As the Maxine Nightingale song said we’re “right back to where we started from” as the CCO welcomes you to another year of coverage of the winter leagues. This week saw the opening of the Arizona Fall League, as well as the Mexican Pacific League and the Venezuelan Winter League. As it stands, the Cubs have received commitments from 23 players to the winter leagues, with more to come as the Dominican Winter League began on Sunday, while the Puerto Rican League opens in the early November.
Along with a summary of play from the Fall Instructional League, welcome back to baseball in warmer climes. Note: Coverage of the winter leagues will be by calendar week, Sunday through Saturday.
Arizona Fall League
Mesa Solar Sox
Things started off with a bang for Javier Baez in the AFL opener on Tuesday, as he homered in his first at bat and finished the game 2-for-4 with a double and three RBI in a 6-5 loss to Salt River. Matt Szczur hit leadoff hitter for the Solar Sox and was 0-for-2 with two walks. Pinch-hitter Rubi Silva delivered a single and scored a run. Kevin Rhoderick saw 1.2 innings of scoreless relief, striking out three, while Tony Zych struck out the only batter he faced.
The dramatics anticipated prior to the start of the league showed up on Wednesday, as Javier Baez reportedly pouted through a start at third base, committing two errors and going 0-for-4 in another loss to Salt River, 11-3. Nick Struck struggled to get through 1.1 IP, walking three with a strikeout, but came away unscored-upon. Leading off again was Matt Szczur, as he was 1-for-4 with a stolen base. Rubi Silva went 1-for-5.
Mesa recorded their first win on Thursday, defeating Surprise 6-5. Dae-Eun Rhee got the start for the Solar Sox and went two innings, allowing two earned runs and striking out two batters. Tony Zych ended up the winning pitcher, striking out a batter in a scoreless inning. Javier Baez was back at shortstop and went 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI, while Matt Szczur also had an RBI and was 1-for-4.
The Solar Sox were more convincing on Friday, drubbing Surprise 12-6. Matt Szczur led the way for Mesa, going 2-for-5 with an RBI and two stolen bases. Rubi Silva is also showing some skills on the basepaths. Silva stole two bases as part of a 1-for-5 performance. A solo home run tagged Kevin Rhoderick with a blown save, but he recovered to strike out two in an inning in relief.
It was three in a row on Saturday, as Javier Baez broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the fifth inning with a three-run blast and Mesa pulled away from Peoria 8-3. Baez’s three-run shot ended up being his only hit of the afternoon. Baez finished the game 1-for-4. Rubi Silva led off and went 2-for-5 with two runs scored. Nick Struck came on in relief of starter Luke Putkonen of the Detroit Tigers and allowed a solo homer, but struck out two in an inning of work. Tony Zych finished out the game with a scoreless inning.
Mexican Pacific League
Venados de Mazatlan
Iowa infielder Greg Rohan lined up at third base and hit clean-up for the Deer in their opener on Saturday. Rohan was 1-for-4 with a run scored in a loss to the Tomateros de Culiacan.
Yaquis de Obregon
The Yaquis have a distinctively Cubs flavor this season as infielders Alfredo Amezaga and Christian Villanueva, along with pitcher Esmailin Caridad, have been joined by former Cub farmhands Marco Carrillo and Oswaldo Martinez, who are both pitching in the Mexican League.
Alfredo Amezaga started at short and batted second for the Tribe in their opener on Saturday and went 1-for-4 with a run scored in a 9-2 triumph over the Mayos de Navojoa. Esmailin Caridad tossed a scoreless inning in the win.
Venezuelan Winter League
Caribes de Anzoategui
Daytona reliever Eduardo Figueroa was busy for the Indians this opening week, as he tossed a scoreless inning on Friday as Anzoategui defeated Caracas 8-1.
Eduardo Figueroa then gave up two earned runs in 0.2 innings on Saturday, picked up both a blown save and the loss as Caribes bowed 7-6 to Margarita.
Tigres de Aragua
Iowa outfielder Ty Wright is attempting to come back after injuries cut short his 2012 season. Wright was 0-for-3 with a run scored as the Tigers lost their opener 10-3 to Aguilas de Zulia on Thursday. Wright was 0-for-1 in a pinch-hitting appearance as Zulia blew out Aragua again 9-0 on Friday.
Ty Wright was then able to get both himself and the Tigers in the books on Saturday, going 1-for-4 in a 4-2 victory over Leones de Caracas.
Leones de Caracas
Opening for the Lions this season was 28-year old Iowa starter Yoanner Negrin. The right-hander pitched two innings with a strikeout while giving up an earned run. Negrin suffered the loss as Caracas went down to Anzoategui 1-0.
After a good showing with the AZL Cubs in 2012, 21-year old righty Loiger Padron is seeing some early action for the Lions. Padron pitched 0.2 scoreless innings in an 8-1 loss to Anzoategui on Friday. Padron picked up a strikeout in another 0.2 scoreless innings as Caracas lost 4-2 to Aragua on Saturday.
Tiburones de La Guaira
Twenty-three year old right-hander Hector Mayora, who sat out the 2012 season after pitching in 2011 for the Boise Hawks, recorded a strikeout in a scoreless inning for the Sharks on Saturday in an 8-1 loss to Cardenales de Lara.
Aguilas del Zulia
Iowa catcher Juan Apodaca has played a small part in the Eagles’ hot start to the season. Apodaca went 1-for-3 as Zulia bombed Aragua 10-3 in the opener.
Juan Apodaca went hitless on Friday (0-for-4, RBI) but still managed to plate a run as the Eagles beat Aragua 9-0 on Friday.
Juan Apodaca then went 0-for-2 with a run scored as Zulia defeated Magallanes 9-1 on Saturday.
News and Notes
The Fall Instructional League ended on Saturday. While it may not be a surprise that outfielder Jorge Soler and first baseman Dan Vogelbach performed well, one camp surprise had to be infielder Jesse Hodges. Signed as an undrafted free agent after pitching and playing shortstop for a British Columbia 18-year old and under wood bat league, Hodges was moved to third base in the instructs. Also looking good was the future catching corps of Rafael Lopez, Chadd Krist, Willson Contreras, and Lance Rymel.
As for pitching, 2012 third round pick Ryan McNeil had one rough outing, but generally performed well. Boise starter Jose Arias had two strong starts, while Ben Wells appeared to be throwing easy after injuries ate up a big part of his 2012 season.
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