The Pirates have added a minor league catcher, Kawika Emsley-Pai, to the fold. The Washington State native was the Diamondbacks’ 10th round pick in the most recent (2010) draft, signed out of University of Texas. He made his pro debut with the Yakima Bears in the Northwest (short season) league, where he caught a bit more than half of the Bears’ games. In his 42 appearances, Emsley-Pai hit .167, with 3 doubles and 8 RBI. He made just one error behind the plate and had 8 passed balls. Base runners had about a 50-50 chance against him — 17 stolen bases allowed, and 19 runners thrown out. The 22-year-old was released by the D’backs, but the Pirates think he will be able to fill in, probably either at State College or West Virginia.
On to the winter league games:
Bravos de Margarita 9, Leones de Caracas 5 — Los Bravos scored 5 runs in the 7th inning, to put them out of reach for Los Leones. Los Leones scored early, with a 2-run homer in the top of the 1st, and 2 more runs on a single and four walks in the 3rd. C Carlos Maldonado had an RBI walk in that inning. Margarita got onto the scoreboard with a run in the bottom of the 3rd, on a single, a triple, and a sacrifice fly. An error, two singles, and a wild pitch gave Los Bravos 2 more runs in the 5th, to tie the score. In the 7th, Los Bravos pounded out a double, three singles, and a grand slam to take the lead. Jean Machi took the mound for Margarita for the final two innings. He struck out the side in the 8th, then struck out 2 more in the 9th, but also gave up a solo homer, and a single and a walk after the homer. LF Mike Ryan went 0-for-4 for Caracas.
Tigres de Aragua 3, Aguilas de Zulia 2 — A pair of doubles began the bottom of the 11th for Los Tigres, for the walk-off win. Neither team had a hit for the first 3 innings of the game. Zulia scored their 2 runs in the 6th, beginning with a single, a bunt, and an RBI single. Wil Ledezma came on in relief for Aragua, and he gave up an RBI double, to give Zulia a 2-0 lead. Los Tigres tied the score in the 7th inning when LF Lastings Milledge reached base on an error, and came in on a 2-run homer. Both teams threatened in the 8th, but neither scored, and then the bats were mostly quiet until the 11th inning. CF Jorge Cortes singled into left field in the 5th for Los Tigres, but was out when he tried to reach second base. Cortes also doubled in the 8th inning, and was replaced by a pinch-runner, who got as far as third base but did not score.
In the Dominican championship series, Los Toros del Este took a 2-game-to-0 lead with a 3-1 win over Los Estrellas de Oriente. Two runs in the top of the 8th broke a 1-1 tie and gave Los Toros the win. The Puerto Rican League had a night off from their playoff series. The Mexican Pacific League will begin their championship series on Friday.
Canberra Cavalry 5, Sydney Blue Sox 1 (Thursday) — The Cavalry scored 3 runs in the 5th, giving them plenty of insurance over the Blue Sox, who were held to just 3 hits. Jarryd Sullivan pitched 3 scoreless innings for Sydney, allowing only one hit. He gave up a double in the 6th, then retired the side in order in the next two innings.
Adelaide Bite 12, Brisbane Bandits 0 (Friday) — The Bite chomped on the Bandits, in a game that ended early, due to a 12-run lead after 6.5 innings. Back-to-back homers gave the Bite 5 runs in the 2nd inning — a grand slam by 3B Stan Welch (Mets), then a solo blast. Another solo homer began the 3rd inning, and another grand slam, by 1B Tom Brice, came in the 4th. Two singles, a walk, and two RBI ground outs finished the scoring in the 5th. DH Quincy Latimore went 0-for-3 with a walk for the Bite. After a dribbly little hit down the third base line by the Bandit’s lead-off hitter, Bite starter Brandon Maurer (Mariners) retired the next 21 batters he faced, including 8 strikeouts.
The Bite finish the season with a double-header against the Bandits on Saturday. They are currently a half-game behind league-leading Perth Heat in the standings. The Heat are scheduled to play a double-header against the Melbourne Aces on Saturday.
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.
Checking in on Pirates’ players and friends in the winter league playoffs on Monday…
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
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.
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.
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
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.
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….
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
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.