Welcome back CCO fans! Yes, it’s that time of year again, when our favorite sport moves to warmer climates. Now, the talk turns to Estrellas and Aguilas, Criollos and Senadores, Tiburones and Caribes, Naranjeros and, of course, those Yaquis. With 22 Cub players (and counting), the Winter Leagues will certainly have a lot of local interest. The Arizona Fall League is in full swing, as are the World Cup/Pan-Am games. So as the winter starts to creep in, grab some nachos and churros, because ¡Debo estar en la primera fila! Note: Coverage will be by calendar week, Sunday through Saturday
Dominican Winter League
Daytona closer Frank Batista is part of the Eagles’ pitching staff this winter. Batista saw his first action on Saturday, with a perfect 1.1 innings pitched as Cibaenas downed Este 6-1.
Leones de Escogido
The Lions have a pair of I-Cub teammates in catcher Steve Clevenger and LHP John Gaub. Both saw action in Escogido’s 4-3 win over Licey on Friday. Clevenger was 1-for-4 with a double, while Gaub allowed two earned runs in 0.1 inning, but was credited with a hold.
Clevenger also struck out in a pinch-hitting appearance on Saturday.
Toros del Este
Tennessee Smokie outfielder Nelson Perez is a member of the Bulls this season. In his first action on Saturday, Perez was called upon for his specialty, pinch-hitting, but didn’t see a pitch as he was replaced after a pitching change.
Estrellas de Oriente
The Stars brought in a couple of relievers in Tennessee RHP Rafael Dolis and Iowa LHP Scott Maine. Dolis was the first to be called upon, and gave up an unearned run in 0.1innings pitched in a 5-0 loss to Este on Friday.
Scott Maine was the hard-luck loser after surrendering an unearned run to Escogido on Saturday, failing to record an out in the 3-2 loss.
Mexican Pacific League
Naranjeros de Hermosillo
The Orangemen of Hermosillo are leaning on Iowa RHP Blake Parker early, pitching a perfect inning with two strikeouts in their opening day 5-1 loss to Mexicali on Tuesday.
Parker then had a couple of identical lines in a pair of wins this past weekend. On Friday, Parker struck out the only batter he faced in a 15-9 win over Los Mochis. Parker took it to the ‘Canes again on Saturday, earning a hold for striking out his only batter faced in an 11-5 victory.
Venados de Mazatlan
After being loaned to the Mexican League this past summer, former starter RHP Hung-Wen Chen is being cast as a closer for the Stags. Chen struck out a batter in a perfect inning of work in Mazatlan’s 16-2 opening day win over Culiacan on Tuesday.
Chen had a repeat performance on Saturday, closing out a 13-1 whitewash of Guasave with a strikeout and no runs.
Yaquis de Obregon
The defending Caribbean Champions Obregon will be depending on a couple of pitchers from the system to look for a repeat. Tennessee RHP Marco Carrillo was signed late by the Tribe, and got a start on Saturday. He held Mexicali to one earned run over five innings with a strikeout, but the Yaquis ended up losing 12-4. Tennessee RHP Oswaldo Martinez also saw action and gave up two earned runs while striking out a batter in an inning of work.
In the opening game on Tuesday, Oswaldo Martinez earned the victory with an inning of scoreless relief, striking out one in Obregon’s 10-7 win over Navojoa.
Venezuelan Winter League
Caribes de Anzoategui
The Indians brought in Daytona RHP Eduardo Figueroa, who’s had a rough go early on. In Wednesday’s opener, Figueroa gave up an earned run in 0.2 innings, as Anzoategui lost to La Guaira 6-3. Then on Friday, Figueroa was bombed for four earned runs in 0.1 innings in a 13-4 loss, also to La Guira.
Tigres de Aragua
Iowa infielder Jonathan Mota is off to a very slow start, going 1-for-10 to start the season before finding a spot on the bench. His lone ht was on Thursday, as he was 1-3 with an RBI in a 5-1 win against Margarita.
Leones de Caracas
Trying to pick up where he left off last year, Iowa infielder Marwin Gonzalez got off to a slow start for the Lions. In the opener on Wednesday, he was 1-for-5 in a 6-0 win over Margarita.
Gonzales was 0-for-5 in Caracas’ 5-4 squeeker over Lara on Thursday. However, he broke out big against the Cardinals on Friday with a 3-for-4 night, as the Lions defeated Lara 10-3.
Marwin Gonzalez then followed that with a 1-for-4 performance in a 6-3 loss to Anzoategui on Saturday.
Tiburones de La Guaira
Boise RHP Hector Mayora has started well for the Sharks, tossing 1.2 perfect innings in La Guaira’s 13-4 blowout victory over Anzoategui on Friday.
Navegantes del Magallanes
The Navs have the greatest amount of representation of Cub prospects of any team in the winter leagues, with six players from the system. Iowa RHP Robert Coello pitched two innings and let in an earned run as Magallanes lost to Zulia 3-2 on Friday.
However, the biggest acquisition for the Navigators has been Iowa first baseman Bryan LaHair. After winning the Pacific Coast League’s MVP award, LaHair put on a show in Magallanes’ opener on Wednesday, going 4-for-4 with a double, two home runs, and three RBI as they blew past Zulia 14-8. One of LaHair’s homers came off of Iowa teammate Austin Bibens-Dirkx.
LaHair came back down to earth on Thursday and Friday, going 1-for-4 in a 13-4 win and 0-for-4 in a 3-2 loss, both to Zulia. But then LaHair was on his game on Saturday, as he was 2-for-5 with a double, home run, and two RBI as the Navs beat Margarita 9-0.
Aguilas del Zulia
The Eagles brought in Iowa RHP Austin Bibens-Dirkx, who had less than a successful Opening Day start for Zulia. Bibens-Dirkx went three innings and served up two home runs, as well as striking out two, and was tagged with the loss as they went down 14-8 to Magallenas.
Arizona Fall League
Mesa Solar Sox
The Arizona Fall League is underway, with the Sox sporting a 3-8 record. However, their performance is not due, in most, to the Cubs’ prospects on the team. Based on the Major League standard of 3.5 at bats per game, Josh Vitters is currently leading the league with a .405 average through nine games. Playing mainly first base, Vitters has two home runs and leads the team with ten RBI.
Shortstop Junior Lake has also hit well, going .333 with three homers, six RBI, and a league best seven stole bases. However, defense has been his bugaboo, with three fielding errors. D.J. LeMahieu started out slow, but has picked up some steam recently. He’s currently hitting .293, including a home run, six RBI, and five stolen bases. LeMahieu has mainly played third base, but made a couple of appearances at first base.
Pitching for Mesa has been its own worst enemy, as the Sox pitchers have consistently failed to hold leads. Starter Trey McNutt has done a decent job, starting two games and tossing five innings. He has a 1.80 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. However, he hasn’t struck out anyone and issued three walks. Reliever Marcus Hatley hasn’t been as lucky. In 5.1 innings he’s given up seven earned runs for an 11.81 ERA and was tagged for two losses. Closer Chris Carpenter and Andrew Cashner have fared a little better. Both have hit 100 MPH on the radar gun, as Carpenter has a 1.59 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 6.2 innings while Cashner has allowed two earned runs in three innings. Carpenter has nine strikeouts, and Cashner two.
The 2011 Baseball World Cup concluded on Saturday, with the Netherlands defeating Cuba 2-1 for the championship. The USA made the medal round, but their third place game with Canada was cancelled due to severe weather. The USA’s final record was 7-4. Iowa outfielder Brett Jackson ended up hitting .412 with three doubles, a home run, four RBI, and two stolen bases. Tennessee LHP Jeffrey Beliveau was 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 4.1 innings with seven strikeouts. Team USA will now begin the Pan-Am games on October 16 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.
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