Wins For Ascanio And Ledezma, Loss For Nieve

Looking in on Pirates’ players and friend in Monday’s winter league action:

VENEZUELAN LEAGUE
Leones del Caracas  6,  Cardenales de Lara  5  —  
Two runs in the bottom of the 9th gave Los Leones and Jose Ascanio the win.  Los Cardenales were leading 5-4 in the top of the 8th, when Ascanio came in from the bullpen with one out and a runner on first base.  Ascanio’s catcher picked the runner off first base, recorded as a caught stealing, then Ascanio got a ground out to end the inning.  He gave up a single in the top of the 9th, but kept Los Cardenales from scoring.  Then in the bottom of the 9th, with Ray Sadler coming in to play center field for Lara, Los Leones eked out a single and a walk.  A passed ball on ball four put runners on the corners for Los Leones.  A single into center field drove n the run from third, for the walk-off win.  Ascanio was the pitcher of record, so was credited with his first Venezuelan League win.  

Bravos de Margarita  4,  Caribes de Anzoategui  0  —  LF Jose Tabata went 0-for-3 with a walk for Los Caribes, who recorded 8 hits, but could not push any of their base runners across the plate.  They left a total of 11 runners on base and were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.  Los Bravos scored 3 runs in the 5th, on a double, two singles, a walk, and a fielding error.  A solo homer added a fourth run in the 6th.  Jhonathan Ramos came on to pitch for Margarita in the 7th, with two outs.  He loaded the bases with a single and two walks, then was relieved, but due to Los Caribes’ lack of luck, another reliever got Tabata to fly out to end the inning, leaving three runners on base.

Aguilas de Zulia  6,  Navegantes del Magallanes  3  —  Fernando Nieve struggled through 2.2 innings and was eventually charged with the loss for Magallanes.  He gave up a solo homer to the second batter of the game, then gave up two runs in the 2nd on two singles and a double.  Three singles and a double steal brought in two more runs for Zulia in the 3rd, and that was all for Nieve — 5 runs on 8 hits, no walks, with 4 strikeouts.  Two more singles added another run for Los Aguilas in the top of the 7th.  Los Navegantes started their scoring in the bottom of the 7th.  Former Pirate farmhand JR House, who made the jump over from the Dominican League, came into the game as a pinch-runner after a 2-out single.  A walk and an RBI single allowed House to score Magallanes’ first run.  House remained in the game to play first base, and he flied out in the 9th.  A walk, a double, and a fielding error gave Los Navegantes 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th.  

Tigres de Aragua  7,  Tiburones de La Guaira  3  —  Wil Ledezma also earned his first Venezuelan League win with 1.2 hitless and scoreless innings of work.  Los Tigres started scoring in the bottom of the 1st, when SS Ronny Cedeno reached base on a fielding error, then scored on a double.  C Raul Chavez blasted a 2-run homer in the 2nd, to give Aragua a 3-0 lead.  Los Tiburones scored 2 runs in the top of the 3rd on three singles and two walks, then tied the score in the top of the 4th on a double, a bunt, and an RBI ground out.  Ledezma came in from the bullpen in the 4th, and ended the 4th, then retired the side in order in the 5th.  He was still the pitcher of record when Los Tigres scored 3 runs in the bottom of the 5th.  Chavez walked, and moved to second base on CF Jorge Cortes’ sacrifice bunt.  Cedeno singled, putting runners on the corners, then a sacrifice fly plated Chavez.  A 2-run homer by DH Wilson Ramos brought in Cedeno.  1B Hector Gimenez also doubled after the homer.  Three walks, including one by Gimenez, and a wild pitch gave Los Tigres an insurance run in the 8th.  

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Dominican Playoffs Begin

Back in action…. cheering for some Pirates’ players and friends in Sunday’s winter league action:

DOMINICAN LEAGUE
Gigantes del Cibao  11,  Toros del Este  7  —  
The Dominican League’s round robin playoff series began this evening, and Los Gigantes took their first game with a 6-run 8th inning.   Los Toros scored 4 runs in the 1st and 3 runs in the 6th, but it wasn’t enough.  SS Pedro Ciriaco went 0-for-4 for Los Toros, and he also reached base on a fielding error in the 6th, which allowed a run to score.  Former Pirate Juan Perez pitched to one batter for Los Gigantes, finishing the 6th inning after Los Toros’ runs had scored.

PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Senadores de San Juan  3,  Gigantes de Carolina  1  —  
2B Benji Gonzalez and CF Luis Matos were both hitless for Los Gigantes, who scored their only run in the 8th inning, on a single and a double.  Former Pirate farmhand Eric Krebs came on to pitch the bottom of the 5th for Los Gigantes, which he began with a ground out.  But a walk, a single, and Krebs’ own throwing error on a pick-off attempt brought in one run for San Juan.  A wild pitch and another fielding error added a second run, and Krebs was relieved.  Los Senadores scored again in the 6th on a walk, a stolen base, and an RBI single.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE
Venados de Mazatlan  9,  Caneros de los Mochis  6  —  
Los Venados scored 5 runs in the first two innings,a nd did not give up their lead, as they posted a total of 15 hits.  Rogelios Noris entered the game as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the 6th, to play right field.  He had one plate appearance, in which he struck out.  Then in the bottom of the 9th, Noris moved to the infield to play second base — something he hasn’t done for at least 2 season, if he played there at all in the VSL.  He’s not a natural there — he made a throwing error which extended the game, though no runs scored because of it.

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A Save For Ascanio, Big Hits for Cedeno and Gimenez

The Dominican League has finished regular season play.  The four top teams — Estrellas de Oriente, Leones del Escogido, Toros del Este, and Gigantes del Cibao — will begin a round robin playoff tournament on Sunday.  Los Estrellas, Los Leones, and Los Toros all finished the regular season with identical 27-22 records, in a 3-way tie for first place.  In the Dominican League, the four top teams are allowed to “draft” players from the other two teams to help them out during the playoffs.  Los Estrellas drafted C Ronny Paulino from Los Tigres del Licey.  Los Leones drafted Indy area native 1B/OF Jake Fox from Los Tigres.  Los Gigantes drafted OF Kevin Melillo from Los Aguilas Cibaenas.  

The Venezuelan and Puerto Rican Leagues have both Friday and Saturday off, and resume play on Sunday.  The Mexican Pacific League has Friday off, but has a full slate of games scheduled for Christmas evening.

And, a few other minor league contracts signed by former Pirate farmhands:  C Michel Hernandez re-signed with the Orioles, INF Ray Chang signed with the Twins, and P Derek Hankins signed with the Rangers.

OK, on to Thursday night’s action for the Pirates’ players and friends:

PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Gigantes del Carolina  5,  Indios de Mayaguez  4  —  
Los Gigantes scored 2 runs in the 1st and 4th innings, and a single run in the 3rd, then held off late-inning pushes by Los Indios to get the win.  2B Benji Gonzalez signled in the 2nd inning, but was picked off first base.  

Criollos de Caguas  6,  Senadores de San Juan  3  —  Two walks, a single, a sacrifice fly, and a 2-run triple gave San Juan a 3-run lead in the bottom of the 1st inning, but that was all the scoring they would do.  Los Criollos started their come-back in the 3rd inning, with a walk, a single, and a 2-RBI double by 3B Ramon Vazquez.  A hit batter and a double plated a single run in the 4th, then two errors and an RBI single by Vazquez brought in another run in the 5th.  A 2-run homer added their final runs in the 8th.

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Personnel Shuffles; Loss For Nieve

Several moves, shuffling personnel around:

RHP Joe Martinez, who came to the Pirates from the Giants (with John Bowker) in July, was removed from the Pirates’ 40-man roster and designated for assignment.  That frees up a roster spot for newly signed starter Kevin Correia.  Martinez joined the Indy Indians after coming to the Pirate organization, and made 4 starts and 3 relief appearances for the Indians.  In 28 innings, he earned a 1-2 record and a 5.72 ERA.  Then he pitched 8.2 innings over 5 games for the Pirates, for a 3.12 ERA.  

Spring Training invitations for the big league camp were extended to pitchers Rudy Owens and Justin Wilson, both of whom pitched in Altoona in 2010.  Tyler Yates, working his way back from elbow surgery, was signed to a minor league contract and also invited to major league spring training. Infielder Jeff Clement was also invited to big league camp.   

The Pirates have announced the new managers for their minor league teams:  Dean Treanor, who was the pitching coach in Indianapolis in 2010, will now be managing the Indians.  Frank Kremblas, who has managed in Indianapolis for two years, will move into the role of minor league field/instructional coordinator.  PJ Forbes, who managed the Bradenton Marauders in 2010, will manage the Altoona Curve in 2011.  Carlos Garcia will move from coaching first base for the Pirates to managing the Marauders.  Gary Robinson is moving up from managing the State College Spikes to managing the West Virginia Power, and Dave Turgeon, former coach at Virginia Tech, will become the manager at State College.   

And, some winter league action for some Pirates’ players and friends:

PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Gigantes de Carolina  4,  Indios de Mayaguez  2  —  
For the second night in a row, Benji Gonzalez came into the game as a pinch-hitter for Los Gigantes, then remained in the game on defense.  Gonzalez flied out in the top of the 6th, then played second base for one inning, and shortstop for 3 innings.  He also grounded out in the 9th.  Los Gigantes scored one run in the 2nd, 2 in the 4th, and one more in the 5th, while a triple and a double contributed to Los Indios’ 2 runs in the 7th.

Criollos de Caguas  7,  Senadores de San Juan  2  —  Former Indy Indian SS Luis Figueroa had another big night, going 4-for-5 with 3 doubles, a homer, and 4 RBI.  Figueroa flied out in the bottom of the 1st, and that was the only time he was retired.  His ground-rule double drive in Los Criollos’ first run in the 3rd.  He doubled again (the conventional way) in the 4th, driving in 2 of that inning’s 3 runs.  Then he homered to lead off the bottom of the 6th.  He also doubled in the 8th, but was left on base.  Los Criollos scored 2 runs in the 5th, without Figueroa’s help:  three walks, including one by 3B Ramon Vazquez,  loaded the bases, then a double brought in two runs.  Vazquez also walked in the 2nd inning, but did not score.

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Slow Offense In Winter League Play

Shortstop signings:  Former Pirate Brian Bixler has signed a minor league contract with the Nationals, and will likely be back to face the Indy Indians as a member of the Syracuse Chiefs.  Former Pirate Argenis Diaz, who was not offered a contract by the Pirates after this season, has signed a minor league contract with the Tigers.  We will likely see him again as a member of the Toledo Mudhens.

Cheering for Pirates’ players and friends in Tuesday’s winter league action: 

DOMINICAN LEAGUE   — Final regular season games
Leones del Escogido  6,  Toros del Este  2  —  
Los Leones’ 4-run 6th inning gave them plenty of offense.  Los Toros were held to just 4 hits, with only one hit over the first 6 innings.  They scored one run in the 7th on a triple and a sacrifice fly, and one in the 9th on a single, a double, and an RBI ground out.  SS Pedro Ciriaco struck out in all three of his at-bats and also committed a fielding error which led to a run in the 4th.  

PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Gigantes de Carolina  5,  Senadores  de San Juan  4  — Benji Gonzalez
got into a game for Los Gigantes for the first time in over a month.  He entered the game in the top of the 8th to pinch-run after a double.  A fly out moved him to third base, but he was left there when the inning ended.  Then Gonzalez remained in the game to play second base, where he made 2 plays.  Los Senadores scored 3 runs in the 1st inning, an were leading 4-3 going into the 9th.  A 2-run homer in the top of the 9th gave Los Gigantes the win.  

 
VENEZUELAN LEAGUE
Cardenales de Lara  6,  Tiburones de La Guaira  3  —  
Former Indy Indian (2008) TJ Beam made his Venezuelan League debut for Los Tiburones, but it was not a happy start.  He faced 4 batters and allowed 2 singles and 2 walks, with one run scoring before he was relieved.  A wild pitch by his relief and a double gave Lara 4 runs in the top of the 1st.  They added single runs in the 7th and 9th innings.  Los Tiburones cut the early lead in half with 2 runs in the 3rd.  Then in the bottom of the 8th, Los Tiburones homered off Lara’s reliever Romulo Sanchez, who gave up 2 walks after the homer.  

Caribes de Anzoategui  7,  Tigres de Aragua  3  (Game 1) —  Los Caribes scored 5 runs in their last two at-bats for the come-from-behind win.  In the 5th, a single, a sacrifice bunt, a wild pitch, and a walk put Caribes on the corners.  LF Jose Tabata reached base on a throwing error, which allowed the runner on third to score.  A double drove in two more runs (including Tabata).  The 6th inning began with a pair of walks and a triple brought those runners across the plate.  Tabata also singled in the 1st inning, when Los Caribes scored one run, but he was out at third base.  Los Caribes also scored a run in the 2nd.  Los Tigres began the game with a 2-run homer in the top of the 1st, and they added another run on a walk and a double in the 5th.  1B Hector Gimenez singled for Aragua after the home run in the 1st.  SS Ronny Cedeno and CF Jorge Cortes were both hitless in the first game of the double header.  

Caribes  5,  Tigres  0  (Game 2)  —  Cedeno, Cortes, and Gimenez were all hitless in the night-cap, as Los Tigres were held to just 3 hits.  Los Caribes scored 3 runs in the 1st and 2 more in the 2nd.  Tabata did not get into the game.  
 

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