Monday, November 27, 2017

North wins LMP All-Star Game, MVP to Jose Amador

Cardinals farmhand Randy Arozarena (Navojoa) manufactured a run in the top of the fourth to break up a scoreless game as the North went on to defeat the South, 3-1, last Monday in the Mexican Pacific League All-Star Game in Los Mochis.  The North was comprised of players from Hermosillo, Mexicali, Navojoa and Obregon while the South squad was made up of representatives from Culiacan, Mazatlan, Jalisco and the host Caneros.  

Arozarena led off the top of the fourth by lining a single up the middle off South reliever Luis Rodriguez (Jalisco), moved to second by stealing second and drawing a throwing error on the play by catcher Sebastian Valle (Los Mochis) to advance to third before scoring on Mayos teammate Jovan Rosa’s sacrifice fly.  The North extended their lead to 3-0 in the seventh when Jose Amador (Hermosillo)  socked a solo homer to left off Adrian Ramirez (Mazatlan) and Alan Sanchez (Navojoa) later tripled before being brought in on a Alex Flores (Hermosillo) single.  

The South did post a run in the bottom of the ninth on back-to-back-to-back singles by Yadir Drake (Los Mochis), Joey Meneses (Culiacan) and Amadeo Zazueta (Jalisco), but it was the North’s night as nine pitchers combined to hold the South to one run on nine hits and a walk.  North reliever Jose M. Lopez (Mexicali) was awarded the win while Rodriguez was tagged with the loss.  Amador was named MVP of the game, for which Caneros catcher Valle had received the most votes in fan balloting over 20 days leading up to the game.

Valle was honored before the game, while Caneros veteran slugger Saul Soto, a hometown favorite, was surprised by receiving a jersey from his family in commemoration of reaching his thousandth LMP career game this season.  The opening ceremony also included tributes to past and present greats of Mexican baseball, including pitchers Jose Pena, Teddy Higuera, Roberto Osuna and Hector Velazquez, last winter’s LMP Pitcher of the Year who now plays for the Boston Red Sox.

Earlier in the day, Culiacan outfielder Jose Orozco was the surprise winner of the Home Run Derby, besting Jalisco slugger Japhet Amador and Mazatlan’s Esteban Quiroz before outhomering Fernando Perez of Hermosillo in the final round.  Over three stanzas, Orozco (who has yet to homer this winter for the Tomateros after collecting just Mexican League seven roundtrippers last summer for Tabasco and Saltillo) sent 39 balls into the seats.

The victory marks the second consecutive All-Star triumph for the North after the game was revived last season following an absence of 19 years.  Attendance at Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada was announced as 7,968, or about 3,000 shy of a sellout.  In contrast, last season’s All-Star Game in Obregon topped the 15,000 mark, although much of that included people as curious to see the new Yaquis ballpark as the game itself.  Still, this year’s edition was generally well-received by fans and media alike.

Mazatlan 5-1 (6.0), Mexicali 4-2 (4.0), Hermosillo 4-2 (8.0), Navojoa 3-3 (4.5), Obregon 3-3 (3.0), Los Mochis 2-4 (3.5), Culiacan 2-4 (7.0), Jalisco 1-5 (5.0).
*First-half points for each team are in parentheses following their current record.
Batting-Sebastian Elizalde (CUL) .386, Hits-Sebastian Elizalde (CUL) 61, Runs-Jeremias Pineda (MAZ) 33, Homers-Jovan Rosa (NAV) and Randy Arozarena (NAV) 8, RBIs-Manny Rodriguez (JAL) 38, Stolen Bases-Jeremias Pineda (MAZ) 24.
Wins-Mitch Lively (MAZ) 6, Earned Run Average-Rolando Valdez (MXI) 2.01, Strikeouts-Tyler Alexander (JAL) 41, Saves-Manny Acosta (OBR) 13, Holds-Edgar Gomez (MXI) and Miguel Mejia (OBR) 11, WHIP-Mitch Lively (MAZ) 1.03.

Ayala awarded US$325K in suit against Yaquis, LMP

Former major league pitcher Luis Ayala has been awarded US$325,000 in damages stemming from an unpaid bonus he earned while a member of the Obregon Yaquis during their run of three Mexican Pacific League pennants earlier this decade.  The award was made by a Board of Conciliation and Arbitration in Culiacan, which heard the labor dispute originally filed by Ayala at the conclusion of the 2012-13 LMP season.

The suit was brought after Ayala was denied a previously agreed-upon US$1,500 bonus from the Obregon club for his part in winning the 2012-13 LMP title.  According to the 39-year-old Ayala, who went 38-47 with 19 saves and a 3.34 ERA over all or part of nine MLB seasons between 2003 and 2013, he was one of six Yaquis players who were denied promised bonuses by the Yaquis (the others were Agustin Murillo, Marco Carrillo, Iker Franco, Hugo Castellanos and Mario Mendoza Jr.), but Ayala is the only one who pursued the case.  Such bonuses are considered illegal by the LMP, which was named as a co-defendant with the Yaquis.

One result has been an effective blackball from LMP competition for Ayala, who has since toiled in the Atlanta, Toronto and Baltimore organizations before spending the past three summers in the Mexican League without pitching an inning of winterball.  According to Mazatlan’s El Debate newspaper, one of the conditions of the ruling was that Ayala was released from the Yaquis’ 70-man roster on November 15, effectively making him a free agent.  The award amount is meant to cover Ayala’s lost Yaquis salary from the 2013 Caribbean Series forward, including taxes.  The board suggested that Ayala settle for half the US$325,000 award, but Yaquis team president Rene Arturo Rodriguez countered by offering to pay 25 percent of the amount in installments, stating that the team (which opened a new ballpark last winter) lacks the money to pay the 50 percent suggested.  Ayala and his attorney both refused.  The LMP has been ruled responsible for the $1,500 bonus but no comment has been issued from league offices in Hermosillo.

This is considered a landmark ruling in Mexico, where pro baseball players are not unionized and typically have little to no leverage in negotiations with their teams, a situation similar to what MLB players faced in the years before Marvin Miller arrived in the late 1960’s and free agency arrived in the mid-1970’s.  However, the Yaquis are expected to appeal the amount of the fine, if not the ruling itself.

Esteban Quiroz signs 2018 contract with Red Sox

Second baseman Esteban Quiroz has been signed to a minor league contract by the Boston Red Sox.  The versatile 25-year-old Obregon native, who becomes the second Mexican player to join the Bosox organization after pitcher Hector Velazquez inked a deal earlier this year, can also play shortstop, third base and the outfield.  He was joined at a press conference in announcing the signing by Red Sox scout Marcos Cuellar and Erick Arellano, owner of the Mexican League Yucatan Leones (who hold Quiroz’ Mexican playing rights).

The 5’7” Quiroz, whose nickname is “El Pony,” has been likened by some to another diminutive second sacker, MVP Jose Altuve of the world champion Houston Astros, and has become one of Mexico’s top players over his seven-year playing career.  After breaking in with a .120 batting average for Quintana Roo as a 19-year-old in 2011, Quiroz has built a cumulative .293 LMB average with 48 homers and 176 RBIs in 437 contests.  After he was dealt by the Tigres to Yucatan as a cost-cutting move last winter, Quiroz hit .293 with 11 homers while showing much more patience at the plate by drawing 64 walks in 89 games for a .428 on-base percentage.  He’s currently batting .294 in the Mexican Pacific League for the Mazatlan Venados.

A member of the Tigres’ 2014 LMB champions, Quiroz has also represented Mexico in the World Baseball Classic (drilling two homers in last February’s first round games in Guadalajara) and was the MexPac’’s Rookie of the Year with Mazatlan in 2015-16 after hitting .315 with seven homers for the Venados, who went on to win the Caribbean Series that season.  Quiroz hit .400 and scored seven runs in six CS games before singling and scoring twice in the title game against Venezuelan champion Aragua.

Although Quiroz may be ticketed by the parent club for a year in AAA Pawtucket, as was Velazquez, he may be invited to the team’s major league camp next February and given a look as a potential replacement for veteran Dustin Pedroia, who is expected to miss the first two months of next season after undergoing knee surgery at the conclusion of the 2017 campaign.