Former Pirates Help Aragua Into The Championship

Cheering for the Pirates’ players and friends in the winter league playoff games on Saturday night…

VENEZUELAN LEAGUE
Tigres de Aragua  5,  Leones de Caracas  2  –  
The Big Cats had to have a one-game playoff because they finished tied for second place in the round robin tournament.  Former Pirate farmhand Ronald Uviedo made the start for Los Leones, and while he made it through the first inning, Los Tigres got to him in the next three innings.  DH Hector Gimenez blasted a solo homer in the 2nd inning.  A walk, a sacrifice bunt by CF Jorge Cortes, and two RBI’s on a double and a single gave Aragua another 2 runs in the 3rd inning.  LF Lastings Milledge started the 4th inning rally with a walk, moved to second on a ground out, and to third on a wild pitch.  An RBI single plated Milledge, and sent Uviedo to the showrs.  The Caracas reliever gave up a single to Cortes, then another RBI single gave Aragua their final run.  Caracas scored their first run on a solo homer by LF Mike Ryan in the 2nd inning.  Ryan also singled in the 7th inning, and came around to score from first base on 2B Jose Castillo’s RBI double.  Castillo singled in the bottom of the 9th, and C Carlos Maldonado reached base on an error, and was replaced by a pinch-runner.  With two outs, Wil Ledezma came on to make the final out, earning a save.  Los Tigres will now face Los Caribes in the championship series.  

DOMINICAN LEAGUE
Toros del Este
  11,  Estrellas de Oriente  2  –  Los Toros posted 14 hits as they ran over Los Estrellas, who hurt their own cause with 6 errors.  The scoring began with 3 runs in the top of the 1st.  SS Pedro Ciriaco began a rally in the 3rd with a lead-off single.  He scored on a fielding error and a single, and an RBI ground out brought in another run.  A walk, a single, and another error in the 4th made the score 6-0.  Los Estrellas got onto the scoreboard with a solo homer in the 6th, and scored again with two singles in the 7th.  Los Toros kept going, though, scoring 2 runs in the 7th on yet another error, a walk, and a double.  Ciriaco walked in the 8th, and scored on a 3-run homer.  Ciriaco singled in the 6th as well.  Franquelis Osoria pitched the top of the 9th for Los Estrellas, and worked around his teammates’ 6th error to keep Los Toros from scoring in that inning.  Los Toros now lead the championship series 4 games to none, and need one more for the series sweep.  

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Roster Updates And Playoff Games

An update on some recent roster moves by the Pirates:

Pitcher Jose Veras took a few days, but did sign a minor league contract with the Pirates.  Veras is a 30-year-old who was first signed by the Rays in 1998.  He began playing in the US in 2002, and split both the 2003 and 2004 at the AA and AAA levels.  He was granted free agency after 2004 and was signed by the Rangers for 2005, spending that season at the AAA level, where he made 57 relief appearances with a 3.80 ERA.  Veras signed with the Yankees after that, and pitched in their organization for the next 3+ seasons.  He split that time between the AAA level (2.56 ERA in 95 innings, with 115 strikeouts) and the major league club (4.50 ERA in 102 innings, with 94 strikeouts).  The 2008 season was his best of those, with 60 relief appearances for the Yankees and 3.59 ERA and a 5-3 record.  In 2009, the Yankees traded Veras to the Cleveland Indians, where he finished the last 3 months of the season.  The Dominican native made 22 relief appearances for Cleveland with a 1-2 record and a 4.38 ERA, with 22 strikeouts.  He signed with the Marlins for 2010 and began the season in AAA New Orleans.  He began the season slowly, but got better in May and was tough in June:  a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings (10 games) with 12 strikeouts.  That earned him a promotion to the Marlins, where he finished the season with 48 relief appearances.  In 48 innings, he earned a 3-3 record and a 3.75 ERA with 54 strikeouts.  Veras did not play winter ball this off-season.  The righty will be competing for a spot in the Pirates’ bullpen

C Wyatt Toregas has also been inked to a minor league contract.  He was the Cleveland Indians’ 24th pick in the 2004 draft, and began his pro career in 2005, reaching the AAA level in 3008 and the major leagues in 2009.  Toregas hit .284 for the Columbus Clippers (AAA) in 60 games in 2009, with 7 homers and 69 RBI.  In 19 appearances for the Indians in that season, he hit only.176 with 6 RBI.  The Virginia native was still on the Indians’ 40-man roster at the beginning of 2010, but spent the entire season in the minor leagues, possibly battling injuries.  At AA Akron, he got into just 17 games, hitting .203 with one home run and 6 RBI.  At AAA Columbus, he was in just 14 games and hit .200 with 2 homers and 6 RBI.  He has a slim chance of sticking with the Pirates out of spring training, but will more likely be in Indianapolis to begin 2011.

In addition to Veras and Toregas, a few other minor leaguers have been invited to big league camp for spring training:  catchers Tony Sanchez and Eric Fryer, infielders Chase d’Arnaud and Brian Friday, and outfielder Andrew Lambo.  

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Milledge Drives In The Winning Run For Aragua

The Caribbean leagues continue their playoffs, though the Mexican Pacific League has the night off….

PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Leones de Ponce  5,  Senadores de San Juan  2  –  
Reliever JR Rodriguez earned his first playoff save with a perfect 9th inning for Los Leones.  His teammates broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the 7th with a 2-run homer, followed by another run on two singles, a sacrifice bunt, and a wild pitch.

Criollos de Caguas  4,  Gigantes de Carolina  0  –  Los Gigantes were held to just 4 hits, and even with 5 walks, they could not push a run across the plate.  Los Criollos were held to just 3 hits, but they took advantage of 7 walks, 3 hit batters, and 2 errors to score their 4 runs.  Their first run came in the bottom of the 1st, on a hit batter, a sacrifice bunt by SS Luis Figueroa, two walks, and a sacrifice fly.  3B Ramon Vazquez led off the 4th with a single, and he came around to score with help from a bunt, a wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly.  Los Criollos’ final two runs scored in the 6th, and with just one hit.  Vazquez reached on a fielding error, then a hit batter, a balk, and a sacrifice fly brought him in.  Figueroa drove in the final run with an RBI double.

DOMINICAN LEAGUE
Gigantes del Cibao  7,  Toros del Este  5  –  
Los Toros began the scoring with 4 runs in the bottom of the 4th — three singles, and a 3-run homer.  Los Gigantes answered with 4 runs of their own in the top of the 5th, on 5 singles and a sacrifice fly.  One of the singles, which loaded the bases, came off the bat of CF Rich Thompson.  Los Toros scored one more run in the bottom of the 5th, but Los Gigantes scored 3 in the top of the 7th, with 4 singles and a sacrifice fly.  

Leones del Escogido  2,  Estrellas de Oriente  1  –  Ronny Paulino, making a rare appearance playing first base, drove in Los Estrellas only run with an RBI ground out in the 1st inning.  With one out in the 6th, Los Leones popped two singles.  Franquelis Osoria came on to pitch for Los Estrellas, but the only batter he faced hit an RBI single to tie the game.  Another single brought in the go-ahead run.  

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Nice Start For Claggett, Key Doubles For Ciriaco and Noris

MLB’s winter meetings begin tomorrow (Monday).  Stay tuned for news of trades, moves, shifts, Rule 5 draft, etc.  
A few of Sunday’s winter league games with Pirates’ players and friends participating:

VENEZUELAN LEAGUE
Cardenales de Lara  3,  Bravos de Margarita 1  –  Anthony Claggett
pitched 4 innings in his start for Los Bravos, and allowed one unearned run on a hit and a walk in the night-cap of a double-header.  The run came in the bottom of the 1st, when a single and a throwing error at third base put the lead-off runner on second base.  A sacrifice bunt and an RBI ground out brought in the unearned run.  After a walk, Claggett retired 10 of the 11 remaining batters he faced — he hit one batter with a pitch.  Los Bravos scored their run in the top of the 1st, on a double, a bunt, and a sacrifice fly.  Claggett left the game with the score tied.  He was relieved by Edgar Martinez, who began the bottom of the 5th by allowing a walk, a sacrifice bunt, and a 2-run homer, which gave Lara the win.  

Aguilas de Zulia  6,  Tigres de Aragua  1  –  SS Ronny Cedeno and CF Lastings Milledge each had a single in the 8th inning, and Milledge also walked in the 4th, but neither came around to score in Los Tigres’ loss.  Aragua’s only run was scored in the top of the 9th, on a triple and an RBI single.  Zulia scored their 6 runs on 13 hits, scattered over 5 of their 8 at-bats.  C Raul Chavez, C Miguel Perez, and pinch-hitter Jorge Cortes were all hitless for Los Tigres.  

Leones del Caracas   8,  Navegantes del Magallanes  4  –  Corey Hamman pitched a scoreless inning for Los  Navegantes in their loss.  Caracas had already scored 2 runs in each of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th innings, and Los Navegantes had scored a pair of runs on a 2-run homer in the 4th and one more run in the 7th on a double, a single, and an RBI ground out.  The first batter in the top of the 8th was hit by a pitch, and Hamman entered the game with that runner on first base.  He gave up a walk but retired three batters to get out of the inning without allowing a run to score.  Los Navegantes scored one more run in the bottom of the 9th on a hit batter and two singles, but it wasn’t enough.

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Cedeno and Milledge Homer, Morton Pitches 6 Scoreless

Winter league action with the Pirates’ players and friends on Wednesday…

VENEZUELAN LEAGUE

Tigres de Aragua� 6,� Bravos de Margarita� 0� (Game 1) — SS Ronny Cedeno’s 3-run homer in the 4th inning put the game away for Los Tigres.� Aragua scored one run in each of the first three innings.� A single, a sacrifice bunt by Cedeno, and an RBI single by DH Hector Gimenez plated the run in the 1st inning.� A walk, a single by CF Jorge Cortes, and an RBI ground out brought in the run in the 2nd.� Gimenez also drove in the run in the 3rd with another RBI single.� LF/RF Lastings Milledge was hitless in this game, as was Margarita’s 3B Andy LaRoche. Los Bravos were held to just 3 hits.

Tigres de Aragua� 2,� Bravos de Margarita� 0� (Game 2)� – RF Lastings Milledge blasted a solo homer over the left field wall in the top of the 1st, and that was all the scoring Los Tigres needed.� Milledge added another RBI in the 7th inning with a single to give Aragua some insurance, and he also walked in the 3rd inning.� Los Tigres needed only 5 hits in the game, with 1B Hector Gimenez getting one of those.� CF Jorge Cortes walked in three trips to the plate, but SS Cedeno and C Raul Chavez were both hitless.� 3B Andy LaRoche singled to lead off the 2nd inning for Margarita, but did not score.

Aguilas de Zulia� 5,� Navegantes del Magallanes� 1� — DH Mike Ryan scored Magallanes’ only run, which came in the 6th inning, when he singled, then scored on an RBI double.� Ryan also singled in the 1st inning.� Zulia scored one run in both the 1st and 2nd innings, then 2 more in the 6th, and one in the 7th.� Corey Hamman took the mound in relief in the 7th, with two outs and a runner on 2nd base.� He gave up an RBI single to the only batter he faced, though the run was charged to the previous pitcher.

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