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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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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Big Day For Milledge, Cortes, And Tabata; Loss For Ascanio

Cheering for Pirates’ players and friends in Sunday’s winter league action…
The Dominican League’s last regular season games will be on Tuesday. 

VENEZUELAN LEAGUE 
Tigres de Aragua  8,  Leones de Caracas  3  (Game 1) —  
Los Tigres won this battle of the big cats with a 6-run 3rd inning.  CF Jorge Cortes led off the inning with a single, was bunted to second base, and scored on an RBI single.  SS Ronny Cedeno lined out, but the next two batters singled, driving in a run.  1B Hector Gimenez was hit by a pitch, then LF Lastings Milledge brought in two runs with his RBI single.  A triple added two more runs.  Cortes walked in his second at-bat in the inning, but a fly out ended the rally.  Los Tigres added another run in the 5th on a single, Gimenez’s ground rule double, and Milledge’s sacrifice fly — his third RBI of the game.  Milledge singled again in a rally in the 7th, when Aragua slipped in their 8th run.  Caracas did all their scoring in the bottom of the 7th, leading off the inning with two singles and a 3-run homer.  

Tigres  6,  Leones  5  (Game 2)  —  It was Cortes who had 3 hits in the night-cap, while Cedeno, Gimenez, and C Raul Chavez were hitless.  Wil Ledezma made the start for Los Tigres, and pitched 2 innings, allowing a run in the 1st.  Aragua tied the score in the 2nd with a walk, a single by Milledge, and an RBI single by Cortes.  Ledezma was relieved to begin the 3rd, and that was when Caracas scored 2 more runs on a walk, a single, and a triple.  Another triple and a sacrifice fly gave Los Leones a 4-1 lead in the 5th.  Los Tigres came roaring back in the top of the 6th, to take the lead.  The inning began with 3 consecutive walks, including on Milledge and Gimenez.  A triple cleared the bases, then Cortes’ double gave Aragua a 5-4 lead.  Another single and a walk loaded the bases for Aragua, but a double play ended the inning and the rally.  Caracas tied the score again in the bottom of the 7th, sending the game into extra innings.  Jose Ascanio took the mound for Caracas in the top of the 7th, when he retired the side in order.  In the bottom of the 8th, pinch-hitter Miguel Perez led off with a single, and Cortes bunted him to second base.  A single drove in the speedy Perez from second base with the go-ahead run.

Navegantes del Magallanes  8,  Tiburones de La Guaira  2  —  Los Tiburones had the early lead, but Los Navegantes scored 7 of their runs in the final three innings, including a 4-run 8th.  Jean Machi earned his 7th save with 1.1 scoreless innings, allowing only one hit.

Caribes de Anzoategui  8,  Cardenales de Lara  7  (Game 1)  —  Six runs in the 2nd inning gave Los Caribes enough runs to outlast Lara’s late-inning rallies.  DH Jose Tabata singled and scored on a 2-run homer in the top of the 1st.  Los Cardenales got one of the runs back in the bottom of the inning, but Los Caribes had their big 2nd inning.  With one out, a walk and four straight singles, including Tabata’s second single, brought in two runs, then a grand slam by LF Juan Camacho gave Los Caribes an 8-1 lead.  

Caribes  4,  Cardenales  2  (Game 2) —  Four runs in the 6th inning gave Los Caribes what they needed.  The inning began with a double and a single, then Jose Tabata lined another single into center field, bringing in one run.  Three more singles and a sacrifice fly added 3 more runs.  Los Cardenales scored one run in the 2nd on a walk, a single, and an RBI ground out.  A double, a wild pitch, and a single gave Lara their second run in the 4th.  CF Ray Sadler went 0-for-3 for Lara.

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Solid Inning For Ascanio, Latimore Slumping

Another minor league free agent signed: Pitcher Neal Cotts signed with the Yankees.

Looking in on some of the Pirates’ players and friends in Thursday’s winter league action.. the Dominican League has the night off, and there were some games postponed in Venezuela.

VENEZUELAN LEAGUE
Leones del Caracas   9,  Aguilas de Zulia  5  –
 A 4-run 8th inning made the difference for Los Leones.  Jose Ascanio pitched a scoreless bottom of the 8th for Caracas.  He gave up a walk and a single with one out, but then got a double play to get out of the inning.  

Cardenales de Lara  3,  Tigres de Aragua  0  —  LF Lastings Milledge, 1B Hector Gimenez, and C Raul Chavez each posted a single for Los Tigres, but none could come around to score.  Both Milledge and Gimenez had their singles in the 4th, after a walk.  The lead runner tried to score from second on Milledge’s single, but Lara CF Ray Sadler’s throw to the plate was right on targer, and the runner was out at home.  Sadler went 0-for-2 and was hit by a pitch.  

PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Criollos de Caguas  2,  Indios de Mayaguez  1  (Game 1) —  
Los Indios scored a run with a lead-off triple and a single in the top of the 1st, then did not score again for the rest of the game, despite out-hitting Los Criollos 8-5.  3B Ramon Vazquez started a rally for Los Criollos with a 2-out walk in the 2nd inning.  A pair of singles brought him around to score and tie the game at 1-1.  A walk, a throwing error, and an RBI double gave Caguas the go-ahead run in the 5th.  SS Luis Figueroa was hitless in 3 trips to the plate.  

Criollos  2,  Indios 1  (Game 2)  —  Yes, same score in the night-cap.  Three Caguas pitchers combined for a one-hitter.  Los Indios scored their run in the 5th, beginning with a walk and ending with a sacrifice fly.  Los Criollos scored one run in each of the 3rd and 4th innings.  Neither Figueroa nor Vazquez got into this game.

Leones de Ponce  2,  Senadores de San Juan  1  —  Really, same score again.  RJ Rodriguez earned his 10th save of the season with a scoreless 9th inning for Ponce.  He walked the first batter, then retired the next three to end the game.

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