as Victor Diaz and Cesar Suarez hit solo homers for the Aguilas but Veracruz could muster only four more hits as the Piratas forced a Game 7. That one went Veracruz’ way by a 6-3 count, as Diaz and Suarez each homered for the second night in a row to put the Aguilas in the LMB South final against Quintana Roo. The Tigres eliminated Oaxaca in six games, including a 9-1 clincher in Cancun Sunday.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

LMB NORTHERN ZONE FINALISTS SET

The Mexican League Northern Zone finalists have been determined. Mario Valdez (pictured) swatted a walkoff two-run homer to give Mexico City a 7-5 victory over Puebla Saturday, handing the Diablos a 4 games to 2 win in their series. Mexico City will face Monterrey, who dispatched Reynosa, 8-4, in Game Six on Saturday thanks to a four-run ninth keyed by Chris Roberson’s two-run single.

In the LMB South, Ruben Rivera’s grand slam helped Campeche take a 9-5 win at Veracruz Saturday after Hector Hernandez’ RBI single in the ninth gave the Aguilas a 3-2 win Friday. The Piratas lead 3 games to 2 going into Monday’s game in Campeche. Oaxaca stayed alive with a 2-1 win over Quintana Roo Friday as Sergio Gastelum homered. The Tigres are up 3 to 2 as the teams meet today in Cancun.

Friday, August 5, 2011

CRUZ HITS THIRD HOMER, DIABLOS WIN AWAY FROM DIVISION FINALS

Mexico City leads Puebla, 3 games to 2, after beating the Pericos 8-5 Thursday night with Luis Alfonso Cruz belting his third homer in the series, a three-run shot in the top of the second off Andres Meza. Puebla took a 7-5 win Wednesday, overcoming a 5-3 deficit with four sixth-inning runs as Serafin Rodriguez’ two-run single put the Pericos ahead.

Reynosa broke open a tie with five runs in the top of the ninth to outlast Monterrey, 14-9, Thursday night. Marshall McDougall hit two homers and doubled for the Broncos, who trail the Sultanes in the series, 3 games to 2. Monterrey copped a 7-2 win Wednesday as Sandy Madera homered, doubled and singled for the Sultanes.

Quintana Roo held off Oaxaca, 5-3, Thursday to go up 3 games to 1 in their set. Enrique Legucha pitched six innings of one-run ball for the TIgres while Willie Romero homered and drove in two. The Guerreros overcame a 3-1 deficit with four unanswered runs in a 6-3 win over the Tigres Wednesday night. Kevin Barker was 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIS.

Campeche won a 7-5 nailbiter at Veracruz Thursday despite being outhit by a 16-9 margin. The Piratas scored four in the ninth to go up 7-2, and then held on as the Aguilas scored three of their own to close the gap before they ran out of outs. Veracruz still leads their rain-delayed series, 2 games to 1.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

GUTIERREZ HITS 3-RUN HOMER AS REYNOSA STAYS ALIVE

The Reynosa Broncos averted a potential sweep in their first round series by scoring seven third-inning runs en route to a 10-8 road win in Monterrey Tuesday night. Marshall McDougall’s two-run double was followed by a Jesse Gutierrez (pictured) three-run homer two batters later as the Broncos pulled to within 2 games to 1 of the Sultanes, who host Game 4 tonight.

Mexico City took a 2-games-to-1 lead over Puebla by posting four runs in the top of the first (with Luis Alfonso Cruz cracking a two-run homer) and backing up a solid start from Nerio Rodriguez in Tuesday’s 4-1 win in Puebla. Rodriguez tossed seven innings of four-hit, one-run ball against the Pericos as the Diablos took a 2-to-1 series lead.

Veracruz and Campeche finally got the first games of their series in. The Aguilas opened with a 10-4 victory Monday night in Campeche as Jorge Guzman and Victor Diaz cracked two of four homers on the night for Veracruz to support Joel Vargas for the win. On Tuesday, Enrique Quintanilla hurled four scoreless innings in relief to combine with six other Veracruz pitchers on a seven-hitter in a 4-2 Aguilas win. The series moves to Veracruz for the next three scheduled games.

Meanwhile, Game 3 of the Quintana Roo-Oaxaca series was postponed by rain Tuesday night. They’ll try again Wednesday night with the Tigres holding a 2-games-to-0 lead in the set.

Monday, August 1, 2011

CLARK HOMERS IN TWO GAMES AS TIGRES TAKE 2-0 LEAD OVER GUERREROS

Veteran outfielder Doug Clark homered in two games while pitchers Pablo Ortega and Jose Ramirez were sharp as the Quintana Roo Tigres took wins in both contests at home in Cancun.

Clark socked a three-run homer and Carlos Gastelum belted a solo shot Saturday in Quintana Roo’s 8-3 triumph over Oaxaca as Ortega scattered four hits and one run in six innings for the win. Clark and Albino Contreras rapped homers off Guerreros starter Sergio Valenzuela in Sunday’s 4-2 Tigres win behind the 5’7” Ramirez.

Puebla and Mexico City split two games at Foro Sol. The Pericos clobbered the Diablos, 16-9, Saturday as Luis Suarez had four hits for Puebla and Mexico City starter Roberto Ramirez gave up nine runs in 2.2 innings. The Red Devils took a 9-2 win Sunday with Luis Terrero’s two-run homer highlighted a four-run Diablos second inning.

Sandy Madera’s three-run homer in the seventh was a key blow in Monterrey’s 6-2 win in Reynosa Saturday night as Broncos starter Marco Tovar was touched for six runs in seven innings, while Chris Roberson and Sergio Perez each had four hits in the Sultanes’ 9-2 victory Sunday as Francisley Bueno tossed seven frames of one-run ball for Monterrey’s second win.

While the other three series all got their first two games in, the Veracruz-Campeche first round was washed out both nights in Campeche. They’ll try to get a game in Monday night while everyone else is taking the day off to travel to the lower seed cities.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

2011 Mexican League First Round Playoff Previews

NORTHERN ZONE SEMIFINAL: Mexico City vs. Puebla
The Diablos finished the regular season with the best record in the Mexican League and as a team batted .334, hit 192 homers and averaged over seven runs per game while Puebla hit .301 with less than half as many homers (and stole a Liga-low 34 bases). Based on that, Mexico City seems the clear favorite here except for one little detail: Pitching.

Although the Diablos have one of the best pitchers in the Liga in Roberto Ramirez (10-3/3.59) while Marco Duarte (12-4/4.94) tied for the LMB lead in wins, Mexico City still showed a 5.35 ERA to Puebla’s 4.89 mound mark. Further, the Parrots have a solid 1-2-3 top of the rotation in Andres Meza (11-5/3.14), Lorenzo Barcelo (10-7) and Mauricio Lara (10-5) that rank among the best starting threesome in the league. Puebla closer Luis Ramirez has had a good year 16 saves and a 3.54 ERA, but Diablos short man Jean Machi (15 saves, 2.30 ERA) hasn’t given up an earned run in over a month.

Still, the idea in baseball is to outscore your opponent and few do it better than Mexico City. Manager Mako Oliveras can fill out a lineup card with eight .300 hitters, including likely MVP OF Luis Terrero (.390/38/110), 1B Japhet Amador (.376/25/84), OF Mario Valenzuela (.374/21/58) and OF Leo Heras (.342/18/60). The Diablos addressed a hole on the left side of their infield by bringing in SS Luis Alfonso Cruz (.406 in 16 games) and vet 3B Oscar Robles (.250 in 3 games).

Pitching can win for you, but Puebla’s probably isn’t deep enough to win this series.


NORTHERN ZONE SEMIFINAL: Reynosa vs. Monterrey
Reynosa was one of the surprise teams of the Mexican League this year, finishing second in the LMB North with a 57-47 record that was the third-best in the circuit. Broncos manager Homar Rojas put together a good everyday lineup that included 2010 Liga batting champ DH Willis Otanez (.341/22/82), who came over from Puebla in the offseason. Otanez is probably the biggest star on a team that features solid but mostly unspectacular players like OF Eduardo Arredondo (.346/32 steals), 1B Jesse Gutierrez (.331/27/87), 3B Marshall McDougall (.327/15/79) and OF Yurendell de Caster (.338/6/47).

The problem with the Broncos is pitching. Rojas does have the underrated Marco Tovar (12-4/3.11) as his stopper, but this year’s Liga ERA champion has little help in the rotation as no other starter had an ERA better than 5.70.

On the other hand, Monterrey’s batting and pitching may be better than Reynosa’s despite finishing behind the Broncos in the standings. Granted, the Sultanes lost OF Karim Garcia and 1B Luis Alfonso Garcia to Asian teams during the season, but they still have a good lineup with DH Edgar Quintero (.357/32/78), OF Chris Roberson (.337/96 runs/22 steals) and mid-season pickup 1B Sandy Madera (.325/19/70). These guys can put runs on the board.

Monterrey’s pitching is decent enough, with veteran Walter Silva (10-4/3.51), Dan Serafini (7-5/4.88) and Francisley Bueno (7-5/4.15) topping a good rotation to complement closer Oscar Villareal (18 saves/2.80).

Although Reynosa won the first 10 of 12 games between these two teams during the regular season, the Sultanes could surprise.


SOUTHERN ZONE SEMIFINAL: Quintana Roo vs. Oaxaca
Both the Tigres and Guerreros lost six of their last ten games to end the regular season, but Oaxaca comes into the postseason on a five-game losing streak and they’ll be facing a team that pitched its way to first place in the standings.

Quintana Roo is not a team that’ll pound its way to a win. Only OFs Sergio Contreras (.347/13/57) and Doug Clark (.315/21/58) hit over .300 while C Iker Franco (.276/23/74) led the team in homers and RBIs with relatively modest totals. DH Carlos Sievers (.266/16/65) is the only other power threat besides Clark and Franco, but you won’t see a lot of double-digit scores with the Cancun club. What you will see with manager Matias Carrillo’s Tigres is an intelligent team that doesn’t beat itself and features a deep pitching staff with vets like Pablo Ortega (10-3/3.29), Francisco Cordoba (7-9) and Jose Ramirez (7-4/3.60) in the rotation along with fireman Sandy Nin (8-4/2.80/24 saves) coming out of the bullpen.

Oaxaca, on the other hand, has some players who can hit for average, including Liga batting champion 1B Barbaro Canizares (.396/20/76) and liner-hitting DH Kevin Barker (.358/12/79), but little power beyond those two. The Guerreros also have All-Stars in C Erick Rodriguez (.305/4/44) and 3B Sergio Gastelum (.288/4/41) and they’re strong defensively, but Oaxaca’s pitching is mediocre. Sergio Valenzuela (8-6/4.25) tops a so-so rotation and there’s been no closer since the Guerreros released Francisco.

The two teams split ten games this year, but it’s hard not to go with the Tigres here.


SOUTHERN ZONE SEMIFINAL: Campeche vs. Veracruz
This has the potential to be the most entertaining series among the four divisional semis. Between Veracruz OFs Jorge Guzman (.290/39/97) and Victor Diaz (.253/34/89) plus Campeche OF Ruben Rivera (.322/31/90), three of the top five home run hitters in the Liga this year will be on hand.

Campeche also has good hitters like OF Luis Matos (.331/8/32 with 15 steals), 1B Jolbert Cabrera (.300/19/74) and DH Javier Robles (.296/16/73), but the PIratas have had good pitching from starters Francisco Campos (12-5/3.42), Alejandro Armenta (11-4/3.80) Carlos Elizalde (8-2/4.03) and Miguel Ruiz ((5-6/3.36) in perhaps the Liga’s deepest rotation, and Hung-Weng Chen (2-1/1.82/6 saves) has solidified the bullpen after being picked up from the Chicago Cubs system. Campeche’s team ERA of 4.61 was third in the LMB this year behind Veracruz and Quintana Roo.

It’s easy to overlook the Aguilas pitching with Guzman and Diaz providing offensive fireworks, but Veracruz had a Liga-best ERA of 4.24 in 2011. Joel Vargas (11-7/3.60) turned in an impressive season while Juan Acevedo (9-5/3.68) was a solid number two starter, while Hector Navarro (3-3/4.25/15 saves) and Jailen Peguero (5-0/1.40/8 saves) have combined for 29 saves in leading a tremendous Aguilas bullpen. Veracruz will need the pitching because for all the home run power they have in the middle of the order, the Eagles hit a Liga-worst .273 and stuck out 718 times.

Campeche won 7 0f 10 meetings with Veracruz in the regular season and should prevail here as well.

Friday, July 29, 2011

LIGA REGULAR SEASON OVER, PLAYOFFS OPEN SATURDAY

The Mexican League’s 2011 regular season is in the history books, and first round playoff matchups are set.

The Mexico City Diablos Rojos won the Northern Zone title with the best record in the LMB at 63-40, finishing 6.5 games ahead of 57-37 Reynosa. Monterrey finished with seven straight losses to end up at 54-49 while Puebla took fourth at 53-53. Laguna, Monclova and Saltillo finished out of the playoffs.

In the LMB South, Quintana Roo took first at 62-42, 4.5 games up on 55-45 Campeche. Veracruz was third at 54-49 and Oaxaca copped the fourth and final playoff berth with a 51-51 mark after losing their last five games. Tabasco, Minatitlan and Yucatan finished 5-6-7 as the Leones, a perennial playoff team, turned in the worst record in the circuit at 43-62.

In the division semifinal openers Saturday, Monterrey will open at Reynosa while Mexico City hosts Monterrey in the North; Veracruz travels to Campeche and Oaxaca visits the Tigres in Cancun for the South semis.

For individual honors, Mexico City’s Luis Terrero fell short in his bid for a Triple Crown, but he did win the RBI title with 110. Oaxaca's Barbaro Canizares (pictured), the 2010 International League batting champion, was the top hitter with a .396 average while Jorge Guzman of Veracruz won the home run crown with 39, just ahead of Terrero’s 38.

Among pitchers, Marco Tovar of Reynosa topped the chart with a 3.11 ERA and tied with Campeche’s Francisco Campos, Tabasco’s Leo Gonzalez and the Diablos’ Marco Duarte in wins with 12. Saltillo’s Danny Rodriguez took the strikeout title with 118.

Standings and individual league leaders will be available in the BBM weekly newsletter Sunday. For a free subscription, email BaseballMexico@live.com.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

16-YEAR-OLD PITCHER OSUNA TO SIGN WITH JAYS?

After losing out to Pittsburgh in the Luis Heredia Sweepstakes last year, the Toronto Blue Jays don’t want to let another young Mexican pitching prospect slip through their fingers. Even though they reportedly offered more money than the Pirates, Heredia’s lifelong friendship with Pittsburgh scout Jesus “Chino” Valdez was likely a deciding in his signing with the Buccos last year…that and a $3 million signing bonus (much of which went to the Veracruz Aguilas, the Mexican League team that owned the rights to Heredia).

This time, Toronto may have landed a different well-regarded 16-year-old Sinaloa pitcher in Roberto Osuna, who said he was ready to sign with the Jays (who will likely offer Heredia-like money). Unlike Heredia, who had zero professional experience before reporting to the Pirates training complex in Florida last fall, the 6’0” 198-pound Osuna (who hits the mid-90’s on the radar gun) made 13 appearances in the Mexican League this season. Although he got roughed up more than once, the nephew of former MLB pitcher Antonio Osuna pitched reasonably well most of the time, going 19.2 innings for an 0-1 record and a 5.49 ERA, not a bad number for a hitter’s league like the LMB, striking out 12 and walking 10 for Mexico City. No doubt the Diablos will get their cut no matter who signs Osuna.

The right-handed Osuna, who is ranked fourth by Baseball America's Ben Badler on a list of international prospects, reportedly is leaning toward Toronto over four other teams and has already made an appearance at the Jays complex in Florida.

Monday, July 25, 2011

ORTEGA TOSSES NO-HITTER AS TIGRES CLINCH LMB SOUTH TOP BERTH

Pablo Ortega has been one of the top pitchers in Mexico for years: Not a guy who’ll blow batters away with speed or filthy breaking pitches, but a pitcher who genuinely “pitches” and relies on fooling batters. Sunday, he had the potent Veracruz lineup (including sluggers Jorge Guzman and Victor Diaz) entirely fooled, save for one patient batter.

The crafty 34-year-old righty registered the first no-hitter of the season as the Quintana Roo Tigres defeated the Aguilas, 10-0, beofre 4,270 fans in Veracruz’ Parque Universitario Beto Avila. And it was almost as efficient a no-no as you’ll ever see, as Ortega retired the first 25 hitters he faced until issuing a walk to Leo Rodriguez with one out in the bottom of the ninth before setting down the last two batters he faced. With the win, the former Tampa Bay farmhand improved to 10-3 on the season and lowered his ERA to 3.29 in the hitter-friendly Mexican League. As if the Tigres needed any more reason to celebrate, the win clinched the LMB South title for the Cancun side, who lead Campeche by 4.5 games with four left to play until the postseason.

Besides throwing the eighth no-hitter in the Tigres’ 57-year history (and the first since 2004), Ortega’s gem capped a year of vindication. After winning 36 of 49 decisions between 2007 and 2009, the Nuevo Laredo native suffered a horrible 2010 campaign, going 2-6 with an 8.24 ERA and causing some to wonder if he’d finally run out of gas after 113 wins over 14 professional seasons.

Instead, it would appear that Pablo Ortega still has a Tigre in his tank.

Friday, July 22, 2011

PLAYOFF TEAMS SET IN LMB NORTH

Although first-round matchups haven’t been finalized, four teams have clinched berths in the 2011 Mexican League Northern Zone playoffs. Mexico City, which qualified for the postseason in mid-July, remains on top of the LMB North standings at 59-40, three-and-a-half games ahead of 44-43 Reynosa, four games up on 54-43 Monterrey, and eight games in front of 51-48 Puebla. Laguna and Saltillo are tied for fifth at 43-57, 8.5 games behind the Pericos with seven games remaining on the schedule, while Monclova brings up the rear at 42-59. The elimination of the Saraperos means there will be a new Liga champion this summer.

Things aren’t quite as well-defined in the LMB South, although three teams have assured themselves of playing into August. Quintana Roo has led the division for weeks, and the Tigres are 58-40, 4.5 games ahead of 52-43 Campeche. Veracruz is six games back at 52-46 while Oaxaca holds fourth with a 50-46 mark. Tabasco is barely clinging onto hope with a 47-53 mark, five games out of fourth, but Minatitlan (43-56) and Yucatan (40-58) are getting ready to break out the golf clubs.

The regular season will end July 28, with the playoffs set to start two days later.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

MULHERN SIGNED BY SEIBU LIONS

Ryan Mulhern certainly made the most of his six weeks in Mexico. After arriving in Saltillo on June 3, the outfielder proceeded to tear the cover off the baseball, battering Mexican League pitching to the tune of a .366 average with 13 homers and 46 RBIs in 36 games. That was enough to gain the notice of Japan’s Seibu Lions of the Pacific League. Seibu and Mulhern were able to come to terms and the Burbank, California native made his way to the Far East on July 18.

Mulhern was drafted by Tampa Bay out of high school in 2000 and again by St. Louis after two years at the University of Southern Alabama in 2002 before being picked and signed by Cleveland in 2003. The 6’2” Mulhern spent six years in the Indians organization before going to Pittsburgh’s farm system in 2008. His best season was in 2005, when he hit .315 and blasted 32 homers splitting the year with Kinston in the Carolina League and Akron of the Eastern League, winning the Lou Boudreau Award as the Tribe’s top minor leaguer. He spent two years with Lancaster in the Atlantic League before coming to Saltillo last month. Mulhern has hit 131 homers over nine minor league seasons.

Puro Beisbol quoted Mulhern as saying, “I’m very thankful for the opportunity that Sergio (Saraperos president Sergio Ley) offered me to play in Japan…I’m also thankful to the people of Saltillo for all the support and affection they’ve given me during this time. I hope to return to the Saraperos because it’s a great team with great people.”

Monday, July 18, 2011

SALTILLO STRUGGLING ON FIELD, BUT NOT AT GATE

The on-field demise of the Saltillo Saraperos this season has been well-documented. Coming off their second consecutive Mexican League pennant, the Sarape Makers entered 2011 with hopes of becoming only the second team in Liga history to win three straight flags (the Monterrey Industriales turned the ultimate triple play in 1947-49). Barring a miracle of Biblical proportions, that ain’t gonna happen.

Even though longtime favorite Christian Presichi has been traded away, manager Orlando Sanchez was fired earlier this month and the Saraperos are 14 games under .500 and fighting Laguna and Monclova to stay out of the LMB North cellar, the fans continue to pour through the turnstiles at Estadio Francisco I. Madero. Through 48 home games, the Saraperos have drawn 410,056 people for an average of 8,542 per opening, both league-leading numbers.

The main reason attendance has maintained the top spot may be an extensive off-season ballpark remodel that saw the seating capacity increase to 17,500, new roofing placed over all seats, the playing field was completely reinstalled, a state-of-the-art Scoresound 1500 sound system was brought in and the placement of a 46’x72’ Daktronics scoreboard that is said to be the largest in Latin baseball.

Right behind Saltillo in attendance are the Monterrey Sultanes with an average of 8,023 fans while Puebla is third at 7,207 per game. Minatitlan is last with a 1,977 average, but overall attendance in the Liga appears to be up from 2010.

Friday, July 15, 2011

DIABLOS, TIGRES CLINCH LIGA PLAYOFF BERTHS

Although they’ve taken decidedly different routes to their identical records, both the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Quintana Roo Tigres have become the first teams to clinch berths in the Mexican League playoffs this season.

The Diablos have fashioned a 57-36 record by essentially bludgeoning their competition into submission. Mexico City is batting .330 as a team this year while belting an LMB-best 169 homers en route to scoring an average of 7.6 runs per game. Although Mexico City’s pitching is showing a hefty 5.18 ERA, that’s been more than enough to give the Diablos a five-game lead in the LMB North over second place Monterrey.

On the other hand, the Tigres offense is less than overwhelming with a .277 team average, 13th among the 14 Liga teams. The Cancun club is tied for third in the LMB with 113 homers (led by Iker Franco’s 23 bombs and Doug Clark’s 18), but this is a side that’s 57-36 and six games ahead of Veracruz in the Southern Zone because of pitching. The Tigres have a 4.30 ERA (second among Liga teams) and their 1.46 WHIP is tops in the circuit. While there’s no Bobby Cramer on the staff this year, crafty Pablo Ortega (9-2/2.91) leads a solid rotation and Sandy Nin (pictured) has won or saved 30 games out of the bullpen.

At this stage of the season it's easy to envision these two longtime rivals meeting in the Championship Series next month, but there'll be the matter of two playoff rounds to attend to first and. as Saltillo proved last year, clinching a division title in July doesn't guarantee a pennant in August.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

CAN TERRERO WIN “SEXTUPLE CROWN?”

Even if his season ended today, Mexico City outfielder Luis Terrero has had one hell of a ride in 2011.

A 31-year-old Dominican who hit .234 with 14 homers in 243 games for three MLB teams between 2003 and 2007, Terrero bounced around the high minors before landing with the Diablos Rojos this year. The 6’3” right-handed batter was envisioned as a player who could give the Diablos a multi-talented player that could hit with power and run, but nobody expected him to have the kind of year he’s having. Now the question may be whether Terrero can lead the Liga in six major offensive categories: Batting average, slugging average, homers, runs, runs batted in and stolen bases.

Consider that after socking a three-run homer Tuesday night in a 7-4 Mexico City win at Puebla, Terrero now leads the LMB in batting (.390), slugging (.751) and runs (96), holds second place in homers (33), and RBIs (98), and is fourth in steals (26). He’s been see-sawing with teammate Japhet Amador for the batting title, has whacked five homers in July to close to within three of leader Jorge Guzman (who’s hit one this month), is just three ribbies behind Puebla’s slumping Mendy Lopez (.235 over 10 games), and steals leader Eduardo Arredondo (31 swipes) has been hurt for two weeks.

It’s hard to envision anyone but Terrero as MVP this year (though few things are ever certain in the LMB), but with a break here and there, he may be on the verge of a truly historic season with a shot at leading in six offensive categories.

Monday, July 11, 2011

HEREDIA STRUGGLING TO FIND PLATE FOR CGL PIRATES

Pitching prodigy Luis Heredia is finding common ground with young hurlers everywhere throughout baseball history: No matter how hard you throw, you need to throw strikes.

Heredia absorbed his first loss in four starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Gulf Coast League rookie team on July 8, dropping a 5-2 decision to the Phillies. The 16-year-old righty only lasted 2.1 innings, letting in two runs on as many hits with five walks and only one strikeout.

The Mazatlan native has found home plate elusive thus far, with the 6’6” Heredia issuing nine bases on balls in nine frames to go with his six strikeouts. After giving up three free passes in 2.2 innings for his first pro outing against the Blue Jays on June 21, Heredia settled down in his next two starts and allowed just one walk with five whiffs over four stanzas before his control problems returned during last Friday’s loss in his first decision of the year.

While his propensity for walks is probably a concern (but not a major crisis, since Heredia IS a 16-year-old away from home for the first time in a foreign country) and his 4.00 ERA won’t knock anyone dead, one thing that probably has Pirates brass pleased is that while opponents are getting on base, they’re not knocking him out of the box. Heredia, whose fastball can reach the mid-90’s, has only allowed a .115 batting average among batters he’s faced and has given up just three hits over nine innings.

Imagine how effective he might be once he starts throwing strikes.

Friday, July 8, 2011

MIGUEL RUIZ TAKEN FIRST IN LMP SUMMER DRAFT

Pitcher Miguel Ruiz was the first overall selection in the Mexican Pacific League’s annual free agent draft, held recently in Obregon. Ruiz was chosen by the Hermosillo Naranjeros, who were dealt the top pick by Mexicali as part of the trade that sent Chris Roberson to the Aguilas. Ruiz is currently pitching for Campeche in the Mexican League.

Guasave took pitcher Luis de la O (Veracruz) second, followed by Navojoa’s choice of Laguna outfielder Jesus Romo. Los Mochis picked Hugo Perez, Culiacan chose Reynosa pitcher Oscar Hurtado, Mazatlan picked Veracruz pitcher Carlos Santamaria, Alexis Martinez went to Obregon and Hermosillo took Reynosa pitcher Arturo Mejia.
The draft continued for several rounds, with rights to a total of 73 players disbursed. One intriguing pick was Mazatlan’s late-round selection of Vinny Castilla...NOT the former MLB All-Star who retired from winterball in Hermosillo last season, but his nephew, who is a pitcher.

The Mex Pac draft involves teams selecting league rights to eligible domestic players not currently on any LMP team’s 60-man reserve list. Teams are also required to drop one player from their reserve list per pick to keep their number at 60.

There was also a draft of foreign-born players who are currently playing in the Mexican League. Taiwanese pitcher Chen Wen Hung was the first extranero picked by Mazatlan.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

SALON DE LA FAMA INDUCTS FOUR NEW MEMBERS

The Salon de la Fama in Monterrey was the scene of an induction ceremony July 2 as four new members were brought into the fold: Pitchers Mercedes Esquer and Teodoro “Teddy” Higuera, outfielder Jimmie Collins and executive Dr. Arturo Leon Lerma (pictured, L to R) were honored at the CuauhtĂ©moc Moctezuma brewery grounds, home of the Salon.

Esquer is one of the best left-handed pitchers in Mexican baseball history. He spent 24 seasons in the Liga, mainly with Monterrey and Yucatan, winning over 200 games. Esquer also topped 100 career wins in the Mexican Pacific League.

Higuera had a 94-64 record in nine major league seasons with a 3.66 ERA, becoming the first Mexican-born 20-game winner in American League history with a 20-11 mark for Milwaukee in 1986 (appearing in the All-Star Game that year). Higuera also spent six seasons in the Mexican League, mostly with the Juarez Indios.

A Southern University product, Collins spent seven seasons in the Atlanta Braves system before playing in Mexico between 1978 and 1987, batting .354 for his LMB career (third on the all-time list) and topping .400 twice.

Leon Lerma has spent more than 40 years in the front offices of Mexican baseball teams and leagues. President of the Mexican Pacific League for 15 years, he is currently the Executive Chairman of the LMP’s Hermosillo Naranjeros.

Monday, July 4, 2011

SANCHEZ SACKED AS SKIPPER FOR SAGGING SALTILLO

But what have you done for me lately?

If he ever had any illusions about job security, Orlando Sanchez has learned the hard way that coming off two Mexican League pennants in a row doesn’t count for much if the team you’re managing now is in last place. Sanchez was fired as pilot of the Saltillo Saraperos on July 1 after the team slid into the LMB North cellar with a 35-50 record. He was replaced at the helm by longtime Liga catcher Noe Munoz (pictured).

Sanchez was introduced as manager of the Saraperos on December 2, 2008. In his first season, Saltillo won its first outright Liga pennant by defeating Quintana Roo, 4 games to 2, in the Finals. He followed that up last season with another flag, this time by bouncing Puebla in five games in the title set. Although the Saraperos did not have a dominant regular season either year, there were hopes for a three-peat going into the current season.

Instead, the Saraperos’ pitching staff, which was a question mark going into the campaign, has been battered for a 6.24 team ERA, far too deep a hole even for an offense averaging .303 to overcome. The result was Sanchez’ ouster, along with pitching coach Julio Cesar Miranda.

Munoz has caught for 21 years in the Liga, the past 13 in Saltillo. He’ll be asked to lead the Saraperos to their 13th consecutive playoff appearance, while new pitching coach Martin Enriquez will be asked to turn the pitching around. It’s hard to know which of the two has the harder job ahead of him.

Friday, July 1, 2011

LIGA PLAYOFF FIELD TAKING SHAPE AS FINAL MONTH BEGINS

Although it’s still a little early to start ordering tickets to playoff games in August, the haves and have-nots are showing a real sense of separation as the Mexican League enters the final month of its regular season schedule.

In the LMB North, Mexico City (49-34) and Reynosa (48-36) have been jockeying for first place for most of the season, Monterrey (46-39) plays well enough on the road to be a real postseason darkhorse and Puebla (40-40) is likely to finish fourth but unlikely to go far in the playoffs. Laguna (37-48) has won seven in a row to pull out of the cellar, Monclova (36-49) has never made a serious run this year and Saltillo (35-49) has looked nothing like the two-time champions they are.

In the LMB South, Quintana Roo (52-32) has the best record in the Liga and odds-on favorite for a Finals berth. Surprising Veracruz (46-39) is battling Oaxaca (42-37) and Campeche (43-38) for the second seed and home-field advantage in the first round. Tabasco (38-46), Yucatan (37-47) and Minatitlan (35-50) are the also-rans at this point, with the Leones as disappointing as Veracruz has been pleasantly surprising in 2011.

One facet of the July schedule to watch is that throughout July, all series will be two-game affairs instead of the usual three-game sets. Veteran-laden teams are likely to suffer from the shorter turnarounds and extra bus rides as clubs play three series per week instead of two. If the standings change, this will be a factor.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

MADERA ADAPTING WELL TO NEW SURROUNDINGS IN MONTERREY

Sandy Madera might be forgiven if he’s developing a complex. Since becoming one of the more dependable batters south of the border after debuting with Los Mochis of the Mexican Pacific League in 2009, the sweet-swinging Dominican has played baseball year-round in Mexico since then. However, for the second summer in a row, the ex-Red Sox farmhand has changed Mexican League teams in midseason. Last year, Madera was swapped from Saltillo to Yucatan for outfielder Willie Romero. This season, he was released outright by the Leones on June 10 despite hitting .320 with nine homers in Merida.

Now the 30-year-old Madera finds himself with the Monterrey Sultanes, who snapped him up as a free agent June 13 after losing sluggers Luis Alfonso Garcia and Karim Garcia to Asian teams within days of each other earlier in the month. While Madera won’t supply the home run threat either of the Garcias represented, he is expected to give Sultanes manager Che Reyes a higher batting average with gap power. So far, so good: In his first 11 games for Monterrey, Madera went 18-for-49 for a .367 average with two homers. The Sultanes will need that kind of production as they battle for a playoff slot.

Still, Madera must wonder if he needs to change his deodorant after being jettisoned by his summer team two straight years. On top of that, after leading the Mex Pac with a .413 average for Mochis in 2009-10 and still losing out in the MVP vote to Hermosillo’s Luis Alfonso Garcia, last winter Madera’s .362 average for the Caneros should have given him a second batting title, but the LMP gave it to Guasave’s Eduardo Arredondo (.401) although Arredondo lacked enough plate appearances to qualify after missing 25 of the Algodoneros’ 68 games. Maybe Sandy should ask which roll-on Eduardo uses.

Monday, June 27, 2011

DIABLOS LOADING UP FOR POSTSEASON RUN

Not that the Mexico City Diablos Rojos are in a do-or-die situation, but the Northern Zone-leading Red Devils have headed into the final month of the Mexican League regular season by bringing in shortstop Luis Alfonso Cruz and pitcher Nerio Rodriguez to bulk up for the August playoffs.

Cruz (pictured), the former Brewers infielder who raised a few eyebrows last winter by calling former Milwaukee skipper Ken Macha “a bit of a racist,” was optioned from the Rangers’ AAA farm team in Round Rock (where he was hitting .279) to replace Jose Luis Sandoval at short. Sandoval played in five straight All-Star Games between 2006 and 2010, but turns 42 in August and is only hitting .230 this year. Cruz immediately paid dividends by homering twice in his first game June 25 against Puebla.

The Diablos have been shuffling the deck with their pitching staff as well. First, they brought back closer Francisco Butto as a free agent after the 2009 Caribbean Series MVP had been shipped in the offseason from Mexico City to Oaxaca, where he struggled (4-6/4.47/13 saves) before being let go by the Guerreros. Butto pitched three times for the Diablos, but was released to make room for veteran pitcher Nerio Rodriguez, who was cut by Monclova after going 3-5 with a 9.50 ERA for the Acereros this season. Mexico City is gambling that they can revive the fortunes of Rodriguez, a former MLBer who was the Liga’s Pitcher of the Year in both 2007 and 2008 and a four-time All-Star for Monclova.