Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Twenty-six Mexican players in MLB spring training camps

Although the Caribbean Series concluded Mexico's four-month winterball season less than two weeks ago, pro baseball is only now stirring to life north of the border as Major League Baseball organizations open spring training camps in Florida and Arizona this month.  There are 26 Mexican players scattered among 15 big league teams, including ten non-roster invitees.

Fifteen of the 25 are in National League camps.  The Los Angeles Dodgers have four Mexicans training with the big club while the San Diego Padres have three among 16 MLB teams with at least one Mexican player in camp.  Left-handed pitcher Jorge De La Rosa (pictured above), who'll turn 36 on April 5, signed with Arizona this weekend as a free agent after a nine-year stint with the Colorado Rockies, for whom he went 86-61 between 2008 and 2016, winning 16 games twice and 14 once.  De La Rosa is the Rockies' all-time wins leader while going 53-20 record at Coors Field. De La Rosa signed a minor league contract with the Diamondbacks, but has been invited to the team's major league camp.

Chicago White Sox - RHP Miguel Angel Gonzalez
Kansas City Royals - RHP Joakim Soria
Los Angeles Angels - LHP Manny Banuelos*
New York Yankees - RHP Luis Cessa, RHP Giovanny Gallegos
Seattle Mariners - RHP Yovanni Gallardo, C Sebastian Valle*
Texas Rangers - RHP Eddie Gamboa
Toronto Blue Jays - RHP Marco Estrada, RHP Roberto Osuna

Arizona Diamondbacks - Jorge De La Rosa*
Atlanta Braves - LHP Jaime Garcia
Cincinnati Reds - OF Sebastian Elizalde*
Colorado Rockies - IF Daniel Castro*
Los Angeles Dodgers - 1B Adrian Gonzalez, RHP Sergio Romo, LHP Julio Cesar Urias, OF Alex Verdugo*
New York Mets - C Xorge Carrillo*, RHP Fernando Salas
Philadelphia Phillies - RHP Victor Arano*
San Diego Padres - IF Luis Urias*, RHP Cesar Vargas, 3B Christian Villanueva*
Washington Nationals - RHP Rafael Martin, LHP Oliver Perez
*-Non-roster invitee

One more Mexican in a major league camp is former utility infielder Tony Perezchica, a Mexicali native making his debut as a third base coach in Arizona under new manager Torey Luvollo.  Perezchica hit .228 in 69 games over parts of four seasons with San Francisco and Cleveland between 1988 and 1992.  A Giants third round draft pick in 1984, the 50-year-old Palm Springs HS grad has been coaching and managing in the D-Backs system since 2004.

Perezchica becomes the first major league coach born in Mexico since the legendary Ben "Cananea" Reyes (pictured left) spent the 1981 season as the Seattle Mariners' third base coach after being brought north by M's skipper Maury Wills, under whom Reyes had coached in Hermosillo during the 1970-71 Mexican Pacific League season.  Reyes unofficially became the first Mexican to manage an MLB team after Wills was suspended two games in 1981 for having the batter's box altered before a game at the Kingdome.

Reyes lost his April 28 debut in Minnesota, 4-1, as Richie Sisk's fifth inning homer was the only blot on Pete Redfern's five-hitter for the Twins.  The two teams battled to a rare 7-7 tie on April 29 as rain halted play in the bottom of the eighth inning at old Metropolitan Stadium.  Reyes has never officially received credit for filling in for Wills, who was fired a week after returning to the Mariners dugout.  Reyes stayed the rest of the season under new Seattle manager Rene Lachemann.

Reyes had more success managing at home, winning five Mexican League pennants managing the Mexico City Red Devils after winning a flag with Jalisco in 1971.  He also managed four Mexican Pacific League champions (three in Hermosillo) and took Caribbean Series titles with the Naranjeros in 1976 and Mexicali in 1986 for the only CS crown the Aguilas have won.  Reyes died in late 1991 at age 54, and was elected to Mexican baseball's Salon de la Fama the following year.