Monday, January 31, 2011

OBREGON LOADS ROSTER WITH REINFORCEMENTS FOR SERIE DEL CARIBE

The Obregon Yaquis have added several players from other Mexican Pacific League teams in preparation for this week’s Caribbean Series in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. In all, 12 players are being added to the Tribe’s roster prior to the team’s departure from Mexico on Tuesday.

Manager Eddie Diaz is bringing in six players from the Guasave Algodoneros, whom Obregon defeated in seven games in the MexPac finals: Pitchers Daniel Guerrero, Alan Guerrero and Adrian Ramirez, catcher Gabriel Gutierrez, second baseman Jose Rodriguez and outfielder Leo Heras. Joining the Yaquis from Los Mochis will be pitchers Alberto Castillo and Dan Serafini along with outfielder Justin Christian (pictured), while Culiacan first baseman Jorge Vazquez, Mexicali third baseman Oscar Robles and Hermosillo outfielder Karim Garcia are also making the trip.

The four national champions converging on Mayaguez have now been determined. Along with the Yaquis, Dominican pennant winners Este Toros and Puerto Rican titlists Caguas Criollos, the Anzoategui Caribes will be on hand to represent Venezuela after outlasting the Aragua Tigres, 7-6, Sunday in the seventh and deciding game of their league championship series.

Obregon plays Este at 3 ET in Wednesday in the CS opener, followed by a Caguas-Caribes contest.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

YAQUIS TO OPEN CARIBBEAN SERIES WEDNESDAY, FIELD ALMOST SET

After knocking off Guasave, 5-2, in Game Seven of their Mexican Pacific League title series Saturday night to win their fifth LMP pennant in team history, the Obregon Yaquis face a quick turnaround before opening play in the 2011 Caribbean Series in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico at 3PM Eastern Wednesday against the Este Toros, champions of the Dominican League.

The Toros, who play their home games in the town of La Romana, had an easier time of it in the LiDom finals against Oriente, sweeping the Estrellas in five games of their best-of-nine series. Under manager Dean Treanor, who will manage the Pittsburgh Pirates AAA affiliate in Indianapolis this year, Este had a 27-22 regular season record to tie with Escogido and Oriente for first place.

In Wednesday’s nightcap, the host Caguas Criollos will face either the Aragua Tigres or Anzoategui Caribes, who are tied at 3-3 in their best-of-7 Venezuelan League title series. Caguas beat Ponce, 7-5, on Friday to win the seventh and deciding game of the Puerto Rico League championship set.

After taking on Este, Obregon will play five more games over as many days in the double round-robin format. BBM will post “CS Scouting Reports” on all four teams Tuesday morning.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

QUEVEDO QUIETLY QUELLS GUASAVE, 5-2, AS OBREGON WINS MEX PAC PENNANT

A four-run fourth inning for Obregon was more than enough support for Yaquis starter Marco Quevedo (pictured), who outfoxed Guasave for seven innings of one-run, four-hit pitching while barely breaking a sweat as Obregon defeated the Algodoneros, 5-2, Saturday night to clinch the Mexican Pacific League pennant with a trip as Mexican champions to the Caribbean Series next week in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

Iker Franco’s homer off Guasave starter Daniel Guerrero opened the bottom of the fourth to nudge Obregon ahead, 2-1. Barbaro Canizares later stroked an RBI single to chase Guerrero and make it a 3-1 game before Mario Valdez capped the Obregon fourth with a two-out, bases-loaded pinch single to give the Yaquis a 5-1 lead. Marshall McDougall hit his second homer of the night in the ninth, but it was in vain as the Yaquis clinched their fifth LMP pennant in the well-attended series. All seven games were sellouts with 76,000 fans clicking the turnstiles, 52,000 of them at four games in Obregon.

The Yaquis open the CS against the Dominican champion Este Toros Wednesday at 3PM Eastern. Puerto Rico’s Caguas Criollos will represent Puerto Rico against the Venezuelan champs in the nightcap.

Friday, January 28, 2011

GUASAVE EARNS COMEBACK WIN OVER YAQUIS; GAME SEVEN ON SATURDAY

A pair of crucial ninth-inning throwing errors by Obregon shortstop Everth Cabrera (pictured) allowed the go-ahead runner to get on base and later score as Guasave came from behind to beat the Yaquis, 5-4, Friday night in Obregon to tie their Mexican Pacific League championship series at three game apiece.

The Yaquis drew first blood in the bottom of the second inning when Victor Diaz cracked a two-run homer off Guasave starter Mauricio Lara and Doug Clark made it a 3-0 game one frame later with a two-out solo blast against Cottoneers reliever Robert Novoa. Guasave eventually tied the contest in the eighth at 4-4 on solo homers to left by Japhet Amador and Yurendell de Caster off consecutive Mario Mendoza, Jr. pitches (de Caster’s bomb crashed against a Banorte sign above the stands). The Algodoneros pulled ahead in the ninth when one bad throw to first by Cabrera put leadoff hitter Jesus Lopez on second base and a later Cabrera misfire allowed Lopez to score from third. Obregon loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth, but Guasave closer Alan Guerrero struck out Elian Herrera looking to end the game.

Game Seven will be played Saturday night in Obregon’s Estadio Tomas Oroz Gaytan. Guasave is seeking their second LMP pennant in the team’s four-decade history. Obregon is looking for their fifth MexPac flag. Spanish language telecasts of the MexPac finals have been available on the UStream website at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/beisbolmexicano.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

YAQUIS BLANK GUASAVE, 3-0; ONE WIN AWAY FROM FLAG

Luis Mendoza threw seven shutout innings while Barbaro Canizares had three hits (including a ninth-inning two-run homer) to lead Obregon to a 3-0 win in Guasave Wednesday night in the Mexican Pacific League championship series. With the victory, the Yaquis now lead the finals, 3 games to 2.

Mendoza (pictured) and Guasave starter Francisco Cordoba swapped zeros on the scoreboard into the top of the seventh, when Cordoba plunked Victor Diaz with two out. At that point, Algodoneros manager Matias Carrillo replaced Cordoba with Adrian Ramirez, who allowed back-to-back singles by Canizarez and pinch-hitter Daniel Fornes to score Diaz, putting the Yaquis up 1-0. Nick Bierbrodt came in to retire leadoff hitter Everth Cabrera to end the inning.

In the ninth, Diaz led off with a single up the middle off Alan Guerrero. At that point, Carrillo took out Guerrero and brought in Antonio Garzon, who promptly dished up Canizares’ longball to straightaway center, effectively putting the game on ice for the Yaquis. Luis Ayala retired the side in the bottom of the frame to pick up his eighth playoff save. Ayala has yet to allow an earned run in the postseason.

The two teams will now move back to Obregon, where the Yaquis won the first two games of a series in which no road team has come away with a win. Game Six is set for Friday night while Game Seven (if needed) will take place Saturday at Estadio Tomas Oroz Gaytan.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

MORA, GUERRERO MOUND WORK GIVES GUASAVE WIN; FINALS TIED

After allowing 15 runs over two series-opening losses, the Guasave Algodoneros have let in just three Obregon scores the last two nights to even their Mexican Pacific League championship series with the Yaquis at two games apiece. Sergio Mora (pictured) and Alan Guerrero both sparkled on the mound Tuesday night as the Cottoneers bested Obregon, 2-1, in Guasave.

Mora struck out six Yaquis batsmen and gave up only a first-inning single to Agustin Murillo while retiring 18 of the 20 Obregon hitters he faced. Yaquis starter Francisley Bueno was almost as good in six frames of work, but he coughed up a leadoff homer by Eduardo Arredondo in the top of the sixth to break a scoreless tie. The score held until the bottom of the seventh, when Guasave’s Jesus Lopez handcuffed shortstop Everth Cabrera for a bases-loaded infield single to make it a 2-0 Algodoneros lead.

Pinch-hitter Albino Contreras’ RBI single in the eighth gave Obregon their first run, but reliever Alan Guerrero came in to dominate both Elian Herrera and former MexPac MVP Murillo on swinging strikeouts with bases loaded to end the threat. Guerrero then struck out both Victor Diaz and Doug Clark swinging before inducing Iker Franco into a tapper to third for the game’s final out in the ninth.

The two teams meet again Wednesday night in Guasave.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

McDOUGALL, GUASAVE MATES ROUGH UP YAQUIS, 12-3

Import third baseman Marshall McDougall (pictured) battered Obregon pitchers for a homer and a double and scored three runs to lead the Guasave Algodoneros to a 12-3 trouncing of Obregon Monday night before a packed house of 8,000 fanaticos at Guasave’s Estadio Francisco Carranza Limon.

Guasave scored three runs in the second and were up 5-1 before adding six more runs in the seventh to put the game out of reach. Eduardo Arredondo and Yurendell de Caster combined for eight RBIs, including a three-run de Caster homer in the seventh off Obregon reliever Hugo Castellanos. In all, the Cottoneers pounded Yaquis starter Marco Quevedo, who’s arguably been the best pitcher in the MexPac playoffs, for five runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings. Castellanos took a fearful beating from Guasave batters, allowing five runs in just two-thirds of a frame. Algodoneros starter Daniel Guerrero won his third playoff game in superb fashion with five shutout innings of one-hit ball before tiring and giving up a run in the sixth.

The Algodoneros win cuts Obregon’s series lead to 2 games to 1 in the Mexican Pacific League title set. Game Four is set for Tuesday night in Guasave with Obregon’s Francisley Bueno pitching against the Cottoneers’ Roberto Novoa.

Monday, January 24, 2011

HIGUERA, THREE OTHERS NAMED TO MEXICAN HALL OF FAME

Former Milwaukee Brewers All-Star pitcher Teodoro “Teddy” Higuera (pictured) was among four men elected Monday to Mexican baseball's Hall of Fame, the Salon de la Fama in Monterrey. Also chosen were pitcher Mercedes Esquer, outfielder Jimmie Collins and team executive Dr. Arturo Leon Lerma.

Esquer, who was 212-141 in 26 Mexican League seasons between 1977 and 2005, received the most votes among the Players with 304; Higuera, who had 69 wins and 746 strikeouts for Milwaukee from 1985 through 1988, got in with 294. Catcher Alex Trevino, who hit .249 over a 13-year Major League career, was a distant third with 105 votes.

Collins, who batted .354 with 1,596 hits and 190 steals over 11 Liga campaigns, was the lone Veterans selection with 313 tallies while Lerma (a longtime president of the Hermosillo Naranjeros and Mexican Pacific League) had 309 votes in the Directors category.

The Salon de la Fama began in Mexico City with five inductees in 1939, but was dormant until moving to the Cuauhtemoc brewery grounds at Monterrey in 1964. The Salon has 187 members (including several North American legends like Josh Gibson and Roy Campanella) and is open six days per week.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

THREE HITS, TWO RUNS FOR FRANCO AS YAQUIS ROLL AGAIN

Iker Franco (pictured) collected three hits (including two doubles) and scored twice to lead the Obregon Yaquis to a 7-4 win over Guasave on Saturday before another sellout crowd of 13,000 at Estadio Tomas Oroz Gaytan in Obregon. The Yaquis now have a 2-games-to-0 lead over the Algodoneros in the Mexican Pacific League championship series.

Obregon scored three runs in the bottom of the second inning when Franco and Carlos Valencia slashed back-to-back doubles before Barbaro Canizares launched a homer to left. Guasave put two on the board in the third on RBI singles by Leo Heras and Jose Rodriguez, but Victor Diaz’ run-scoring double in the third and Daniel Fornes’ solo homer in the fourth made it a 5-2 contest. The Cottoneers got two back in the sixth on a Yurendell de Caster homer, but Obregon out the game away when Franco doubled and scored on a Valencia single in the bottom of the sixth and Everth Cabrera plated a run on a Diaz grounder in the seventh to close the scoring at 7-4 Yaquis as Rolando Valdez got his third win of the playoffs and Luis Ayala picked up his seventh postseason save with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

The two teams move to Guasave for Game Three of the finals on Monday night.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

YAQUIS CLOBBER GUASAVE, 8-1, TO WIN MEX PAC FINALS OPENER

Luis Mendoza cranked out seven strong innings of pitching and the Obregon offense erupted for five third-inning runs Friday night as the Yaquis thumped Guasave, 8-1, to win the opening game of the Mexican Pacific League championship series. A crowd of 13,000 jammed Estadio Tomas Oroz Gaytan on a clear, 70-degree night in Obregon.

Mendoza allowed one unearned run and seven hits while striking out four Cottoneer batters for the Yaquis, who took a first-inning lead on Iker Franco’s two-out, two-run single. Franco has been getting clutch hits throughout the postseason for Obregon. Guasave got a run back in the third on a bizarre play when Leo Heras singled to right and came all the way to score on two errors by Yaquis right fielder Victor Diaz, but the hosts essentially put the game in their pocket in the bottom of the frame with their five-run outburst, keyed by a Barbaro Canizares (pictured) bases-loaded triple off Algodoneros starter Francisco Cordoba. Diaz atoned for his errors with an RBI single in the eighth for Obregon, but the contest was all but decided by then anyway.

The two teams square off again Saturday night in Obregon as Guasave sends Salvador Robles to the mound against the Yaquis’ Rolando Valdez. The series then moves to Guasave beginning Monday.

Friday, January 21, 2011

TOMMY AL BAT: Tomas Morales column from Esto (en Ingles)

Tomas Morales has been covering baseball in Mexico and the Major Leagues for 56 years, beginning in 1954. He is one of his country's most beloved cronistas both for his regular "Tommy al Bat" column and as a beat reporter and editor with several newspapers and magazines as he works into his sixth decade covering the King of Sports. He was inducted into the Salon de la Fama in Monterrey (where writers are full members) in 1990.

Still as active as ever at age 79, Tommy wrote a "Tommy al Bat" column for Esto earlier this week regarding the Mexican Pacific League finals. This is a Babelfish-aided English translation, which can only give a taste of the full flavor of the original Spanish text:

The Guasave Algodoneros, who lost both of their first two games of the Mexican Pacific League semifinals to the Culiacan Tomateros, ended up winning the next four to put manager Matias Carrillo into the second final of his short career as a manager. Matias was in the 2009 Mexican League final with the Quintana Roo Tigres, losing in six games to the Saltillo Saraperos. In his two years as a manager, Matias has always been in the playoffs, although he is still looking for his first championship.

Now he will arrive at his first winter final like a great gust of wind to face the Yaquis in Obregon on Friday in the series for the LMP crown and a trip to the Caribbean Series in Mayaguez.

It was a great success for the Algodoneros and a monumental failure for the Tomateros, who had a batting order full of famous players (some with experience in the Major Leagues). Between the surprise of Obregon eliminating Hermosillo to send Vinny Castilla into retirement and Guasave eliminating Culiacan, I got caught up in the two series.

The Algodoneros delivered an 8-2 beating to the Tomateros before 13,000 unhappy aficionados in the Culiacan ballpark Tuesday with Mario Valenzuela connecting on his fourth homer and Leo Heras connecting for three hits and bunting the ball for a successful squeeze play.

I’ve seen the resurrection of the squeeze play lately. It’s a very dangerous play but when it comes out right, it’s simply wonderful. In the old days of manager Domingo Santana, who was a very good second baseman (and after whom the ballpark in Leon is named), he often utilized the suicide squeeze and gave it the name of “cerebral magic.” Naturally, the squeeze play is used much less at present because the ball is much more alive than before.

Heras has ended up batting .346 in his first playoffs, while other players from the Mexico City Diablos Rojos in Guasave are homer-hitting Japhet Amador, speedboat Jesus Lopez (the heir to Diablos shortstop Jose “Borrego” Sandoval) and Eduardo Arredondo, who has been traded to the Reynosa Broncos. For the Yaquis, Carlos Valencia and fashionable pitcher Marco Antonio Quevedo are from the Red Devils with Luis Alonso Mendoza heading to the Major Leagues.

By the way, so far neither Rodrigo Lopez nor Elmer Dessens, who had their good moments in the Majors in 2010, have contracts and could return to Mexico City in the summer.

The final series begins at 8 on Friday night and can be seen on cable television.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

SANTIAGO WINS SECOND STRAIGHT LIGA NOROESTE PENNANT

The Santiago Tabaqueros snuck past the Acaponeta Cachorros, 8-7, at home on Monday night to clinch their second consecutive Mexican Northwest League championship by copping the title series in five games. The Tabaqueros have won three pennants since 2002.

Emmanuel Rangel broke up a 7-7 ties with an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning and Santiago reliever Luis Zamora followed on for the win for Santiago, tossing a scoreless ninth inning, giving up one hit with a strikeout. The Tabaqueros (or “Tobacco Growers”) are a farm team for Monclova and Tabasco of the Mexican League while Acaponeta had no less than four LMB parent clubs providing players this winter.

The Mexican Northwest League is a six-team developmental league affiliated with twelve Liga clubs centered primarily in the state of Nayarit south of Mazatlan and north of Acapulco on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. It is considered a "Class A" circuit in Mexico. The Liga Noroeste has had several incarnations over the years, with the current edition opening for the 2000-01 season (although the 2003-04 campaign was suspended following damage to the region from Hurricane Kenna).

Santiago is a city of about 17,000 residents where the Tabaqueros play home games at 3,000-seat Estadio Revolucion.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

MENDEZ FIRST PLAYER TAKEN IN LIGA DISPERSAL DRAFT

First baseman Francisco "Chipper" Mendez (pictured) was the first player selected in Tuesday’s Mexican League draft held for dispersal of players from the Chihuahua Dorados and Nuevo Laredo Tecolotes after the LMB suspended operations for both teams in 2011.

Mendez, who batted .338 with 19 homers and 88 RBIs for Chihuahua last year, was plucked by the Veracruz Rojos Aguilas although his rights had already been returned to Monterrey after four years on loan to the Dorados. Taken second was pitcher Ramon Garcia, who moves from the Dorados to the Laguna Vaqueros. Garcia was 9-5 with a 4.68 ERA for Chihuahua.

In all, 20 players were distributed around the Liga from the Chihuahua roster while the rights to seven Nuevo Laredo players changed hands over four rounds of selections. Neither Reynosa nor Mexico City took a single player in the draft, leaving the pickings to the remaining 12 LMB franchises. Laguna ended up drafting four players. One surprising pick was pitcher Travis Blackley, whose rights were taken by Quintana Roo in the second round despite his signing with Korea’s Kia Tigers for 2011 last month.

Chihuahua requested off the LMB rostrum this year to allow for ballpark renovations in Leon ahead of a franchise shift there, while Nuevo Laredo was dropped for not revealing the team’s financial structure to the Liga.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

GUASAVE ELIMINATES CULIACAN TO REACH FINALS AGAINST OBREGON

The Guasave Algodoneros defeated Culiacan, 8-2, Tuesday night to knock the Tomateros out of the Mexican Pacific League semifinals in six games and advance to the LMP championship series against the Obregon Yaquis (who swept Los Mochis in four straight games).

The Cottoneers pushed the first run of the game across the plate in the top of the second inning against Culiacan starter Andres Meza when Marshall McDougall scored from third base on a bases-loaded Gabriel Gutierrez groundout. Guasave added three more in the fifth on a Mario Valenzuela (pictured) leadoff homer, a Leo Heras RBI single and a run-scoring fielder’s choice grounder by Jose Rodriguez. Culiacan finally got on the scoreboard in the sixth when Amaury Cazana led off with a double and scored on Jorge Vazquez’ single against Guasave starter (and winner) Daniel Guerrero, but the Algodoneros put this one away in the seventh with four more runs, two coming in on a Yurendell de Caster double.

Guasave advances to the MexPac finals for the third time in team history. They defeated Culiacan for their only pennant in 1971 and lost to Mazatlan in 2006. The Algodoneros-Yaquis series will begin Friday night with the first of two games in Obregon before shifting to Guasave next Monday.

Monday, January 17, 2011

ALGODONEROS WIN 2-1 SQUEAKER TO INCH CLOSER TO FINALS

Francisco Cordoba (pictured) and two relievers gave Guasave six superb innings of pitching Sunday as the Algodoneros slipped past the Culiacan Tomateros, 2-1, in Game Five of their Mexican Pacific League semifinal series in Guasave. Guasave leads Culiacan 3-games-to-2 in the set.

Cordoba went six-plus solid frames on the hill for the Cottoneers, giving up six hits (including a Jesus Cota solo homer) while striking out four. Guasave scored both their runs in the bottom of the third off Tomateros starter Matt Buschmann when Eduardo Arredondo and Leo Heras hit back-to-back singles, a Jose Rodriguez single to left scored Arredondo and advanced Heras to third, then a Marshall McDougall grounder to short was mishandled by Ramiro Pena, allowing Heras to plate what turned out to be the game-winning run. Cordoba got the win, Buschmann absorbed the loss and Alan Guerrero copped the save.

The series shifts to Culiacan for Game Six Tuesday night. Daniel Guerrero will be Guasave’s starting pitcher while Andres Meza gets the nod for the Tomateros. The winner of the series will move on to the MexPac finals against Obregon, who bested Los Mochis in the other semifinal.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

YAQUIS CLOSE OUT CANEROS; GUASAVE AND CULIACAN TIED AT 2-2

The Obregon Yaquis completed a four-game sweep of Los Mochis Saturday to reach the Mexican Pacific League championship series, but they’ll have to wait to see who they’ll be playing.

Obregon scored four runs in a miraculous ninth-inning comeback to beat the Caneros, 6-5, in Mochis to punch their ticket to the finals. With the Caneros leading 5-2, Mexican League homer champion Victor Diaz led off the ninth by launching a seatbuster to left field off Mochis reliever Francisco Rodriguez to make it a two-run game. Three batters later, Carlos Valencia swatted a three-run bomb (also to left) to give the Yaquis the lead, then Luis Ayala retired the Caneros in order for his third save of the series.

Meanwhile, Guasave was leading, 3-2, in the top of the fourth when Culiacan’s Jorge Vazquez and Emmanuel Valdez hit solo homers off Algodoneros starter Salvador Robles to go on top. The Cottoneers went back in front, 6-5, in the sixth on a two-run shot by Dutch WBC and Olympics veteran Yurendell de Caster (pictured). It was then up to Guasave relievers Sergio Mora, Adrian Ramirez, Nick Bierbrodt and Alan Guerrero to hold the Tomateros scoreless the rest of the way for the Game Four series-tying win.

The Tomateros and Cottoneers will battle it out in Game Five Sunday in Guasave.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

OBREGON ONE WIN AWAY FROM LMP FINALS

The Obregon Yaquis have taken a 3-games-to-0 lead over Los Mochis in their Mexican Pacific League semifinal series while Guasave came to within 2-games-to-1 in their set with Culiacan Friday.

Obregon erased an early 1-0 Mochis lead with four runs in the top of the fourth innings, three of them crossing the plate on a Daniel Fornes (pictured)double. The Caneros got two back in the bottom of the frame as Saul Soto cracked a solo homer, but former MexPac MVP Agustin Murillo gave the Yaquis a 6-3 advantage with a two-run longball in the fifth off Mochis hurler Luis Vazquez (gracias, Carlos). Marco Quevedo left the contest with a 6-3 lead in the fifth and came away with the win for Obregon.

Culiacan chased Guasave starter Mauricio Lara with five runs in the top of the second inning, including a three-run homer from Oakland farmhand Archie Gilbert. The Algodoneros fought back to take a 6-5 lead on Jesus Lopez’ two-run double to left. Closer Ken Ray came on for Guasave in the ninth and held on for the save when, with one out and runners on first and second, he induced Jorge Vazquez to slap a game-ending double play grounder to Lopez at short.

Los Mochis and Guasave will both host games Saturday.

Friday, January 14, 2011

TECOS, DORADOS PLAYERS UP FOR JAN. 17 DISPERSAL DRAFT

Players for the Mexican League’s two non-competing franchises will be dispersed among the 14 remaining Liga clubs in a special draft to be held January 17. With the decision to not field teams in Nuevo Laredo and Chihuahua in 2011, the rights to over 50 players will be on the boards. The draft order will be based on teams with the lowest won-lost percentages in 2010, which means Veracruz (.371) will pick first, followed by Laguna (.421), Minatitlan (.423) and Tabasco (.434).

Chihuahua made the playoffs last year and there are intriguing players on the Dorados roster. Pitcher Mac Suzuki (pictured) led the Liga with a 2.89 earned-run average and will likely be a high pick, as will closer Jose Silva, who’s been lights-out in the Mexican Pacific League playoffs this month for Culiacan. Position players Francisco Mendez, Michel Abreu and Jacob Cruz will probably get good looks, too.

Conversely, Nuevo Laredo suffered an awful 2010 season and the Tecos remnants have little to offer other LMB sides. Rosman Garcia (6-8, 3.32) is the best of a bad lot of pitchers, and veteran first baseman Pedro Castellano (.336/10/66) seems the best bet among position players to be taken.

The draft will be orchestrated via internet via the Liga office in Mexico City.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

YAQUIS BLANK CANEROS, 2-0, TO TAKE TWO-GAME SEMI LEAD

Obregon starter Rolando Valdez hurled six superb innings while Elian Herrera and Carlos Valencia belted solo homers as the Yaquis shut out the Los Mochis Caneros, 2-0, Wednesday night at Estadio Tomas Oroz Gaytan in Obregon. The Yaquis now lead their Mexican Pacific League semifinal series, 2 games to 0.

Valdez matched up in a duel with Mochis’ Alberto Castillo as two of the Mex Pac’s top pitchers locked horns. Valdez got the better of it as he blanked the Caneros over his six frames of work. Castillo generally gave as good as he got over seven innings except for dishing up fatal homers to Herrera in the fourth and Valencia in the fifth. Four relievers combined to preserve Valdez’ lead the rest of the way as ex-MLBer Luis Ayala (pictured) silenced Mochis in the ninth inning for his fifth postseason save of the winter.

Further south in Culiacan, the host Tomateros doubled up on Guasave, 6-3, for their second win of the semifinal set. Culiacan starter Andres Meza left the contest after pitching five innings with a 2-2 tie, but was given the win after his teammates took the lead in the bottom of the fifth when Jorge Vazquez bashed a two-run homer to straightaway center off the first pitch of the game by Guasave reliever Adrian Ramirez.

All teams will rest Thursday before resuming their respective series in Mochis and Guasave Friday.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

CULIACAN, OBREGON WIN ONE-RUN THRILLERS IN LMP SEMI OPENERS

Although it may take some getting used to having neither Hermosillo nor Mazatlan in the Mexican Pacific League playoff semifinals, the four remaining teams combined Tuesday night on a pair of hard-fought games to remind fans there’s lots of good baseball beyond the two traditional LMP powers.

Culiacan staved off a late Guasave rally to beat the Algodoneros, 3-2 in their semifinal opener. Tomateros starter Matt Buschmann (pictured) hurled seven strong innings for the win, allowing one run on five hits. Francisco Cordoba took the loss for Guasave, going 5.2 innings and getting nicked up for two Culiacan runs in the first frame and another in the fourth. Jose Rodriguez scored from third on a Francisco Mendez two bring the Cottoneers to within a run in the ninth, but Jose Silva recorded the final out for his fifth playoff save.

Obregon took a 2-1 lead over Los Mochis in the bottom of the seventh on a Iker Franco RBI single, then clung to that narrow margin the rest of the way to cop the first game of their Mex Pac Final Four series. The scored was tied at a run apiece through six frames as Mochis’ Dan Serafini and the Yaquis’ Luis Mendoza mostly traded zeros. The Caneros scored in the top of the first when Ramon Orantes’ single scored Justin Christian, but Obregon’s Carlos Valencia drilled a sixth-inning RBI safety to tie it at 1-1.

Culiacan and Obregon will host games Wednesday night.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

VINNY CASTILLA RETIRES FROM NARANJEROS, PLAYING CAREER OVER

Major League Baseball’s all-time leader in career homers among Mexican-born players is hanging up his glove and spikes for good. Vinny Castilla, the 43-year-old third baseman whose 2010-11 winterball season with the Hermosillo Naranjeros concluded this month with an opening round playoff loss to Obregon, announced his retirement as a player Monday.

Castilla, who hit 320 homers and drove in 1,105 runs while compiling a .276 batting average during his 16-year LMB career (mostly with the Colorado Rockies), has played ten winters with Hermosillo. He went 1-for-12 in three regular season games with the Naranjeros before batting .278 with two homers and four RBIs in five playoff contests for the defending champions.

“Thanks to all who accompanied me,” Castilla said during an emotional press conference announcing his retirement. “First I want to say thanks to the people of Hermosillo, who behaved wonderfully. Since I arrived here they received me with open arms. The ovations, the applause offered me here during all my stay in Hermosillo: They are memories I am going to take away.”
Castilla will soon return to Denver, where he is an assistant general manager with the Rockies.

Monday, January 10, 2011

BBM’S LIGA REVIEW APPEARS IN BASEBALL AMERICA 2011 ALMANAC

A review of last year’s Mexican League season written by Baseball Mexico editor Bruce Baskin has been included in Baseball America’s 2011 Almanac, which was released in December. The story about the Saltillo Saraperos’ 4-games-to-1 victory over the Puebla Pericos in the LMB Championship Series can be found on page 422 of the Almanac, along with final overall Liga season standings, playoff series results and team-by-team attendance figures as well as individual batting average and ERA leaders.

Baskin says, “Baseball America has become a go-to source of baseball information over the past three decades, and it’s an honor to follow Salo Otero as a voice of Mexican baseball for English-speaking fans in North America.” Otero covered the Mexican League for Baseball America for several seasons before retiring as sports editor of the Laredo (TX) Morning Times. “It’s also fun to quote myself in the third person in stories I write,” Baskin adds. “Sort of like an out-of-body experience.”

Baseball America was founded in 1980 by Allen Simpson of Bellingham, WA, who sold it in 1983 to Miles Wolff, who moved it to Durham, North Carolina that year. An edited 347-word version of the LMB 2010 review can be found in their Almanac. For a free copy of the original 1,000-word review, email http://www.blogger.com/BaseballMexico@live.com.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

MOCHIS WINS, MEX PAC FINAL FOUR FIELD SET

The Los Mochis Caneros scored five runs in the top of the sixth inning and went on to take a 6-4 win at Guasave Saturday night in Mexican Pacific League playoff action. With the victory, Mochis won their best-of-7 first round series over the Algodoneros by a 4-games-to-2 margin.

The contest actually began as a pitcher’s duel between Mochis’ Alejandro Barraza and Guasave’s Mauricio Lara. The Cottoneers were leading 1-0 after five frames behind the four-hit shutout pitching by Lara. Then the Caneros scored five runs in the sixth, including a two-run homer by Omar de la Torre (pictured), to build a lead they’d never lose. Barraza got the win for Mochis with six innings of two-run pitching. Reliever Sergio Mora, who got roughed up in that fateful sixth inning, absorbed the loss for the Algodoneros.

Now that the dust is settling on the first round, it’s time to look at the Mex Pac semifinals. Culiacan, which swept Mazatlan in four straight games, will meet Guasave (the wildcard entry in the semis after earning more wins in a losing first round cause than Hermosillo and Mazatlan did). Mochis advances to take on Obregon, who dispatched defending champion Hermosillo with relative ease in five games. Both series will get underway Tuesday night, with Mochis playing in Obregon and Guasave visiting Culiacan.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

LIGA RELEASES SCHEDULE FOR 2011 SEASON

The Mexican League has published a 2011 season schedule that reflects the reduction in teams from 16 to 14. The end result is that each Liga club will play 106 games between the March 18 inauguration game between Monclova and Saltillo and six season-ending contests on July 28. To balance the divisions following the withdrawal of Chihuahua and Nuevo Laredo from LMB play this year, defending Southern Zone champion Puebla will be shifted to the Northern Zone to create two seven-team groups.

One feature will be the return of interzonal games for the first time in three years. The schedule is essentially in two parts: Each team will play 28 three-game series between March 20 and June 30, including North-South crossover games. Then the schedule reverts to 12 two-game division-only sets during June and July, with one team in each Zone having a bye for the rest of the regular season due to the odd number of teams within divisions. A limited number of games will be played on 20 Monday nights, and the All-Star Game will be held the weekend of May 27-29 in Saltillo.

The Liga will also scrap its old two-half points system in favor of a traditional system based strictly on won-lost percentage over the full 106-game schedule. Four teams in each Zone will qualify for the annual August playoffs.

Friday, January 7, 2011

OBREGON CLINCHES SEMI BERTH; GUASAVE AND MOCHIS ALSO QUALIFY

The Mexican Pacific League’s semifinal playoff field is set, although there’ll be the matter of seeding yet to decide. Obregon knocked defending champion Hermosillo out if the postseason with a 7-2 win Thursday night to give the Yaquis a five-game series win. Righty Marco Quevedo (pictured) earned his second playoff win by allowing just one unearned run in six innings while Barbaro Canizares homered and drove in four runs for the Yaquis. Geronimo Gil hit a homer for Hermosillo.

Mochis took a 3-games-to-2 lead in their series with Guasave after beating the Algodoneros, 6-4. Jason Bourgeois went 4-for-5 with four RBIs for the Caneros and Sandy Madera clubbed his fourth homer of the series. Guasave’s Mario Valenzuela went deep for his third longball of the set. Regardless of this series’ outcome, both teams will advance to the LMP Final Four because each has two or more wins against Hermosillo’s one and Mazatlan’s none in the battle for the wildcard berth determined by the number of opening round wins in a losing effort.

After a travel day Friday, the Caneros-Algodoneros series will continue Saturday in Guasave.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

HERMOSILLO ON THE BRINK OF ELIMINATION

Postseason expectations were high in Hermosillo as the Naranjeros entered the Mexican Pacific League playoffs looking for a second straight pennant. Those hopes are looking dimmer after Obregon parlayed a 7-3 win Wednesday night into a 3-games-to-1 lead in their first round series. Agustin Murillo and Doug Clark belted homers for the Yaquis while starter Francisley Bueno pitched 6.2 innings for the win.

The Culiacan Tomateros completed a four-game sweep of Mazatlan to punch their ticket to the Mex Pac semifinals with a 5-3 win over the Venados in Mazatlan. Culiacan starter Oliver Perez had problems finding the plate with six walks in 4.2 innings, but let in just one run. An Amaury Cazana (pictured) grand slam in the fourth was the difference-maker for the Tomateros as Jose Silva earned his fourth straight save.

Guasave tied their series with Los Mochis at two games each with an 8-4 win in Mochis. Mario Valenzuela and Japhet Amador each whacked two-run homers for the Algodoneros, who roughed up Caneros starter Alberto Castillo (the LMP regular season wins leader with 9) for five runs in 4.2 innings.

Both Obregon and Mochis will host games Thursday night as Culiacan rests up for the semis.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

CULIACAN BEATS MAZATLAN, ONE WIN AWAY FROM SWEEP

The Culiacan Tomateros are taking care of business in their Mexican Pacific League first round playoff series with Mazatlan. Culiacan topped the Venados, 4-1, Tuesday night to take a 3 games to 1 lead in their best-of-seven set. Jorge Vazquez (pictured)went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs for the Tomateros and Francisco Campos turned in five good innings on the mound, letting in one run and striking out three hitters.

Obregon took a 2 to 1 lead in their series with Hermosillo after the Yaquis copped a 2-0 squeaker at home in Estadio Tomas Oroz Gaytan. The Yaquis’ Iker Franco broke open a scoreless tie with a solo homer in the bottom of the fourth and pinch-hitter Albino Contreras sliced a two-out RBI single in the sixth. Four Obregon pitchers combined on the shutout as starter Rolando Valdez got the win with six strong innings.
Leo Heras was 4-for-4 with a homer, two runs and three RBIs to pace Guasave’s 10-7 win over Los Mochis. LMP batting champ Eduardo Arredondo had three hits and three runs for the Algodoneros, who are now up 3 to 2 in their set with Mochis. Cottoneers reliever Sergio Mora got the win in relief with 3.1 hitless innings. Caneros starter Dan Serafini was rocked for six runs on five hits and three walks in 1.2 frames.

Mazatlan, Obregon and Mochis all host fourth games of their respective series Wednesday night.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

TEPIC, ACAPONETA WIN LIGA NOROESTE PLAYOFF OPENERS

The Mexican Northwest League has begun its 2010-11 playoffs with the top four squads from the six-team circuit squaring off in the semifinals.

In Santiago, the home Tabaqueros lost a 1-0 nailbiter to Tepic’s Universitario Diablos Rojos on Sunday night. The six-hit shutout for Tepic was spun by starter Rodolfo Aguilar (six innings, four hits) and relievers Martin Arturo Sotelo and Alan Ramirez. Sotelo earned the victory. Santiago’s hard-luck loser was Francisco Madero, who went the distance and only allowed one run on three hits. The game’s lone run came on a solo homer by Tepic’s Francisco Cordoba in the seventh. Tepic is a farm team for Mexico City and Oaxaca of the Mexican League, while Santiago is linked to Monclova and Tabasco.

Meanwhile, in Acaponeta, the hometown Cachorros slammed visiting Tuxpan, 14-3. This was over early when Acaponeta sent twelve men to the plate in the bottom of the first inning, scoring seven runs in the process. The Cachorros, who are a farm club for four Liga teams, put five more runs on the board in the eighth to salt the game away. Tuxpan is an affiliate of Nuevo Laredo and Laguna.

Santiago is the defending LBN champ. Acaponeta won top playoff seed this year with 14 points.

Monday, January 3, 2011

VINNY, VIDI, VICI: CASTILLA HOMERS TWICE FOR NARANJEROS IN 17-10 ROMP

Although he's been retired from Major League Baseball for over four years and only plays ball late in the winter, Vinny Castilla (pictured) showed no sign of rust Sunday as he helped lead Hermosillo to a 17-10 slugfest win over Obregon. Castilla launched a pair of homers, including a three-run blast during a five-run seventh inning en route to a 3-for-5 night with four RBIs and an errorless game at third base. The Mexican Pacific League first round series is now tied at one game apiece.

In other LMP postseason play, Culiacan scored five eighth-inning runs to post a 6-3 comeback win over Mazatlan to take a 2-0 lead in their series. Venados starter Walter Silva was solid with seven innings of one-run pitching and left the game with a 3-1 lead, but relievers Esteban Hernandez and Sergio Valenzuela were lit up for five counters in the eighth. Adan Amezua's two-run double capped the scoring for the Tomateros as Jose Silva retired the Deer in order to record his second 1-2-3 save in as as many nights.

And Los Mochis took a two-game lead in their opening set against Guasave with a 14-5 shellacking of the Algodoneros. Sandy Madera belted two homers while Justin Christian, Ramon Orantes and Saul Soto launched bombs of their own as the potent Caneros racked up 21 runs in two nights. If their pitching holds, Mochis will be a pennant threat.
After Monday's travel day, Game Three contests are set Tuesday in Obregon, Mazatlan and Los Mochis.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

FRANCO, QUEVEDO STAR AS YAQUIS WIN FIRST ROUND OPENER

Iker Franco (pictured) cracked a two-run double and Marco Quevedo pitched six innings of one-run ball to lead Obregon to a 2-1 win at Hermosillo in the Mexican Pacific League playoff opener for both clubs. Franco’s extra-base hit to right field in the fourth inning off Edgar Gonzalez gave enough run support to Quevedo, who allowed four hits before giving way to three relievers who held on for the win.

Elsewhere in first round action, Juan Carlos Gamboa scored from third on Carlos Orrantia’s bunt down the first-base line in the top of the eleventh frame to give Los Mochis a thrilling 7-6 win in Guasave in their series lidlifter. Caneros reliever Luis Vazquez pitched hitless ball over both extra innings for the win as Orrantia finished with three RBIs on the night. Both teams combined to use 14 pitchers in the contest.

Also, top-seed Culiacan held off sixth-seed Mazatlan, 4-3, at Estadio General Angel Flores. The Venados held a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth until Jorge Vazquez tied the game with an RBI double and Sergio Gastelum’s ground-out scored pinch runner Ramiro Pena with the go-ahead run from third. Then LMP saves champion Jose Silva struck out the Mazatlan side in the ninth to preserve the win.

Hermosillo, Guasave and Culiacan will host their respective Games Two on Sunday night.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

BASEBALL MEXICO NEWSLETTER FOR JANUARY NOW AVAILABLE

Fans who would like more in-depth coverage of Mexican pro baseball are invited to sign up for the free Baseball Mexico monthly newsletter. The January 2011 edition is now available.

This month’s 12-page BBM has a section with 24 stories that first appeared on the blog in December, and you’ll find final regular season standings for the Mexican Pacific League as well as Caribbean Series circuits in Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. We’ve got standings for both the Mexican Northwest League and the Academy Rookie League, too. The top 5 statistical leaders in 14 different batting and pitching categories for the Mex Pac are included, as is a list of individual stat leaders in 13 categories for each of the eight LMP teams.

BBM’s “Ballparks of Mexico” series includes a full-color photo of Culiacan’s Estadio General Angel Flores along with some pertinent information on the largest winterball stadium in Mexico, you’ll get a list of 16 links to other websites with ties to baseball South of the Border, and there’s a one-page “Report Card” on BBM’s progress from 2010 by editor Bruce Baskin.

To sign up for a free subscription to the BBM newsletter, email BaseballMexico@live.com.