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.