Winter Leagues: Tony Sanchez Makes Debut, News on Melancon, Polanco and Harold Ramirez

Gregory Polanco is playing in the Dominican, but has not been given permission by the Pirates to play in the Dominican Winter League yet. He is playing in the Parallel League, which is basically the minor league version of the Dominican League. Polanco went 1-for-4 with a double the other day against players from the Dominican academy of the Orioles.

Mark Melancon threw a scoreless ninth to pick up the save in the fifth game of the MLB All-Stars series in Japan. He allowed one hit and didn’t walk or strike out anyone. For more on the series, check the article from two days ago.

From the only action on Monday night involving a Pittsburgh Pirates player, Bryton Trepagnier threw 1.1 scoreless innings in Puerto Rico. He didn’t give up any hits or walks and struck out one batter. Trepagnier has thrown 8.1 innings over five appearances, allowing six runs on seven hits and five walks, with seven strikeouts.

The Pirates announced the signings of ten free agents to minor league contracts on Tuesday, though we already knew about six of them. Four of those players have been covered in previous Winter League articles, Collin Balester, Junior Sosa, Marek Minarik and Felipe Gonzalez.

Of the others just announced, Gustavo Nunez is playing for Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican, hitting .282/.295/.459 in 22 games.

Deolis Guerra has pitched three times in Venezuela. He gave up three runs while recording just one out in his first appearance, then threw a shutout inning in each of his next two games. He plays for Navegantes de Magallanes.

There are multiple unconfirmed reports that the Pirates will sign Radhames Liz, who has been dominating in the Dominican Republic. Pitching for Estrellas de Oriente, he has made five starts. After a bumpy debut, Liz has given up two runs over his last 21 innings, posting a 3:28 BB/SO ratio. He has a .195 BAA and 1.16 GO/AO ratio. The Pirates scouted his last start on Thursday when he threw five shutout innings, giving up two walks and striking out six batters. He was throwing 95-96 MPH and has hit 100 MPH in the past.

Tuesday’s Action

Tony Sanchez made his winter debut on Tuesday night in the Dominican, catching for Toros del Este. He went 0-for-2 with two walks and a run scored. He threw out the only runner that attempted to steal against him.

The opposing starting pitcher in Sanchez’s first game was Rafael Perez, who threw five shutout innings. He gave up six hits, a walk and struck out three, while recording seven outs on ground balls. Perez had a 5.19 ERA in nine relief appearances before Tuesday.

Mel Rojas Jr. went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts and two walks. He stole his second base. Rojas had hit a double in five straight games before going hitless in his previous game. His average is down to .239 through 25 games.

Wirfin Obispo threw a scoreless inning, giving up two walks. He struck out one batter. One of the walks was intentional.

In Puerto Rico, Yhonathan Barrios made his second appearance and gave up two runs on four hits in two innings. All of the damage came in his second inning of work. Barrios picked up four strikeouts.

In Colombia, Harold Ramirez finally returned to action after missing the last two months of the regular season due to shin splints. In his first plate appearance, he was hit by a pitch and then thrown out attempting to steal. That has been his only appearance so far.

Tito Polo has played five games. He is 5-for-20 with a double and triple. Polo has struck out seven times and has yet to draw a walk.

In Venezuela, Ramon Cabrera grounded out as a pinch-hitter, then remained in the game as a catcher.

In Mexico, Felipe Gonzalez came in to record the last out of the sixth inning. He got a pop up to end the inning, stranding an inherited runner. In the seventh, he faced one batter, who reached on an error. Gonzalez was removed and the runner was left stranded.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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