It’s been another wild week in Guadalajara, where a prominent MLB reliever made his debut while a former MLB shortstop was relieved as manager after losing 11 of 17 games in three weeks on the job.
Sergio Romo (pictured) joined the Jalisco Charros last week and picked up a save in his Mexican Pacific League debut December 7 in Mexicali, tossing two shutout innings and striking out for Aguilas in the Charros’ 3-0 win. Things went a little tougher on the 10th, when Romo allowed a run on two hits in 1.1 frames to take the 3-2 loss at Los Mochis. Romo is a free agent this winter after nine seasons, two World Series titles and an All-Star Game appearance for the San Francisco Giants. Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna has signed with Jalisco for the rest of the LMP season but has yet to appear.
When that happens, it’ll be former Twins shortstop and longtime Mexican baseball figure Houston Jimenez calling Osuna in from the bullpen. Jimenez was named manager of the Charros after Felix Fermin stepped down for “health reasons.” Given that the Charros were 6-11 in three weeks under the former Indians and Mariners shortstop after he replaced Homar Rojas in late November, it may have been team owner Armando Navarro who felt ill and thought yet another change in skippers might be a cure. It’s been a tough few weeks for Fermin, who was canned in early November by the Cibaenas Aguilas and replaced by Manny Acta. He’d managed the Eagles since 2000 and became the winningest manager in Dominican history.
In just his third season owning a MexPac franchise, Navarro has already made his mark by bringing the Guasave Algodoneros to Guadalajara (where he purchased and renovated the ballpark), a successful move at the gate. He’s also brought a World Baseball Classic pool to Jalisco and was said to be eyeing the 2019 Caribbean Series until baseball honchos in Puerto Rico recently decided to host the event despite financial problems on the island in recent years. As ambitious and successful as he’s been, Navarro has yet to learn one more aspect of solid team ownership: Patience. Then again, he’s hardly alone.
The Charros have some serious ground to gain if they have postseason hopes. After finishing seventh in the first half, Jalisco remains in seventh in the LMP's second half at 6-12. Mazatlan has snuck into first at 12-6, ahead of Mexicali and Navojoa at 11-7. Los Mochis is fourth at 10-8, Hermosillo is fifth at 9-9 and Obregon's 8-10 mark puts them sixth. First-half champs Culiacan bring up the rear at 5-13.
In the LMP batting race, Mexicali catcher Luis Juarez has gone 14-for-31 (.4452) in his past eight games to overtake Jalisco’s Agustin Murillo for the lead with a .361 average, seven ahead of Aguilas teammate Chris Roberson. Murillo has fallen to fifth at .329. Hermosillo’s Jose Amador tops the loop with 14 homers and 51 RBIs. The Naranjeros’ third sacker also leads the MexPac with a .581 slugging percentage to go with his .301 batting average.
Navojoa’s Quincy Latimore is second with 10 homers and David Washington of Hermosillo is third with 8. Obregon outfielder Corey Wimberly and Navojoa’s rookie utilityman Rando Arozarena are tied for the lead with 16 stolen bases apiece. The veteran Wimberly has been a little smarter on the basepaths, though, going 16-for-20 on steals attempts while the young Cuban is 16-for-26.
Mexicali’s Javier Solano has only one loss to show for his two starts since November 29, but he still leads the LMP in wins with a 7-3 record. Julian Arballo of Los Mochis is 6-1 while Navojoa ace Hector Velazquez is 6-3 after losing his last two starts. Velazquez leads the league with 74 strikeouts in 67 innings with just 14 walks. Hermosillo veteran Juan Pablo Oramas (4-2) leads all starters with a 1.82 earned-run average while his WHIP of 1.10 is tops among qualifiers.
One newcomer who’s shown well is former Mariners starter Blake Beavan, who’s gone 4-1 with a 2.65 ERA for Obregon in six starts. Never a hard thrower despite his 6’7” size, the Texan righty has given up just five walks in 34 innings and his WHIP of 0.94 would lead the MexPac if he had enough innings to qualify. At the other end of the spectrum, it’s been a woeful winter for Culiacan’s Hector Daniel Rodriguez. The MVP of last February’s Caribbean Series as a playoff pickup of the Mazatlan Venados, Rodriguez is just 2-6 for the Tomateros and is tied for the most losses in the LMP. He’s lost six of his last seven decisions.
Mexicali closer Jake Sanchez has converted saves in his last seven appearances to bring his season total to 14, three ahead of Hermosillo’s Paul Sewald. Sanchez is a native of Brawley, California and pitched collegiately for Iowa Wesleyan before spending two years in indy ball prior to signing with the White Sox in 2013. Sanchez was a starter with some success his first three years, going 30-18 overall in the Chisox and Oakland organizations through 2015, but was converted to reliever at the A’s AA Midland affiliate last summer and went 7-5 with 8 saves.