Monday, March 12, 2018

Toros trash Ohtani as TJ tops Angels, 8-7, in Tempe

If the Mexican League champion Tijuana Toros were supposed to be intimidated while facing the pitches of the most-ballyhooed rookie in Major League Baseball this season, they did a lousy job of looking the part.  The Toros traveled north from their Tucson training camp to Tempe last Friday for a contest against the Los Angeles Angels and their Japanese wunderkind, Shohei Ohtani. 

The 23-year-old Ohtani distinguished himself over five seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball with the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Pacific League by combining a fastball that could top 100 MPH with a power-laden bat to become a three-time All-Star, an All-PL pick as both a pitcher and designated hitter and the PL MVP during the Fighters' 2016 Japan Series championship season.  After batting .286 with 48 homers and 166 RBIs over 403 games for the Hokkaido team while pitching his way to a 42-15 record with a 2.52 ERA, he was posted as a free agent among MLB teams last fall, bidding for the two-way star's services in the majors was very spirited until Ohtani signed with the Angels for $3.27 million over six years (the MLB minimum, as required by rules) plus a $2.35 million bonus.  Scouts have estimated his "real" value over the course of his Halos' contract as closer to $200 million.

Even with all that preceding him last Friday, the Toros treated Ohtani like any veteran-laden team would treat a rookie pitcher: As rudely as possible by racking up six runs on six hits and one walk over three innings off the 6'4" righty en route to an 8-7 win over the Angels.  Granted, the Tijuana win came in a "B" game against the American League West team, but the victory gives the Toros triumphs over teams from MLB, the Korea Baseball Organization and Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League.  Ohtani did strike out five TJ batsmen but he also struggled with his command (plunking Cyle Hankerd twice), his fastball generally topped out at 95 MPH and he gave up a homer to right field by veteran outfielder Dustin Martin in the first inning.  Former MLBer Jorge Cantu, who decided to NOT retire after all, whacked a pair of doubles off Ohtani, eventually scoring on a Juan Apodaca single after his first two-bagger in the second frame and driving in Martin and Hankerd in the third with another double.

Even with the early offensive outbursts, the Toros were eventually tied with the Angels, 7-7, in the top of the ninth when Eudor Garcia singled in Jose Guadalupe Chavez with the eventual game-winning run.  Jesus Pirela held the Angels scoreless in the bottom of the ninth to save the win for Tijuana reliever Danny Gutierrez, who'd pitched the eighth and gave up the two tying runs.  As for Ohtani, whose outing was witnessed by Angels GM Billy Eppler and pitching coach Charles Nagy along with about 300 in the Diablo Stadium stands?  "I feel like I made a lot of good pitches," he said through an interpreter, "and quite a few bad ones."  Catcher Rene Rivera, a MLB veteran and Ohtani's batterymate on Friday, simply said, "It's going to be a process. It's going in a good direction."

The Toros returned to camp in Tucson after the game to continue preparation for their March 22 season opener against Monclova at home in Estadio Gasmart.


Mexican League to stream 140 games live on Facebook in 2018

After a tumultuous first six months on the job, new Mexican League president Javier Salinas has probably been ready for any good news that comes along.  The former Liga MX soccer marketing executive, who was brought to the LMB in no small part for his background of bringing a sports league into more peoples' homes, had some good news for baseball fans last week when he announced that a total of 140 Liga games will be streamed live on Facebook in 2018.

The plan is two carry 132 games split between the LMB's two regular seasons, plus another four games apiece for the Liga's two playoff tournaments.  Isaura Morales, who heads Facebook's alliances with Latin American sports leagues and teams, says, "This collaboration between the LMB and Facebook is part of our commitment to innovate ways in which baseball fans can watch and follow their favorite team from anywhere.  By offering transmissions through Facebook Live, the LMB can reach new audiences in a truly interactive and social way."

For his part, Salinas says, "We're very excited to become pioneers of live sports broadcasts in the country, since our number one priority is to satisfy our fans.  That's why we signed this agreement with Facebook, because we know it's a platform capable of of offering our audiences a unique experience that can be enjoyed from any device.  We're sure our fans will be very happy with this new way to transmit our games."

The first Facebook stream of a Mexican League game is scheduled for the March 22 season opener in Tijuana between the defending champion Toros and their LMB North rival Monclova Acereros.  The LMB's Facebook page can be accessed at www.facebook.com/LigaMexicanadeBeisbol.



Bronswell Patrick chosen as new skipper in Hermosillo

The Hermosillo Naranjeros have picked a former major league pitcher as their new manager, replacing Lorenzo Bundy at the helm.  Bundy completed his 23rd season as a Mexican Pacific League manager last winter, winning his 700th career regular season game (second only to Francisco "Paquin" Estrada's 856 over 27 campaigns) and taking the Orangemen to the MexPac playoffs before losing to Navojoa in the first round.  The Philadelphia native spent five seasons with the Naranjeros after previously managing six other MexPac teams (the only LMP squad he HASN'T managed is Jalisco).  He's won pennants with Navojoa and Mazatlan and Hermosillo and is beginning his first season managing Puebla in the Mexican League after his contract with the Naranjeros did not renew his contract for 2018-19.

Enter Bronswell Patrick.  The 47-year-old Greenville, South Carolina product was a 23rd round draft pick by Oakland in 1988 out of high school, embarking that summer on an 18-year career in pro ball, reaching the majors in 1998 with Milwaukee (for whom he was 4-1 with a 4.69 ERA in 32 appearances (including three starts) and 1999 with San Francisco (1-0, 10.31 in six trips from the bullpen).  Patrick became the first Brewers pitcher to homer in a game since former infielder Skip Lockwood went deep in 1971, two years before the advent of the designated hitter.  He went on to pitch two years in Mexico City, going 11-7 in 2001 and 13-2 in 2003 for the Diablos to book-end a 2002 season spent in Korea, where he was 5-7 for the Samsung Lions.  Patrick wrapped up his playing career in 2006-07 when he pitched six games that winter for Los Mochis, losing both decisions and posting a 5.75 ERA for the Caneros.

Patrick has coached over the past decade in the San Diego system, starting with the Padres' Arizona Rookie League team in 2008.  This summer, he'll serve as pitching coach for the AAA El Paso Chihuahuas of the Pacific Coast League.  While Hermosillo marks his first managerial job, Patrick served as the Naranjeros pitching coach in the past.  He headed the Hermosillo mound staff during their last championship season of 2013-14 and was Bundy's pitching coach for the 2016-17 campaign.  Upon his appointment to his new post in Hermosillo last week, Patrick said, "Over the last couple years while I was a pitching coach with the Naranjeros, I thought about being a manager.  It was something I wanted to do and in recent years that thought's been in my head, so now I'm happy that the Naranjeros and (owner) Enrique Mazon have given me the opportunity to manage the club."

Joining Patrick's coaching staff will be new batting coach Darryl Brinkley, a longtime minor league outfielder who spent time in the Padres, Orioles and Pirates systems but mostly played for teams in independent leagues as well as in Mexico and Korea before retiring after 16 seasons in 2009 after batting .297 with 13 homers in 97 games for Edmonton in the Golden Baseball League.  Brinkley played all or part of eight seasons in the Mexican League, leading the San Luis Tuneros in 2006 with a .355 batting average for manager Dan Firova (now in Monclova).