Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Caneros' Barreda spins no-no vs. Hermosillo

He needed nearly 140 pitches to do it, but Los Mochis pitcher Manny Barreda tossed the first no-hitter of the current Mexican Pacific League season when the Caneros shut out Hermosillo, 2-0, last Saturday.  A crowd of 4,205 was on hand at Mochis' Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada for the contest, which lasted 2 hours, 25 minutes as Barreda evened his record at 2-2 and lowered his ERA to 2.63.

Despite the high number of pitches, Barreda allowed just one third-inning walk to Jorge Flores and struck out nine Naranjeros batsmen as 92 of his 138 deliveries went for strikes.  In all, just two Hermosillo batsmen reached base as Caneros first sacker Saul Soto committed an error in the ninth inning to end Barreda's string of 18 consecutive retired batters after Flores' free pass.  The 28-year-old Arizona native's gem overshadowed a fine start by the Naranjeros' Barry Enright, as the former Diamondbacks and Angels hurler pitched five innings of one-run ball in his second start of the winter but was tagged with the loss.

Mochis took a 1-0 lead off Enright in the fifth frame when Leandro Castro lined his 12th double of the season to left field with two out and came around to score when Rudy Amador followed him with a single to right.  The Caneros manufactured an insurance run one inning later as Isaac Rodriguez led off with a single up the middle against reliever Raul Barron, moved to second on Ramon Urias' sacrifice bunt, took third on Jesus Arredondo's ground-out to second and came in on a J.C. Linares double to left.

Barreda is a native of Sahuarita, Arizona who was a 12th round pick of the New York Yankees out of high school in 2007.  He made his debut that summer with the Yanks' Gulf Coast League rookie team, going 5-0 with a save in 11 appearances, turning in a 3.00 ERA.  The 5'11" righty remained in the Yankee system until he was dealt to the Brewers in 2014, pitching for Milwaukee minor league clubs through 2015.  Overall, Barreda had a 23-13 record with 8 saves in nine minor league seasons, turning in a 3.63 ERA while striking out 454 batters in 422.1 innings over 246 appearances.  He topped out at the AA level for both organizations.

Barreda hooked on with Tijuana late in the 2015 Mexican League season and was 2-1 with a 3.50 ERA in 25 trips from the bullpen for the Toros last summer.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Retherford scores on grounder, ends LMP All-Star Game

C.J. Retherford (MXI) motored home from third base on Olmo Rosario's (OBR) one-out ground ball to South second baseman Jose Rodriguez ((JAL) in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the North a 4-3 win in the Mexican Pacific League All-Star Game Sunday in Obregon.  A crowd of 15,145 watched the first LMP edition of the midseason classic in 19 years at Nuevo Estadio Yaquis.

Sebastian Elizalde (CUL) opened the game's scoring with a two-run homer off Esteban Haro (NAV) in the top of the second to give the South the first lead of the game, but the North came back in the bottom of the frame with three tallies of their own, including a two-run blast off a Daniel Guerrero (JAL) delivery by Yuniesky Betancourt (MXI) that gave the hosts a 3-2 advantage.  The score stood until the top of the eighth, when a single by Jose Guadalupe Chavez (CUL) brought Elizalde in to knot the contest for the South at 3-3.

Retherford opened the bottom of the ninth by singling to left off Jon Sintes (MAZ), then went from first to third on a safety up the middle by Jose Amador (HMO).  One out later, Rosario tapped a grounder to Rodriguez at second, who was able to relay the ball to shortstop Chavez for the first out but the latter's throw to Cyle Hankerd (MAZ) at first for the inning-ending double play wasn't in time to get Rosario, allowing Retherford's run to count, ending the game.

Betancourt's homer was enough to earn him All-Star Game MVP honors for the night while Amador collected a pair of hits for the winners.  Leandro Castro (MOC) had two singles for the South, who were outhit, 7-5, for the match.  Reliever Jake Sanchez (MXI) got the win while Sintes was tagged with the loss.

Before the game, Jalisco's massive slugger, Japhet Amador, won a home run derby involving representatives of each of the LMP's eight teams.  The Mulege Giant outlasted hometown favorite Leo Heras, 11 to 10, in the final round to pick up a check for MX$15,000.  Amador has signed on to spend a second summer with Japan's Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2017.

The event is largely being hailed as a success for both the MexPac and the host Yaquis, although a pair of columnists featured on the Puro Beisbol site offered suggestions for future All-Star tilts.  In his Chepe On Deck column, Culiacan writer Jose Zazueta offered ideas such as more celebrities and singers, larger prize money for the players and autograph sessions for the fans.  Novena Inning scribe Bambino Sedrano of Obregon thought that one day isn't enough, a celebrity game preceding the home run derby wasn't needed and that the player selectors should do better next winter.  According to Sedrano, Navojoa pitcher Hector Velazquez and Culiacan outfielder-first baseman Bryan LaHair (who took part in the home run derby) should have been picked for the game.  The disappointment over the absence of Velazquez (who leads the LMP with 6 wins and a 1.99 ERA) is palpable;  LaHair is hitting just .239 with one homer and 9 RBIs in 19 games for the Tomateros thus far.

Friday, November 25, 2016

MexPac All-Star Game slated for Sunday in Obregon

After an absence of nearly two decades, the Mexican Pacific League will hold a midseason All-Star Game this Sunday at Obregon's new ballpark. The contest will be a Norte-Sur affair with players and coaches from Hermosillo, Mexicali, Navojoa and Obregon forming the North squad under Yaquis manager Eddie Diaz while Culiacan, Los Mochis, Jalisco and Mazaltan comprising the South team headed by Culiacan manager Lino Rivera.

Here are the rosters for both 25-player teams, as selected by fan balloting:

NORTH ALL-STARS
Pitchers (8) - Raul Barron (HMO), Carlos Fisher (OBR), Esteban Haro (NAV), Arturo Lopez (OBR), Ozzie Mendez (NAV), Jake Sanchez (MXI), Javier Solano (MXI), Manuel Valdez (HMO).
Catchers (2) - Xorge Carrillo (MXI), Fernando Flores (NAV).
Infielders (8) - 1B Jose Amador (HMO), 1B Yuniesky Betancourt (MXI), 3B Jesus Castillo (NAV), SS Jorge Flores (HMO), 2B Carlos Gastelum (HMO), 2B Yosmany Guerra (NAV), 3B C.J. Retherford (MXI), 2B Carlos Valencia (OBR).
Outfielders (7) - Randy Arozarena (NAV), Leo Heras (OBR), Quincy Latimore (NAV), Efren Navarro (HMO), Chris Roberson (MXI), Olmo Rosario (OBR), Corey Wimberly (OBR).
Manager - Eddie Diaz (OBR).

SOUTH ALL-STARS
Pitchers (8) - Julian Arballo (MOC), Roberto Espinosa (MAZ), Julio Felix (JAL), Daniel Guerrero (JAL), Alexis Lara (MOC), Derrick Loop (CUL), Hector Daniel Rodriguez (CUL), Alfonso Sanchez (MAZ).
Catchers (2) - Hector Paez (MAZ), Sebastian Valle (MOC).
Infielders (8) - 1B Japhet Amador (JAL), SS Jose Guadalupe Chavez (CUL), 1B Cyle Hankerd (MAZ), 3B Brian Hernandez (MAZ), 3B Agustin Murillo (JAL), 2B Isaac Rodriguez (MOC), 2B Jose Rodriguez (JAL), SS Amadeo Zazueta (JAL).
Outfielders (7) - Jason Bourgeois (MAZ), Leandro Castro (MOC),  Yadir Drake (MOC),Sebastian Elizalde (CUL), Bryan LaHair (CUL), Joey Meneses (CUL), Ronnier Mustelier (CUL).
Manager - Lino Rivera (CUL).

There will be three notable absences from the rosters.  Navojoa pitcher Hector Velazquez, who is tied with Mexicali's Solano for the LMP lead with 6 wins while topping the loop with 57 strkeouts in 48 innings, will be held out by the Mayos to save his arm for the regular season's stretch drive, as will fellow hurlers Edgar Gonzalez of Culiacan and Hermosillo's Juan Pablo Oramos.

Sunday's 5:15PM PT game will be preceded by a home run derby featuring one player representing each of the MexPac's eight teams: Ricky Alvarez (MXI), Japhet Amador (JAL), Jose Amador (HMO), Yadir Drake (MOC), Cyle Hankerd (MAZ), Quincy Latimore (NAV), Ronnier Mustelier (CUL) and Carlos Valencia (OBR).

The All-Star festivities will be held at the LMP's newest ballpark (and the third such facility inaugurated in the past four MexPac seasons), the 16,500-seat Nuevo Estadio Yaquis.  The Yaquis christened their new digs on October 10 after spending more than four decades at Estadio Tomas Oroz Gaytan.

The last Mexican Pacific League All-Star Game was held November 24, 1997 at Navojoa's Estadio Manuel "Ciclon" Echeverria.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Jalisco Charros: Rojas out, Fermin in as skipper

Just days after the Mexicali Aguilas made the first managerial change of the current Mexican Pacific League season by firing Gil Velazquez and replacing him with Robert "Chapo" Vizcarra, the Jalisco Charros have let Homar Rojas go and brought Felix Fermin (pictured) in as a replacement. The Guadalajara club announced Rojas' dismissal Tuesday after the Charros registered a seventh-place first half finish with a 15-19 record.

Rojas was hired by Jalisco last December after Juan Navarrete was let go and led the Charros to a playoff berth, but the team was eliminated from the postseason after a four-game sweep by Mexicali in the first round.  The 52-year-old native of Santiago, Nuevo Leon spent 23 seasons in the minor leagues as a catcher after making his Mexican League debut with Monterrey in 1982 at age 18.  After spending two seasons with the Sultanes and another three with the Mexico City Tigres, Rojas' rights were dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to the 1987 campaign.  He put in four years in the Dodgers system, including all or part of three seasons at AA San Antonio, and hit .273 with 9 homers in 241 games.  After returning to Mexico in 1991, he played 14 more years in the LMB before retiring in 2004 at 40 following seven summers in Oaxaca.

Since then, Rojas has been a frequent passenger on the merry-go-round that is managing a baseball team in Mexico, putting in four years piloting Oaxaca, four years with Reynosa, one in Campeche and three with Monclova.  His 12-year record at the helm of LMB clubs is 651-647, including a 69-43 mark with the Acereros last summer, when he managed the North at the All-Star Game in Monterrey.   He has also managed winterball teams in Obregon and Hermosillo, leading both teams to single MexPac pennants while winning Manager of the Year awards twice with the Yaquis.  As usual, the Charros thanked Rojas for his service in a press release.

The 53-year-old Fermin is a product of the Dominican Republic who was signed by Pittsburgh in 1983 and reached the majors with the Pirates four years later.  He went on to spend ten seasons in MLB (including five with Cleveland) between 1987 and 1996, hitting .259 over 903 games while striking out just 147 times.  He peaked with Seattle in 1994 when he batted .317 as the Mariners' starting shortstop, but plummeted to .196 in 1995 and was dealt to the Chicago Cubs after the season.  Known more for his glove than his bat, Fermin was nicknamed "El Gato" or "Felix the Cat" for his quick reflexes in the field. He retired as a player at 32 in 1996.

As a manager, Fermin spent four years managing Monterrey in the Mexican League, winning the LMB flag in 2007 (his first year with the Sultanes). before moving to Carmen in 2011 for another four campaigns during which he was named Manager of the Year in 2013 after the Delfines won the LMB South regular season title.  After being fired by the Delfines on June 29, 2015 with a 29-38 record, Fermin returned to Monterrey with a month remaining in that season and went on to take the Sultanes to the 2016 LMB North regular season crown with a 72-39 mark and reached the North playoff finals before being knocked out by Tijuana. His nine-year managerial record in the Mexican League is 531-440.  This is Fermin's first stint in the MexPac.

Another longtime Mexican baseball manager, Alfonso "Houston" Jimenez, is filling in with the Charros until Fermin officially takes the reins on Thursday.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Velazquez sacked in Mexicali, replaced by Vizcarra

Gil Velazquez has been fired as manager of the Mexican Pacific League's Mexicali Aguilas.  The 37-year-old Velazquez (pictured), a Los Angeles native who hit .233 over 33 MLB games for the Red Sox, Angels and Marlins between 2008 and 2013, had been hired in the offseason to replace last winter's MexPac Manager of the Year, Edgar Gonzalez, who stepped down to manage Mexico's national team at next year's World Baseball Classic.  Velazquez was replaced last Thursday by Roberto Vizcarra, skipper of the Quintana Roo Tigres during the summer Mexican League season.

Velazquez had the Aguilas at 14-17 at the time of his firing, not a bad record in and of itself, but Mexicali had won just two of their previous eleven contests following a 12-8 start out the gate.  In a statement announcing the former infielder had been sent packing, the team gave the usual thanks for Velazquez' service (a seemingly ubiquitous theme whenever a manager is shown the door in Mexico), but general manager Alejandro Ahumada was quoted by reporter Heriberto Munoz in La Cronica of Mexicali as saying, "In baseball, changes are sometimes necessary in search of the results we've been denied.  For that reason, we've decided to make this move to bring in Roberto Vizcarra for his experience in front of a team with this style of play."

After his 18-year playing career concluded in 2014 when he batted .288 for Yucatan in the LMB (followed by a winter season split between Mexicali and Hermosillo), Velazquez was a coach for the Dodgers' Arizona Rookie League team in 2015 before spending last summer managing LA's Class A Great Lakes affiliate in the Midwest League, leading the Midland, Michigan team to a 65-75 mark and a playoff berth.

Roberto "Chapo" Vizcarra spent 23 seasons as a player in the Mexican League between 1986 and 2008, batting .304 with 235 homers and 233 stolen bases in 2,219 games as a middle infielder for five teams.  His best year was in 1991, when he hit .322 with 24 homers and 87 RBIs for Leon.  Vizcarra has spent the past three years managing the LMB Tigres, leading the Cancun squad to an overall 190-135 record and the 2015 Liga pennant.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Tensions remain within LMB over Mexican-American players status


Although things have quieted down since the latest Mexican League Board of Governors meeting in Monterrey early this month, a schism on whether to consider American-born players of Mexican descent as “domestic” remains bubbling below the surface.

On one side of the issue are eight teams led by the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Quintana Roo Tigres who believe such players should be regarded as imports (or extraneros), while another seven clubs, including the champion Puebla Pericos and Yucatan Leones, are lobbying for Mexican-Americans to not count against the LMB limit of foreign players of six per team.  The Reynosa Broncos were in the process of being sold and could not take part in the discussion, which became spirited at times, to say the least.  Liga president Plinio Escalante has sided with the latter group, putting him in the crosshairs of the former.

The reason for the rift is not political, but economic.  Most of the teams wanting Mexican-American players regarded as homegrown are not moneyed enough to develop their own talent from the pool of domestic prospects, thus requiring them to bring in Mexican-Americans to be competitive on the field.  The clubs pushing for import status for Mexican-Americans typically do have the wherewithal to develop native talent, often negotiating with MLB organizations for the external playing rights to their best prospects (but maintaining those rights within Mexico).

It's a labryinthian story, but here's the best BBM can make of it: The tensions had been present for some time until a Governors meeting in September, when the owner of both the Diablos Rojos and Oaxaca Guerreros, Alfredo Harp Helu (pictured), symbolically “resigned” both franchises from the LMB after Tijuana, Puebla, Yucatan and Laguna (the latter two owned by brothers Juan Jose and Erik Arellano) were able to block implementation of Harp’s plan to consider Mexican-Americans as extraneros.  Harp was joined by Monterrey and Quintana Roo in verbal resignation from the league but all are still LMB members as of this writing.

Things took a bizarre turn when members sympathetic to Helu convened their own “assembly” in which they reclaimed positions on the LMB Board of Directors they’d given up by virtue of their September pseudo-resignation.  Tijuana team president Alberto Uribe Maytorena protested vigorously, claiming that such a meeting is illegal and may warrant criminal charges.

A similar split took place last year between largely the same sides regarding Mexican-born players who’d bypassed the usual path of signing with LMB teams as teen prospects and instead signed directly with MLB organizations on their own.  Such players had been blacklisted from returning to play in the Liga for years (Harp and Diablos team president Roberto Mansur were at the center of that one) until that policy was formally reversed.

Some of the fallout from all the internecine squabbling is that Harp’s group has been actively seeking the ouster of Escalante as league president.  The irony is that the Yucatan native had announced his retirement last winter after ten years at his current post effective at the end of the 2016 season.  Instead, he was talked into remaining through next summer because a suitable replacement couldn’t be found, a decision he may now be regretting.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sergio Romo signs with Jalisco; Puig to Charros too?


Relief pitcher Sergio Romo, who was a member of the Mexican National Team during last week’s trip to Japan, has signed a contract with the Jalisco Charros for the final month of the regular season.  Romo will join the club for their second-half stretch drive in December.

The 33-year-old Romo has spent the last nine summers with the San Francisco Giants, where he compiled a career record of 32-26 with 84 saves and a sparkling ERA of 2.85.  He was a member of three World Series champions (2010, 2012, 2014) and was selected to pitch for the National League in the 2013 All-Star Game.  He pitched in his 500th MLB game in August.

A native of Brawley, California, Romo signed with the Giants as a 28th-round draft pick in 2005 out of the University of Northern Alabama after spending time at Arizona Western and Mesa State.  He made his big league debut on June 26, 2008 during an interleague game against Cleveland, where he tossed a 1-2-3 inning with a pair of strikeouts.  The 5’11’ righty eventually became San Francisco’s closer, saving 38 games in 2013 and another 23 in 2014 before being supplanted by Santiago Casilla.  He’s been a middleman for the Giants since, although Romo will test the free agent waters this winter after completing a three-year, $20.5 million contract last season.

While Romo has spent five summers in the professional ranks, this will be his foray into the winter league.  Although he represented Mexico last week in Tokyo (both his parents were born in Mexico), Romo joins the Charros roster as an extranero after a contingent from the Guadalajara team traveled to Tokyo to conduct negotiations.  He’s expected to join skipper Homar Rojas’ team next month.

Jalisco is reportedly also interested in signing Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, The 25-year-old Puig was an instant sensation with Los Angeles in 2013, batting .319 with 19 homers in 104 games, but has steadily fallen out of favor with management for his sometimes lackadaisical play, particularly on defense.  A number of Cubans have been making their mark in the MexPac this winter (especially in Culiacan), but Puig would be the most notable of them if he signs.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Culiacan nips Obregon for MexPac first half title

The Culiacan Tomateros swept Los Mochis in a three-game home series over the weekend to slip past Obregon for the Mexican Pacific League’s first half championship and the eight points that go with it.  The Tomateros broke out the broom with Sunday’s 4-2 win over the Caneros to go to 17-12, just ahead of 16-12 Obregon, who clubbed Jalisco, 6-1, in a rain-shortened game Saturday. Sunday’s Yaquis-Charros game was a total washout as Obregon finished the half with 7 points. Cuban centerfielder Daniel Carbonell (pictured), a Giants farmhand, led the way offensively for Culiacan by singling and tripling in four at-bats with two RBIs and scoring a run.  Carbonell has now crossed the plate nine times in five games since joining manager Lino Rivera’s squad last Wednesday.

Hermosillo came in third at 16-13 to cop 6 points while Navojoa’s identical record netted them fourth place for five points because the Naranjeros won four of six meetings between the two sides during the half.  Just one game separated the top four teams.  Jalisco was fifth in the half at 14-14 for 4.5 points, Mexicali and Los Mochis were tied for sixth at 14-15, with the Aguilas picking up 4 points and the Caneros 3.5 due to Mexicali’s two wins in three games at Mochis at the start of November.  Mazatlan brought up the rear six games out of seventh with a moribund 8-21 mark to collect 3 points because someone had to.

Despite missing six games because he was in Tokyo last week, Mexicali’s Agustin Murillo still holds the LMP bat race lead with a .392 average in 20 games, one point ahead of Mochis’ Leandro Castro.  Hermosillo’s Jose Amador clouted three homers last week (including two in Navojoa Friday) to pull into a clear lead for the home run derby at 8, three up on a trio of outfielder that includes Navojoa’s Quincy Latimore, who’s done his socking in just 14 games. Of Latimore’s 12 total hits, 8 have been for extra bases. Culiacan outfielder Joey Meneses' 30 RBIs is best in the league.  The Mayos’ rookie outfielder from Cuban Randy Arozarena, now leads the MexPac with 11 stolen bases with Obregon’s Justin Greene still out with a facial injury suffered October 29.

Among LMP pitchers, Navojoa’s Hector Velazquez and Arturo Lopez of Obregon are both 5-0 after six starts apiece.  Velazquez tops the circuit with a 1.75 ERA (Lopez is second at 1.89) and leads MexPac hurlers with 42 strikeouts in 36 innings, well ahead of the 30 of Mexicali’s Efren Delgado.  Mets minor leaguer Paul Sewald earned three saves last week to take the league lead in that category with 9.  Sewald saved 19 games for AAA Las Vegas, his hometown, last summer.

NOTE: Baseball Mexico will post single stories on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, starting today.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Mexican Nationals split two-game series in Japan

Ramiro Pena went 2-for-5 with an RBI single and Esteban Quiroz (pictured) bashed a solo homer to lead the Mexican National Team to a 7-3 win over Samurai Japan Thursday night at the Tokyo Dome in the first of a two-game series between the two countries in a World Baseball Classic tuneup.

Mexican starter Jose Oyervides endured a forgettable first inning, walking four batters to give Japan a 1-0 lead.   Three innings later, Alex Verdugo's double brought Jesse Castillo home to knot the game up for Mexico.  Quiroz' fifth-inning longball brought the Mexicans into the lead, but Japan scored a run of their own in the bottom of the frame to make it a 2-2 game.

Mexico put two on the board in the sixth when Amadeo Zazueta's single drove in Agustin Murillo and Sebastian Valle later scored on an error.  The Samurai came to within 4-3 in the eighth on Seiya Suzuki's run-scoring double, but Mexico effectively put the game away with a three-run ninth as Valle, Efren Navarro and Pena (who drove in Valle) all crossed the plate to put the visitors up by four.  It was then left for Oliver Perez and Jake Sanchez to combine on a shutout inning to seal the deal for Edgar Gonzalez' squad.  Rafael Martin got the historic win in relief.  What made it "historic?"  I can't tell you.  Neither Mexican website where I looked up the tidbits of into used to cobble this piece together gave a reason why.

Japan did recover Friday night and registered an 11-4 win over the Big Green.  Mexican starter Hector Daniel Rodriguez got in trouble early by serving up back-to-back doubles to Shohei Ohtani and Sho Nakata to give the home team a 1-0 lead.  That touched off what would become a back-and-forth contest that saw Japhet Amador (who played for Japan's Rakuten Eagles last summer) sock a solo homer in the second frame while both Pena and Verdugo went deep in the fourth.

The Japanese opened things up with a three-run seventh and although a Tim Torres single brought Mexico to within 8-4, Japan put three more runs on the board, ending the scoring when Akira Nakamura whacked a late two-run homer off Sergio Romo to make it an 11-4 victory for the Samurai.

Samurai Japan will host The Netherlands National Team in two more WBC warmups Saturday and Sunday at the Big Egg.  The Mexican Nationals were scheduled to return to Los Angeles Friday night before returning to their individual points of origin.  Whatever made Thursday's win an historic one, you're doing pretty well to fly into Japan and split with the best team in the world (according to the latest World Baseball Softball Confederation rankings).  Mexico went into the trip rated eighth by the WBSC, but that could change.

Thanks to reader Chris Kabout of Amsterdam, Netherlands for links to info used in story.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Mexican Nationals arrive in Tokyo for games vs. Japan

Mexico's National Baseball Team has arrived in Tokyo in advance of games against their Japanese counterparts on Thursday and Friday at the Tokyo Dome.  Manager Edgar Martinez was joined by 26 players who'll suit up for the two-game set, as well as his coaching staff (including father David, who will serve as first base coach) and brother Adrian, who will not play but serve in a supporting role.  The following is Mexico's roster for the series:

PITCHERS (12):  Miguel Aguilar, Andres Avila, Mauricio Lara, Rafael Martin Jr., Mario Meza, Jose Oyervidez, Oliver Perez, Hector Daniel Rodriguez, Sergio Romo, Gerardo Sanchez, Jacob Sanchez, Ernesto Zaragoza.
CATCHERS (2):  Cesar Tapia, Sebastian Valle.
INFIELDERS (7):  Ricky Alvarez, Japhet Amador, Jesse Castillo, Agustin Murillo, Ramiro Pena, Esteban Quiroz, Amadeo Zazueta.
OUTFIELDERS (5):  Jose Aguilar, Efren Navarro, Asael Sanchez, Tim Torres, Alex Verdugo.

The team as constructed has fairly solid pitching with reliable veterans (some with Nippon Professional Baseball playing experience) behind the plate and around the infield, but the outfield looks ordinary at best.  In all, five members of the Verdes Grande have Major League experience: Pitchers Martin, Romo and Perez, shortstop Pena and outfielder Navarro.

The Samurai Japan squad is hosting Mexico for games Thursday and Friday followed by games against The Netherlands' national team Saturday and Sunday as a tuneup for next March's World Baseball Classic.


Leon, Durango in; Reynosa, Carmen out of LMB

The Mexican League has shuffled its rostrum for the 2017 season.  During a November 1 meeting of Liga governors in Monterrey, the LMB approved the shifting of two of its weakest franchises westward to cities that have previously hosted teams in the summer circuit.

The Reynosa Broncos will be moving from the border to Leon, Guanajuato next year.  The Broncos had a dreadful 2016 by any standard, winning just 24 of 112 games to post the worst record in the league while finishing 26.5 games behind Saltillo, the LMB North's seventh-place team.  Erstwhile former Cubs pitcher Kyle Farnsworth interrupted his recent foray into semipro football in Florida to join Reynosa in early April, but had a fitful three months with the cellar-dwellers, going 1-3 with 2 saves and a 6.92 ERA in 18 appearances before being mercifully placed on the reserve list in July.

The Broncos' on-field futility carried over into the stands at Estadio Adolfo Lopez Mateos, where well-rested ushers welcomed just 102,823 fans over 53 home dates for an average of 1,940 per opening, both ranking 15th in the Liga.  The Broncos' struggles at the gate have coincided with the rise of violence involving drug cartels, both against each other and law enforcement officers, and gunfire outside the ballpark even halted a 2010 contest against Monterrey.  Reynosa could be a tough place to catch a ballgame.

Things will hopefully be a little quieter in Leon, a city of more than 1.5 million residents south of Aguascalientes and northwest of Mexico City in the Central Mexican Plateau.  Leon had a Mexican League franchise between 1979 and 1991. The Bravos (which will also be the name of the new entry) won their lone Liga pennant in 1990 under manager Francisco "Paquin" Estrada before moving to Minatitlan one year later.  The team, which is owned by a group headed by businessman Mauricio Martinez, will need to upgrade Estadio Domingo Santana, which underwent some refurbishing in 2014 but still seats only 3,000 spectators.

Meanwhile, the Carmen Delfines (or Dolphins) have given up the ghost after five years on Campeche's Gulf Coast.  With a population of 169,466, Ciudad del Carmen was one of the Mexican League's smallest cities.  After a good start at the box office, with the team pulling in 5,114 a night in 2013 (their second season), support gradually declined to last summer's 2,615 average, 12th in the Liga.  Like the Broncos, the Delfines are moving west.  Owner VIrgilio Ruiz is moving the club to Durango, where the club will be rechristened the Alacranes (or Scorpions).

Ciudad Durango is the capital of Durango State, a city of over half a million residents in north central Mexico about halfway between Mazaltan on the Pacific Coast to the southwest and Saltillo to the northwest.  Like Leon, the Mexican League has been tried but ultimately found wanting in Durango.  The Alacranes organization has actually been around in some form since 1951 and the team spent four years in the LMB between 1976 and 1979.  Although notable former big leaguers like Jerry Hairston, Earl Williams and Wayne Granger played for Durango in that time, the Alacranes won no pennants before dropping prior to the strike-shortened 1980 season.  The team has bounced around the lower Mexican minors ever since, most recently in the Laguna Major League, and will play in 8,000-seat Estadio Francisco Villa (yes, that Pancho Villa) after some planned offseason renovations.


Serie Caribe champ Mazatlan Venados occupy MexPac cellar

Only two games separate the top seven teams in the Mexican Pacific League's first half standings, with a four-way tie for first place between Hermosillo, Los Mochis, Mexicali and Navojoa at 13-10.  Culiacan is one game back in fifth with a 12-11 mark while Jalisco and Obregon share sixth at 11-12.  Then there are the Mazatlan Venados.

The Deer, as you may recall, fought their way through the MexPac playoffs to win the pennant last winter before cruising to February's Caribbean Series championship in the Dominican Republic.  That was then, however, but this is now and "now" has Mazatlan all alone in the LMP cellar with a 6-17 register, seven games behind the leaders after three weeks of the 2016-17 season.

The Venados dropped a 2-0 home game to Los Mochis Sunday as Julian Arballo and four Caneros relievers combined for the shutout.  Mazatlan starter Walter Silva pitched creditably in absorbing the loss in allowing two runs over six innings, somewhat ironic given the difficulty the Venados mound staff has experienced thus far.  Typically a strong pitching team, Mazatlan is last in the MexPac with a 4.62 ERA (conversely, four teams are below 4.00).  Former Cubs minor leaguer Nick Struck is 1-1 with a 0.82 ERA in two starts but otherwise, the Venados rotation has been hemorrhaging runs since the campaign began and the batters are likewise bringing up the circuit's rear with a .242 average and 13 homers, a recipe that has brought just six wins in 23 games for skipper Juan Jose Pacho's team.

Jalisco third baseman Agustin Murillo went into his one-week break for the Japan trip with with a .392 average to lead LMP batsmen, 14 points up on Culiacan outfielder Ronnier Mustelier.  Mustelier's Tomateros teammate, outfielder Joey Meneses, is tied with four other players for the league lead at five homers while topping the loop with 23 RBI's in as many games to go along with his .333 average.  Despite not playing since October 29 after bunting a ball into his own face, Mexican League co-champion base stealer Justin Greene still tops the MexPac swipes list with nine, one more than Mazatlan outfielder Tito Polo.  Greene was batting .333 for Obregon when he was hurt and his return to the Yaquis lineup is unknown.

Obregon's Arturo Lopez and Hector Velazquez of Navojoa have become the first 4-game winners of the LMP campaign.  Velazquez' stat line is superior to that of Lopez in ERA (2.10 to 2.22) and strikeouts (35 to 20).  Former Cal Baptist righty Julian Arballo of Los Mochis has the best ERA in the MexPac at 0.69, Velazquez' 35 whiffs tops the circuit in that category and there's a three-way tie for most saves at 7 between Mexicali's Jake Sanchez, Hermosillo's Paul Sewald and Jon Sintes of Los Mochis.  Sanchez, an A's farmhand and California native, is in Tokyo with the Mexican National Team for this week's two games against Samurai Japan.