Really Last Minute Roster Moves

This is the time of year when teams release players from their minor league camps – those who are not going to fit into the organization’s plans.  The Pirates have released these players:

Inf Adenson Chourio  –  West Virginia and Bradenton in 2010
Inf Christian Colonel — he’d just been signed at the beginning of the month 
RHP Casey Erickson  –  Bradenton in 2010
C/ OF/ 3B Pat Irvine  –  State College and West Virginia in 2010
1B Gerlis Rodriguez  –  State College in 2010
LHP Mike Williams  –   West Virginia in 2010
2B Jose Solano (Luis?)  – GCL Pirates in 2010

P Ramon Aguero has been designated for assignment, coming off the Pirates’ 40-man roster to make room for P Jose Veras.  If he makes it through waivers, he could go to Altoona or Indianapolis.   

RHP Tim Wood is also getting close to signing with the Pirates.  He was the Marlins’ 44th round draft pick in 2002, and worked his way up through there system, reaching the majors in June 2009.  he made 18 relief appearances in that season, for a total of 22.1 innings, with 7 runs on 22 hits, for a 2.82 ERA.  He split last season between AAA New Orleans and the major league team.  He began the season with the Marlins, then spent parts of May and June and the end of July with New Orleans.  Wood pitched in 26 games for the Marlins, and earned an 0-1 record with 8 saves.  In a total of 27 innings, he gave up 33 hits and 17 runs, for a 5.53 ERA.  In New Orleans, he made 14 relief appearances, going 0-1 with 5 saves, and allowing 10 runs on 19 hits in 14 innings (6.43 ERA).  He did not pitch after the end of July, and was granted free agency in November. Wood was signed by the Nationals six days later, but was released in spring training.  
*UPDATE* – Wood signed a minor league contract with the Pirates.  That could mean Indianapolis for him. 

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2011 Prospect Watching: Cunningham, Gonzalez, And Friends

Continuing to look at the middle infielders in the Pirates’ minor league organization:

Jarek Cunningham —  R/R,  6′ 1″,  185 lb
Cunningham was the Pirates’ 18th round pick in the 2008 draft.  After a solid debut with the GCL Pirates (.318 average with 5 homers and 22 RBI), he missed the entire 2009 season due to knee surgery.  He returned with a healthy knee in 2010, assigned to West Virginia.  Cunningham jumped right out to a good start, hitting .304 in April, with a homer and 5 RBI.  He slumped in May to just .194, with 2 more homers and 5 RBI.   Then he popped up again in June, with a .317 average, 3 homers, and a big 17 RBI.  The average slipped a little in July, to .279, though the power production continued, with 4 homers and 14 RBI.  The slip continued into August, as he dropped to .214 with 2 homers and 6 RBI.  He finished the season with a .258 average, and not much left-right difference (.265 against lefties and .256 against righties).  He had 37 doubles, 7 triples, 12 homers, and 49 RBI.  He struck out a lot — 132 times in 121 games (27%), and that rate was highest in July and August.  He walked just 30 times (5.6%), and that was best in June and July.  Cunningham played entirely at second base during the 2010 season (2008 was split between shortstop and third).  Now that there is less concern about his knee, and with his good range and arm, he could spend time at shortstop too.  The 21-year-old should be ready for A+ Bradenton for 2011.  He’ll need to work on plate discipline and cutting back on the strikeouts.  

Benji Gonzalez  –  R/R,  5′ 11″,  160 lb
Gonzalez was picked in the 7th round of the 2008 draft, coming out of the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy.  After two seasons in the GCL, Gonzalez was promoted to West Virginia for the 2010 season.  He had hit a solid .286 in the GCL in 2009, but that did not carry over to 2010 with the Power.  He hit .196 in the first half of the season, then he improved to .279 for the second half, for a .236 average overall.  Gonzalez has limited power, with just 12 doubles, one triple, one homer, and 35 RBI in 2010.  He stole 18 bases, but was also thrown out 14 times, so that needs some improvement.  Gonzalez was the main shortstop for West Virginia in 2010, and showed strong defensive play with good range and a strong arm.  He’ll need to work on cutting back on the errors (32) of course.  After the regular season, Gonzalez went back to Puerto Rico and played in 19 games for the Puerto Rican Winter League’s Gigantes de Carolina.  He did not hit well there either, just .184 with 2 doubles.   Despite the low hitting, Gonzalez will likely be assigned to A+ Bradenton for 2011, where his hitting will need to improve.

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Two Hits For Marte In The Dominican League

Cheering for the Pirates’ players and friends in Tuesday’s winter league action…
I’ll be going on the road for a few days… catch up with everyone at the beginning of next week.

VENEZUELAN LEAGUE

Cardenales de Lara  6,  Tigres de Aragua  2  –  Los Tigres were held to 5 hits.  They scored their 2 runs in the 7th inning on a walk, a triple, and a single.  Aragua also had two singles in the 3rd inning but didn’t score, and 3 walks in the 6th, but a double play and a pop out ended that inning without a run scoring.  Los Tigres’ only other hit in the game was a double by 1B Hector Gimenez to lead off the 9th inning.  Raul Chavez pinch hit in the 9th, but popped out to end the game.  Lastings Milledge started the game in left field, and popped out to end the 2nd inning (with no runners on base).  He was removed from the game as the bottom half of the inning began, but no explanation was given.  CF Jorge Cortes went 0-for-3 for Los Tigres.  Former Indy Indian C Alex Delgado had an RBI single in the 4th for Lara, and doubled and scored on a 2-run homer in the 6th. 

Bravos de Margarita  2,  Navegantes del Magallanes  1  –  Pitching ruled for the first 6 innings of this game.  Margarita scored a run in the 7th on two singles and added another run in the 8th on a walk and two more singles.  Los Navegantes scored just one run, which came in the bottom of the 9th, on a walk and a double.  Justin Thomas took the mound in relief for Los Bravos to begin the bottom of the 5th.  He worked around a lead-off single for a scoreless 5th, then loaded the bases on two singles, a sacrifice bunt, and an intentional walk to begin the 6th inning.  Edgar Martinez relieved Thomas and got a strikeout and pop out to end the inning with the bases still loaded.  Ronald Belisario earned his 7th save for Margarita, even though he was responsible for Los Navegantes’ run in the 9th.  

Leones del Caracas  5,  Caribes del Anzoategui  4  –  Four runs in the top of the 9th were not enough for Los Caribes to catch up to Los Leones.  Adenson Chourio came into the game to pinch-run in the 9th, with the bases loaded and one run already walked in.  A double lined into center field scored the runners from second and third, but Chourio was out at the plate on the throw in from center field.  C Carlos Maldonado was the one who tagged out Chourio.  Maldonado’s lead-off homer in the 8th gave Caracas what turned out to be the winning run.  He also singled in the 2nd and walked in the 6th.   

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Pirates Hitting In Venezuela, But Not In The Dominican

Cheering for some Pirates’ players and friends in Tuesday’s winter league action…�� The Australians are back in action on Thursday, which will be late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning for most of us.

VENEZUELAN LEAGUE

Tigres de Aragua� 6,� Bravos de Margarita� 0� — A Pirate-filled game… 2B/3B Andy LaRoche singled twice and walked for Los Bravos, but his teammates could not get him or anyone else pushed across the plate.� LaRoche singled to lead off the 2nd inning, went to second on a fielding error, and to third on a wild pitch, but he was out at the plate on what seems to have been a wild pitch or passed ball.� LaRoche worked the second of two walks in the 4th inning, but was erased in an inning-ending double play.� Another double play took him off the bases in the 9th, after another lead-off single.� Meanwhile, the Pirates playing for Los Tigres also got off to a frustrating start.� DH Hector Gimenez walked in the 2nd, and LF Lastings Milledge followed by beating out a tapper back to the mound.� But a double play ended that inning without a run scoring.� It got better in the 5th, when Milledge walked, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, then scored on CF Jorge Cortes’ RBI double into right field.� A single and a home run by C Wilson Ramos gave Los Tigres 2 more runs in the 6th.� In the 8th, with two on (walk and single) and two outs, Jhonathan Ramos came on to pitch for Los Bravos.� Gimenez was the first batter he faced� — and he blasted a 3-run over the left field wall, to give Aragua a 6-0 lead.� Ramos got Milledge to ground out to end the inning, and he was relieved for the next inning.� So, one hit each for Gimenez, Milledge, and Cortes, but an 0-for-4 night for SS Ronny Cedeno.

Caribes de Anzoategui� 7,� Tiburones de La Guaira� 1� — The score was tied at 1-1 going into the bottom of the 8th, when Los Caribes exploded for 6 runs.� After a lead-off double, Adenson Chourio was brought in to pinch-hit.� He was intentionally walked, and a sacrifice bunt put both runners into scoring position.� Another intentional walk loaded the bases, then an unintentional walk forced in the go-ahead run.� An RBI grounder plated Chourio, then back-to-back homers, 3-run and solo, gave Los Caribes all the insurance they would need.

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Milledge, LaRoche, and Cedeno Rolling In Venezuela

A few winter league games with Pirates’ players and friends on Saturday…

VENEZUELAN LEAGUE

Aguilas de Zulia� 2,� Caribes de Anzoategui� 1�� (Game 1 and Game 2)� – No kidding, the same score in both games.� Zulia recorded 6 hits in both games also.� In the first game, Los Caribes were held to just two hits, and their only run scored on a walk, a ground out, and an RBI double in the 2nd inning.� Zulia scored a run in the 1st on a pair of singles and a throwing error.� The tie-breaker scored in the 4th inning on two singles and a double play.� Adenson Chourio came in to pinch run for Los Caribes in the top of the 7th after a walk.� He got as far as third base on a bunt and a ground out, but was left there when the game ended.� The second game began with Los Aguilas scoring 2 runs on two walks and a 2-RBI single in the 1st inning.� Los Caribes had 7 hits in this game, but still scored only one run, again on two singles and a double play.� Chourio made the start at shortstop in this game, but went 0-for-2 at the plate.

Leones del Caracas� 8,� Tiburones de La Guaira� 6� — A 3-run homer made the difference for Caracas in the 8th inning.� Los Leones scored their first run in the 1st on a walk and an RBI single.� They added 2 more in the 4th, on a double, and two RBI singles, one by C Carlos Maldonado.� Maldonado ended the inning when he was thrown out trying to steal second base — something that would not surprise Indy Indians’ fans.

Navegantes del Magallanes� 4,� Cardenales de Lara� 0� — Los Cardenales posted just 3 hits in the shutout.� Los Navegantes scored 2 runs in the 4th, on three singles, a walk, and two wild pitches.� They added another pair in the 7th, when they got a single and a walk off Lara reliever Romulo Sanchez.� Sanchez was relieved, but two more singles drove in the 2 runs.� DH Mike Ryan went 0-for-3 for Los Navegantes.

Bravos de Margarita� 6,� Tigres de Aragua� 4� — Los Tigres got onto the scoreboard first with 3 runs in the 3rd inning.� A walk and a single opened the inning.� SS Ronny Cedeno struck out, but a wild pitch on strike three let the runners advance one base.� LF Lastings Milledge hit a fielder’s choice to his Pirate teammate 3B Andy LaRoche, who threw to the plate to get the lead runner out.� But moments later, LaRoche’s error at third let a run score, and two mroe runs came in on an RBI single.� Los Bravos came back with 5 runs in the top fo the 4th.� LaRoche hit the middle of three consecutive singles to open the inning, scoring a run.� A walk loaded the bases, and C Henry Blanco cleared them with a grand slam.� Aragua got one run back with a homer in the bottom of the 4th, to make the score 5-4, with Margarita ahead.� Blanco singled in the 9th, and scored again for Margarita, on a fielding error by Cedeno.� Ronald Belisario came on to pitch for Margarita in the 9th inning.� He earned his 5th save, despite giving up two singles, including one to pinch-hitter Hector Gimenez. A double play ended the inning for Belisario.� C Raul Chavez also had a single for Aragua.

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