Ponce Takes The Lead In Puerto Rican Series

Again just two winter league playoff games on Tuesday night — the Venezuelan championship has the night off.

Signing news:  C Robinzon Diaz has signed a minor league contract with the Rangers.

PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Leones de Ponce  4,  Criollos de Caguas  2  —  
Los Leones took a 3-2 game lead in this 7-game series with a win tonight.  Ponce got right down to business with a run on two hits, a throwing error, and a ground out in the top of the 1st.  Los Criollos tied the score with a walk, a double, and an RBI ground out in the bottom of the 1st.  Los Leones made use of another RBI grounder to break the tie in the top of the 3rd, with a run driven in after a single and a double.  An RBI single made it 3-1.  Los Criollos got within one run in the 6th, scoring on a single, a walk, and (guess what?) an RBI ground out.  A solo home run added an insurance run for Ponce in the top of the 9th.  Caguas threatened in the bottom of the 9th, when SS Luis Figueroa was hit by a pitch and moved to third base on a ground-rule double.  A walk loaded the bases, but two fly outs ended the rally and the game.  Figueroa singled in the 3rd and walked in the 7th, but could not come around to score.  Ramon Vazquez struck out in a pinch-hitting appearance.

 
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE
Algodoneros de Guasave  2,  Yaquis de Obregon  1  —  
Pitchers ruled in this game, as Guasave tied the 7-game series at 2 games each.  Los Yaquis were held to 4 hits, and scored their only run with 3 of those hits, all singles, in the top of the 8th.  Their only other hit, another single, came in the 1st inning.  Guasave had just 6 hits, and half of those came in the first two innings.  Their first run was a solo home run in the 6th inning.  they scored again in the 7th inning, when a single, a sacrifice bunt by 1B Yurendell de Caster, and two walks loaded the bases.  An RBI single brought in what turned out to be the winning run.  De Caster had one of the Guasave singles in the 2nd inning.

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Homers For Milledge And Gimenez; Toros Take Dominican Title

Just 3 winter league playoff games on Sunday, as the Mexican Pacific League takes a travel day…

PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Leones de Ponce  4,  Criollos de Caguas  1  —  Los Criollos out-hit Los Leones, but Los Criollos also left 10 runners stranded, while Ponce had only 5 runners left on base.  Three errors by Los Criollos also contributed to their own demise.  Los Leones scored in the bottom of the 1st with a walk, a stolen base with a throwing error, and an RBI single.  A pair of walks, a bunt, and RBI ground out and an RBI single added 2 runs in the 3rd inning.  Two errors, an intentional walk, and an RBI grounder gave Los Leones an insurance run in the 6th.  Los Criollos scored their only run in the top of the 3rd, with a walk and a triple.  SS Luis Figueroa and 3B Ramon Vazquez each had a single and a walk in the game, and all those times they were left on base.

VENEZUELAN LEAGUE
Caribes de Anzoategui  8,  Tigres de Aragua  5  —  
A 4-run 3rd inning boosted Los Caribes for the win in the opener of the Venzuelan championship series.  The game began with home runs dominating.  Los Tigres’ CF Hernan Iribarren opened the game with a home run.  Los Caribes’ lead-off batter CF Endy Chavez homered to begin the bottom of the inning.  In the top of the 2nd, the first Aragua batter was hit by a pitch, and LF Lastings Milledge hit a 2-run homer.  Los Caribes had another solo homer in the bottom of the frame.  Los Caribes changed it up in the 3rd, with three doubles, followed by another homer, to take a 6-3 lead.  Aragua got closer in the 6th, with solo homers (not back-to-back) by DH Hector Gimenez and Milledge.  Los Caribes got some insurance with a run in both the 6th and 7th innings, both times on a single and a double.  In addition to his two homers, Milledge walked and stole second base in the 4th.

DOMINICAN LEAGUE
Toros del Este  4,  Estrellas de Oriente  2  —  
Los Toros completed the 5-game sweep of the series with today’s win over Los Estrellas.  Pitching ruled this game.  Los Toros recorded only 3 hits, and they scored their 4 runs in the 7th inning using only one hit.  After 6 scoreless innings, a walk, a single, and a sacrifice fly brought in Los Toros first run in the 7th.  A sacrifice fly complicated by both a fielding error and a throwing error gave them their second run, and after an intentional walk to load the bases, a hit batter and an unintentional walk forced in a run each.  A hit batter with the bases loaded also forced in a run for Los Estrellas in the top of the 8th, and they also scored on an RBI single.  

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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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Ciriaco Gets A Key Hit, Good Outing For Ascanio

Lots of playoff action in the winter leagues on Friday night:

DOMINICAN LEAGUE
Toros del Este  2,  Estrellas de Oriente  1  — SS Pedro Ciriaco, 
who has not been in Los Toros’ recent playoff games, started off the scoring in this game.  He singled to lead off the 3rd inning, and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt.  He stole second base, and scored on an RBI single.  Ciriaco also reached base on an error in the 5th, and made it as far as third base, but did not score.  Los Toros scored again on a walk and two singles in the 7th inning.  Los Toros’ starter Fernando Abad pitched 6 no-hit innings, including 6 strikeouts.  The only runner to reach base against him got there on a fielding error in the 6th, and Abad finished the inning with two grounder force outs.  Reliever Jairo Asencio followed Abad with 2 perfect innings.  Los Estrellas’ only hit and only run came in the top of the 9th, when reliever Julio Manon gave up a walk and a double, and the runner from third base scored on a wild pitch.  Los Toros have won the first three games of this 9-game series.

PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE 
Leones de Ponce  1,  Criollos de Caguas  0  —  
Pitching ruled in the Puerto Rican League also.  Ponce starter Willie Collazo pitched 9 shut-out innings, allowing just 2 singles and 2 walks.  SS Luis Figueroa walked in the 1st inning, and he was Los Criollos’ only base runner for the first 6 innings.  Collazo allowed a single and a walk in the 7th, and another single in the 8th.  Los Leones posted 7 hits and had 5 walks, but they fell victim to 4 double plays, and left 8 runners on base.  The only run scored in the 2nd, when the inning opened with a double and two singles.  One of the double plays cut the rally short.  This series is now tied at one game each.  

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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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