On Wednesday night, as the season ended in Pittsburgh, a new season began down in the Caribbean. You can read the winter league preview here, with a look at all the confirmed winter league players from the Pirates’ system. Venezuela kicked off the action with a full schedule on the first day. Below is a recap of the first two days from that league.
The league in Mexico begins tonight, though it’s only one game and neither team has any players from the Pirates’ system. The first games of note in Mexico will take place tomorrow, as Venados de Mazatlan has Harold Ramirez, Luis Heredia, Carlos Munoz and Felipe Gonzalez on the roster.
As for Wednesday’s action in Venezuela…
A.J. Morris started on Opening Day for Navegantes del Magallanes and went 4.1 innings, giving up three runs, though they were all unearned. He allowed four hits, a walk, struck out three and hit two batters. Morris threw 64 pitches, 40 for strikes. He threw 84.2 innings for Indianapolis this year, making three starts and 41 relief appearances. Morris reaches minor league free agency this off-season(2009 draft pick), though that doesn’t kick in until after the postseason ends.
Gorkys Hernandez went 2-for-4 with a run scored in his team’s first game. He too will be a minor league free agent soon. Just a reminder that these minor league free agents will be covered until they sign elsewhere. Players looking for a job usually get to winter ball earlier in the year so they get in front of scouts. Last winter, three of them re-signed with the organization, so it’s worth keeping tabs on them, especially early on when the Pirates can bring them back before they actually hit the market.
Speaking of a player they brought back as a minor league free agent, Junior Sosa was the third player from the system to see action Wednesday. He went 1-for-4 and drove in a run during his team’s 2-1 win. Sosa originally signed with the Pirates in March of 2008 and he will be a free agent for a second time this off-season.
On Thursday, one of the games was canceled due to a power outage so only six teams played, leaving it a light night. Elvis Escobar got the start for Cardenales de Lara, batting ninth and playing left field. He will be one of the more interesting players to follow this winter. He signed for $570,000 back in 2011, so he still ranks as one of the Pirates’ biggest international signings. Escobar just turned 21 last month and he had a solid season for West Virginia, except for his troubles stealing bases. He hit .296/.326/.407 in 124 games, with 28 doubles, five triples and five homers.
He should see more playing time this winter and could be a possible breakout player next year. Escobar batted just 19 times in 15 games during his first two years of winter ball combined. He could see most of his playing time this year early on, as some of the better players usually arrive later in the off-season. Escobar is young for the league, so when the veterans come in he will likely lose playing time. On Thursday night, he went 1-for-2 with a single and he dropped down a sacrifice bunt.
Gorkys Hernandez went 1-for-3 with a double, walk and run scored in his second game.
Zack Dodson is scheduled to pitch tonight for Caribes de Anzoategui. As a 2009 draft pick, he has reached minor league free agency and he’s now pitching winter ball for the first time in his career. Dodson led all Pirates’ minor league players with 162 innings pitched this season. He was called up to Indianapolis for the playoffs, but never got into a game.