Former Pirates Help Aragua Into The Championship

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

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.  

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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Ascanio Earns Win Despite Big Hits By Milledge And Gimenez

Checking in on Pirates’ players and friends in the winter league playoffs on Monday…

 Criollos de Caguas  2,  Senadores de San Juan  1 —
Los Criollos broke a 1-1 tie with a run in the bottom of the 9th.  SS Luis Figueroa walked, and moved to second base on a balk.  After an intentional walk, an RBI single let the speedy Figueroa score from second base for the walk-off win.  The win moves Caguas into second place in the round robin tournament, with Los Leones de Ponce in first place, San Juan in third, and Carolina fourth.

Leones de Caracas  8,  Tigres de Aragua  5  —  
Los Tigres de Aragua posted 15 hits, but their 4 errors came back to hurt them.  Caracas scored first, with 2 runs in the top of the 1st, on 3 singles and an error.  Los Tigres responded with 2 runs in the bottom of the inning, on a walk, and 3 singles, including liners up the middle by 1B Hector Gimenez and LF Lastings Milledge.  C Carlos Maldonado gave Los Leones the lead again in the top of the 4th with a solo home run.  Milledge tied the score again in the bottom of the frame with a lead-off single, scoring on a double and a sacrifice fly.  Then Aragua forged ahead to score 2 runs in the 5th, on a lead-off double, an RBI double by Gimenez, and an RBI single by Milledge.  Two singles and an error gave them another run in the 6th, for a 6-3 lead.  Caracas came closer in the 7th inning, when Maldonado led off with a walk.  Another walk and two RBI singles brought in 2 runs, cutting Los Tigres’ lead to 6-5.  The top of the 9th began with a single, a sacrifice bunt, and an RBI double for Los Leones.  A walk and a single added another run, but a fielding error by Milledge in left field allowed the go-ahead
run to score.  Los Tigres could not answer in the bottom of the inning.  1B Raul Chavez singled for Los Tigres, but did not score.  LF Mike Ryan was hitless for Los Leones.  Jose Ascanio pitched the bottom of the 8th for Caracas.  He gave up 2 singles, but left both runners on base.  He was the pitcher of record when the winning runs scored in the top of the 9th, so was credited with the win.  

Los Caribes de Anzoategui beat Los Aguilas de Zulia 5-2 in the other Venezuelan game.  There is still another week to go in this round robin tournament.  Tonight’s results mean that Los Caribes, Los Leones, and Los Tigres are all tied in first place with identical 8-5 records.  

The Dominican League round robin playoffs ended with Los Toros del Este on top.  Los Estrellas de Oriente and Los Gigantes del Cibao tied for second place, and Los Leones del Escogido finished in fourth place.  Los Estrellas will face Los Toros del Este in the championship series.

The Mexican Pacific League was off on Monday.  Los Algodoneros de Guasave are leading Los Tomateros de Culiacan 3 games to 2 in the semifinal round of the playoffs.  The winner of this 7-game series will face Los Yaquis de Obregon in the finals.  

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Triple For Gonzalez and Homers For House, Gimenez, and Chavez

Cheering for Pirates’ players and friends in the few winter league playoff games on Sunday….

Gigantes del Cibao  8,  Toros del Este  2 —  
A 7-run 7th inning by Los Gigantes included a 2-run homer and a 3-run homer, and it gave them all the firepower they would need.  Former Indy Indian Tim Harikkala finished the 5th inning after Los Toros scored their runs, then loaded the bases with a double and two walks in the 6th, though another reliever was able to end the inning without a run scoring.  Juan Perez pitched the 8th inning for Los Gigantes and struck out the side.  

Leones de Ponce  7,  Gigantes de Carolina   6  —  
2B Benji Gonzalez singled and tripled for Los Gigantes, but Ponce pulled it out with 2 runs in the bottom of the 10th.  Los Gigantes began the game with 3 runs in the top of the 1st.  They added a run in the 6th on a single and Gonzalez’s RBI triple.  A double and a single gave them another run in the 7th.  Los Leones scored one run in the 5th, then tied the score with 3 walks and a grand slam in the 7th.  The game went into extra innings, but Carolina quickly scored a run in the top of the 10th with a single and a double.  But in the bottom of the frame, Ponce had a runner reach base on an error, and a 2-run homer gave them the walk-off win.  Gonzalez also singled in the 4th but was caught stealing.  

Senadores de San Juan  8,  Criollos de Caguas  2  —  Another game with 3 runs scored in the top of the 1st, and Los Criollos were chasing Los Senadores for the rest of the game.   Los Criollos scored their runs in the 7th, on a pair of doubles and an RBI single by 3B Ramon Vazquez.  SS Luis Figueroa singled in the 4th, but was left on base.  

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Save For Rodriguez, Win For Machi

A few signing notes for former Pirates, all minor league contracts:  
1B Brad Eldred signed with the Giants,  P Ian Snell and INF Ramon Vazquez signed with the Cardinals, and OF Matt Kata signed with the Rangers.  

Cheering for a few Pirates’ players and friends in the winter league playoffs….

Leones de Ponce  2,  Criollos de Caguas  1  —  
RJ Rodriguez earned his 3rd save of the playoffs with a perfect 9th inning of work.  Los Leones scored their runs in the 4th, on three straight hits — a single and two doubles.  Los Criollos’ only run came in the top of the 6th, on a double, a ground out by SS Luis Figueroa which moved the runner to third, and a RBI single.  3B Ramon Vazquez singled to lead off the 5th for Los Criollos, but he was caught stealing second base.

Gigantes de Carolina  5,  Senadores de San Juan  4  —  Benji Gonzalez made the start at second base for Los Gigantes, and he scored their first run.  In the bottom of the 1st, Gonzalez singled, advanced to third on a throwing error, and scored on a sacrifice fly.  San Juan scored 3 runs in the top of the 2nd, and Los Gigantes countered with a run in the bottom of the 3rd, on 3 singles.  They tied the score in the 7th with a double, a hit batter, and an RBI single.  The tie continued into the top of the 10th, when Los Senadores took the lead with a single and a double.  But four singles in the bottom of the inning drove in 2 runs to give Los Gigantes the win.

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Milledge and Gimenez Spark Los Tigres; Julio Returns To Pirates

The Pirates finished up a chilly mini-camp in Bradenton, and now there is just a month until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

A few notes:
Wil Ledezma, who went to the Blue Jays last week (off waivers),  was outrighted to the Blue Jays’ minor league system.
Last year’s Curve manager, Matt Walbeck, has found a job in the Braves’ organization, managing at the A level.  

RHP Jorge Julio has been signed to a minor league contract, but has not been invited to the major league camp for spring training.  The Venezuelan native was first signed by the Expos in 1996.  He reached as high as the A+ level in the Expos organization before being traded to the Orioles at the end of 2000.  Julio made his major league debut with the Orioles and pitched in Baltiore from 2001 to 2005.  In early 2006, he was traded to the Mets (as part of a deal for former Pirate Kris Benson), then subsequently traded to the Diamondbacks, to the Marlins, and to the Rockies.  In January 2008, Julio signed with the Cleveland Indians, and appeared in 15 games, all in relief, in the major league level.  He pitched only 17 innings, with a 5.60 ERA, and was released in early June.  He was signed by the Braves in the same season, and did well for them at both the AAA level (2.04 ERA in 39 innings in 38 appearances) and at the major league level (0.73 ERA in 12 innings in 12 appearances).  Julio split the 2009 season between three organizations:  The Brewers, the Rays, and the Pirates, right here in Indianapolis.  For the Indy Indians, Julio made just 4 relief appearances, allowing 7 runs on 8 hits in 5 innings.  He also made 19 appearances (22 innings) for a 5.96 ERA for the AAA Durham Bulls, and 15 appearances (17 innings) for a 7.79 ERA for the Milwaukee Brewers.  During that time, his walk rate rose while his strikeout rate plummetted.  Julio pitched for Bridgeport in the independent Atlantic League in 2010, and did well there.  In 55 appearances, he pitched 55 innings and allowed only 7 earned runs on 39 hits, with 57 strikeouts, for a 1.15 ERA.  Julio has also had a strong showing in the Venezuelan Winter League over the past few months, with a 1.88 ERA for Los Caribes de Anzoategui.  In 28.2 innings, he allowed 6 runs on 26 hits and 12 walks, with 22 strikeouts, and a 3-3 record and 6 saves.  The Pirates are hoping that Julio, who will turn 32 in March, will be able to continue this trend in the 2011 season.  Not inviting him to the big league camp seems to indicate that they want to see some proof, most likely at the AAA level.

Just a few winter league games on Thursday night  (Click on “Read More”)

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