Tag Archive | "World Baseball Classic"

Team USA Survives, Advances In March Madness

“That was the closest 9-4 ballgame I’ve ever seen,” said USA Baseball CEO Paul Seiler, just minutes after I ran into him behind the USA dugout, following the United States’ critical, do-or-die victory over Canada this afternoon at Chase Field in Phoenix.

final strike

He couldn’t have summed it up much better. It absolutely was a nailbiter. It always is, when Team USA and Canada meet on the diamond (as described in my book Miracle on Grass, when Canada shocked Team USA in the very first game of the 1999 Pan Ams, 7-6 in extra innings).

Only when Team USA’s Eric Hosmer ripped a bases-clearing double in the top of the ninth, with Team USA ahead 6-4, did anyone in the USA dugout feel comfortable.

The Americans were literally six outs from being ELIMINATED from this World Baseball Classic. They trailed Canada 3-2, going to the 8th inning. Yes, it would have been a natural disaster had Team USA lost this game. MLB was counting on them for higher TV ratings and higher ticket revenues for the next round in Miami, and possibly the finals in San Francisco.

When Canada’s Michael Saunders launched a 2-run homer in the second inning of USA starter Derek Holland, we were already off to a bad start. But the Americans battled back and tied it 2-2 in the 4th. Canada went back ahead 3-2 on a base hit by Adam Loewen, and it stayed that way until the critical 8th. That’s when Orioles star Adam Jones came up with the biggest hit of the event so far for Team USA, drilling a one out, two-run double into the left-center gap off Canadian reliever Jim Henderson. It gave Team USA a 4-3 lead.

But, just as they always do (see my column here that I wrote prior to the WBC starting): Canada fought right back, and had cut the lead to 5-4, with the bases loaded and two outs. Joe Torre went to relief pitcher Steve Cishek, to face Canadian pinch hitter Tim Smith. In what was the game’s most critical moment, Cishek got Smith to ground out to second base, securing the 5-4 lead.
The Americans then blew it open with four runs in the 9th, and all of the Canadian fans began to gather their things and walk out up the aisles and out of the stadium, as soon as Hosmer’s double cleared the bases. Craig Kimbrel came on to secure the final three outs, for Team USA.

It was a rousing way for Pool D to come to an end, and this will be remembered for the raucous fight between the two teams that failed to advance: Mexico & Canada, along with the surprising Italian team, that beat both of those squads to join the Americans in Miami.

Incredibly, Team USA came ever so close to being knocked out of the event and finishing in last place in the pool. Instead, they won Pool D outright and will meet the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Italy later this week in Florida.

I’m excited that they have advanced, but – if they wait as long as they did here in Phoenix to put their game faces on – I’m afraid they might not make it to the finals in San Francisco. The DR is my favorite to win the next round, and it will be up to the other three teams to decide which one grabs the second flight to California. Should be fun to watch. I will blog again during the second round. That’s all from here in Phoenix.

Here are some photos from today’s action between Team USA & Canada (use the navigation arrows to view all seven images):

<b>Anthems</b>

Picture 1 of 7


National Anthems before the game.
Follow David on Twitter @miracleongrass.

David Fanucchi is the author of “Miracle on Grass” – How Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda led Team USA to a shocking upset over Cuba, capturing the only Olympic gold medal in USA Baseball history. He was the official Team USA Press Officer for both the 2000 USA Baseball Olympic Team and the 2006 USA World Baseball Classic Team. More information about Fanucchi and Miracle on Grass can be found on his website at www.davidfanucchi.com. Follow him on Twitter @miracleongrass.  

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Team USA Optimistic About WBC

When the marriage between Major League Baseball and USA Baseball (the national governing body for the sport) took place in 1999, a New Jersey native and former college soccer player named Paul Seiler was second in command of the USAB operation, behind long-time MLB executive Dan O’Brien Sr.

Joe Torre and Tommy Lasorda discuss strategy

Joe Torre and Tommy Lasorda discuss strategy

Seiler and O’Brien worked together to introduce the two organizations to one another, and help the MLB executives that were chosen to guide USA Baseball through the player selection process for the first-ever professional Team USA, that would represent the country at the 1999 Pan Am Games. That event would serve as the qualifying event for the 2000 Olympics.

One year later, after Team USA had successfully qualified for the Olympic Games in Sydney, O’Brien stepped down, and the USAB Board of Directors gave the job of CEO to Seiler, on an interim basis. They wanted to see his leadership ability, as the 2000 Olympic Team was being put together.

With the help of current New York Mets GM Sandy Alderson, former New York Yankees GM Bob Watson, Hall of Fame Manager Tommy Lasorda and a host of many other talented individuals throughout various MLB club front offices, Seiler guided the organization to their finest moment – a gold medal victory at the 2000 Olympic Games.

He has been the Chief Operating Officer ever since – now going on 13 years – and yet he still is looking for that next crowning achievement in the organization’s history.

“What that group of players in 2000 did for USA Baseball as an organization, was give us that world championship that we could hang our hat on,” said Seiler.  “In the history of Olympic baseball, it would have been a shame had the United States not won a Gold Medal at least once.  With our victory in 2000, we can always say that we climbed to the top of the mountain and got it done, that we were the very best baseball team in the world for one moment in time.” (as quoted in the book Miracle on Grass).

Seiler is fully aware of how difficult it can be to get back to the top of the international baseball mountain. In the 12 professional level major international baseball events that have taken place since 2000 – all of which USA Baseball and MLB collaborated on the roster selection process – Team USA has won exactly……….twice.

Although they have had success getting deep into the events and having chances to win, it just hasn’t happened often enough. They were able to win the low-profile, IBAF World Cup in back-to-back attempts in 2007 & 2009, beating Cuba both times. But three losses in gold medal games, and three other third place finishes (including the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 WBC), have added up to it being over 12 years now, since Team USA has won it all on the biggest stage, with the spotlight on the game.

Here are the results of the 14 professional USA Baseball teams that have taken the field.

1999 Pan Am Games 2nd place Silver Medal
2000 Olympic Games 1st place Gold Medal
2001 World Cup 2nd place Silver Medal
2003 Olympic Qualifier Lost in Qtrfinals
2006 World Baseball Classic Lost in 2nd Round
2006 Olympic Qualifier Qualified for 2008 Olympics
2007 Pan Am Games 2nd Place Silver Medal
2008 Olympic Games 3rd place Bronze Medal
2009 World Baseball Classic 3rd Place
2010 Pan Am Qualifier 3rd Place Bronze Medal
2011 Pan Am Games 2nd Place Silver Medal

Seiler saw first-hand the unique brand of motivational speak that the legendary Lasorda used on a group of unheralded minor-league players at the time. But finding the right blend of talent on the field, personalities in the locker room, and a coaching staff that can drum up the same level of success as Lasorda did, with a roster full of proven, veteran big-leaguers, has proven to be much more daunting than he would have originally thought.

For obvious reasons, Seiler is hoping that his manager this time around – Joe Torre here at the 2013 World Baseball Classic – can find that magic in a bottle, and carry the Red, White and Blue to a championship in San Francisco. As MLB.com writer Barry Bloom suggested in his column on Sunday, Lasorda’s Olympic gold has set an example for Torre, and that a WBC triumph for Team USA would get USA Baseball back to the top of the mountain, where Seiler knows they belong.

David Fanucchi is the author of “Miracle on Grass” – How Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda led Team USA to a shocking upset over Cuba, capturing the only Olympic gold medal in USA Baseball history. He was the official Team USA Press Officer for both the 2000 USA Baseball Olympic Team and the 2006 USA World Baseball Classic Team. More information about Fanucchi and Miracle on Grass can be found on his website at www.davidfanucchi.com.  You can follow him on Twitter at @miracleongrass.

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WBC – Team USA Beware Of Mexico And Canada

If recent history tells us anything, Manager Joe Torre better have his United States squad fully prepared for a battle when they take the field for their first game of the 2013 World Baseball Classic Friday night at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona.

USABaseball

It may seem that on paper, Team USA would be the logical front-runner in Pool D of the round-robin format, as they sit in a bracket with Canada, Italy, and Mexico. The top two teams will advance to the second round, after each team plays one another. In each of the previous two WBC events in 2006 and 2009, the Americans have at least advanced past the first round.

Talent-wise, Team USA has the firepower to go deep in this event. But, international baseball tournaments don’t always shake out the way that you think they should, even when the greatest players in the world are on the field.

As history has shown us, Team USA should never take Mexico or Canada lightly. Tracing back only 14 years to the beginning of the time (1999) when USA Baseball began utilizing professional players in major international competition, and collaborating with Major League Baseball on the player selection process, it has arguably been Mexico and Canada that have given the Americans the most trouble.

There’s no doubt that Mexico has become the biggest thorn in the side of Team USA. It started when the 1999 USA Pan Am Team got caught up in a dogfight with the Mexicans for one of two Olympic berths, at the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, Canada. In the do-or-die semifinal game that allowed the winner to advance to Sydney for the 2000 Olympics, Mexico pushed Team USA into extra innings in a 2-2 tie. When unheralded hero Mike Neill came up with a two-out, pinch hit run scoring single to put the Americans ahead, reliever Dan Wheeler shut the door on Mexico to secure the win, and send Team USA to the Olympics. The Americans went on to win a gold medal in Sydney, behind Tommy Lasorda, Roy Oswalt and Ben Sheets (as told in my book Miracle on Grass).

But four years later, Mexico exacted their revenge when they shocked Team USA at the 2003 Olympic Qualifying event in Panama City, Panama. In a quarterfinal matchup that allowed the winner to stay alive, and eliminated the losing team, American reliever Brian Bruney gave up a solo home run in the top of the ninth inning, of a 1-1 tie. With Team USA down to their last at-bat, they placed runners at first and third with only one out. But Justin Leone bounced back to the mound, and pinch-hitter Gerald Laird popped out to end the game, killing Team USA’s chances of defending their Olympic gold medal at the 2004 Games in Athens.

Then in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, it was Mexico again that knocked out Team USA. After the Americans had won the opening round contest between the two, Mexico pulled off the upset over Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., and company, in a game started by Roger Clemens. Team USA was stymied with the bats all night, and lost 2-1 in a game they had to win, in order to get to the finals in San Diego. Instead, Japan advanced, and ended up winning the entire thing.

The Canadians have given Team USA all that they could handle as well. At the 1999 Pan Am Games, it was Canada that shocked the Americans in the very first game, 7-6 in extra innings. Then in 2006 in the first round of the WBC, Canada pounded Team USA starter Dontrelle Willis for five runs on six hits in 2.2 innings, and held on to win 8-6. Even though the loss didn’t end up costing Team USA the chance to advance to the second round in Anaheim, it didn’t sit well with the team, and was the first sign that the Americans could be beat. All three teams – Mexico, Canada and the USA – ended up with 2-1 records in that opening round, but Canada lost the tiebreaker.

In the last five years, the games between these three countries have continued to be very tight. In the 2007 Pan Am Games Olympic Qualifier, Team USA had a tough time and barely snuck past Mexico in the semifinals, with a 2-1 victory. Then in the 2011 Pan Am Games, Mexico returned the favor once again and beat the Americans during pool play, 3-2. Canada then dispatched Mexico in the semifinals 5-3, while Team USA was upsetting Cuba in the other semifinal, 12-10. With the Americans looking to capture their first Pan Am Games gold medal in over 40 years, Canada shocked them in the final, dealing them a bitter 2-1 defeat.

So, as you can see, nothing can be taken for granted, when it comes to these three teams playing one another in international baseball events, with professional players. I don’t imagine the Americans having much trouble with Italy, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Torre and company dropped a game in Phoenix to either Mexico or Canada. Neither one of those two teams will be afraid of the USA. If they do lose a game, they’ll be in real danger of losing that tiebreaker to advance to Miami, and it could all be over in a flash for the Red, White and Blue.

David Fanucchi is the author of “Miracle on Grass” – How Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda led Team USA to a shocking upset over Cuba, capturing the only Olympic gold medal in USA Baseball history. He was the official Team USA Press Officer for both the 2000 USA Baseball Olympic Team and the 2006 USA World Baseball Classic Team. More information about Fanucchi and Miracle on Grass can be found on his website at www.davidfanucchi.com.  

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Adam Moore Trying To Make His Case

The Kansas City Royals have very few “up for grabs” spots in Spring Training.  Some players are going to have to really impress to crack the opening day roster this year.

Catcher Adam Moore is making an early attempt at impressing.

Photo by Charles Sollars/i70baseball

Photo by Charles Sollars/i70baseball

Make no mistake, despite his soon to come departure to the World Baseball Classic, Salvador Perez is the Royals catcher and rightfully so.  However, the team has kept an open mind to who will travel with the team as his backup this season.  July of last year shows a waiver transaction that had the Royals claiming Moore from the Seattle  Mariners.  He would appear in four games last year and compiling only twelve plate appearances.

This Spring, Moore has appeared in three of the four games that the Royals have played.  He has shown consistent defense, which is his “calling card”.  A good glove, a strong arm, and a suspect bat.

Two out of three ain’t bad.

Moore forgot that he was supposed to have a suspect bat.  Small sample size and over-analyzing Spring stats will lead you down a dark path, but what you can see is a player that is playing with passion.  In Monday’s 16-4 drumming of the Diamondbacks, Moore hit is second home run of the young spring.  In addition, he held his batting average at .500 (again, small sample size, he has six at bats).  He came into today’s action as a designated hitter, replacing Billy Butler in the process.

None of this means a whole lot at this point, but it does give Royals fans something to pay attention to.  There is currently no guarantee who will be the backup catcher in a little over a month when the team breaks camp but one thing is for sure: starting catcher Salvador Perez leaves the team this week to represent his country in the World Baseball Classic.  That will leave a lot of at bats, as well as a lot of time to get to know the pitching staff, to another player.  That player will gain the opportunity to seize a roster spot and prove to manager Ned Yost why he deserves to be on the team.

Adam Moore can put a strong grip on that spot if he simply continues to do what he is doing right now.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training Games Mean Little But Should Be Fun

The day pitchers and catchers report is always a special day in the baseball community. It marks the symbolic end to the offseason, but another special day approaches this weekend to mark another step toward the birth of another baseball season.

Cardinals Spring Baseball

The St. Louis Cardinals will open their exhibition schedule at 12:05 p.m. Saturday against the Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida.  That will officially mark the beginning of spring training that more fans can follow, rather than breathlessly waiting on reports of how a second baseman looked while fielding ground balls or how a pitcher looked during a bullpen session.

Admittedly, spring training games aren’t a huge step up from regular spring training workouts. Pitchers will each throw just a few innings and batters who will eventually fill the regular-season lineup will take only one or two at bats, if at all. This year’s Cardinals roster is relatively set for Opening Day, but these will still be baseball games that will gloriously fill the afternoons throughout the rest of February and March.

Some fanatics will surely try to analyze these early games and try to draw conclusions about how a pitcher such as Shelby Miller will perform this season based on a two-inning performance in the first week of March. That outing won’t mean anything in the grand scheme of a season, but hey, it gives fans something to talk about that isn’t contract negotiations or performance-enhancing drugs.

Fans also get a bonus this year because the games will start about a week earlier than normal because the World Baseball Classic will take place during the first half of March, and teams needed some extra time with their players who would be gone for a couple of weeks because of the tournament.

The Cardinals will lose catcher Yadier Molina, rightfielder Carlos Beltran and reliever Mitchell Boggs to the World Baseball Classic, but those three already have defined roles that would only change if they got hurt, which is a whole other issue that comes with the World Baseball Classic.

Otherwise, minor leaguers will fill the field for much of the spring games, but this year fans will likely recognize several of the names in those box scores.

Outfielder Oscar Taveras is one of the Cardinals most highly touted prospects. He hit .321 with 23 homeruns and 94 RBIs with the AA-affiliate Springfield Cardinals last year, and MLB Network recently ranked him as the third-best prospect in all of baseball. In fact, the Cardinals had six players make MLB Network’s list of the top 100 prospects.

Miller came in at 25th, and he will be a strong contender for the fifth spot in the Cardinals starting rotation this year. Trevor Rosenthal ranked 43rd, and he figures to be an important part of the Cardinals pitching staff in 2013.

The other three Cardinals players on the list are unlikely to make the team, but the spring training games should give fans a chance to see second baseman Kolten Wong, as well as pitchers Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha, for the first time.

Folks have talked about those prospects for more than a year, and this year’s exhibition schedule should allow fans their first chance to see how excited they should be about the Cardinals No. 1-ranked minor league system.

Miller, Rosenthal and Joe Kelly will compete for the fifth and final rotation spot, and Daniel Descalso and Matt Carpenter will battle for the second base job. Otherwise, not much of what takes place during the 32-game schedule will have much of an effect on the Cardinals’ 2013 season.

And that’s OK. The Cardinals will be playing actual baseball games.

While temperatures in St. Louis remain in the 30s and 40s, that is good enough for now.

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Royals This and That

Royals news is slow this time of year, but a few things happened last week.

Kauffman Cover Photo

The World Baseball Classic announced provisional rosters and nine Royals will be a part of the Classic. Players include left-handed pitchers Bruce Chen (China) and Tim Collins (USA), right-handed pitchers Kelvin Herrera (Dominican Republic), Luis Mendoza (Mexico), J.C. Sulbaran (The Netherlands), catcher Salvador Perez (Venezuela), infielders Irving Falu (Puerto Rico) and Miguel Tejada (Dominican Republic) and outfielder Paulo Orlando (Brazil). The Classic will be held March 2-19, during Major League Spring Training.

While the WBC is a way to promote baseball internationally, I’m sure it makes some Major League managers and teams nervous. There’s a chance of injury during the WBC and fringe players like Mendoza, Falu and Tejada have less time with the Royals to make the roster. Players from eliminated teams will come back to Spring Training, but it could affect a player’s performance this spring and their role on the team.

The Royals and Luke Hochevar avoid arbitration and Hochevar gets a raise: A lot of fans wanted the Royals to release Hochevar and move on. Instead, he receives a one-year, $4.56 million contract, a raise from the $3.51 million he received last year. Arbitration all but guarantees a player gets a raise, even for a dismal performance like Hochevar had last year.

It’s easy to get worked up over this, giving the maddening inconsistency over his career. But Hochevar isn’t The Man anymore. He’s a guy fighting for a fifth starter spot with Bruce Chen. There’s a chance he might not make the rotation and end up in the bullpen or even AAA Omaha. I think Hochevar knows this is his last chance with the Royals. If he improves his consistency and becomes the pitcher the Royals hoped for, good. If not, he’ll be gone soon enough. Let’s hope the rest of the rotation stays healthy so Hochevar doesn’t win a roster spot by default.

Last weekend, the Royals Fan Fest and Royals Caravan gave fans the opportunity to meet players, get autographs and talk about Royals baseball. From the amount of fans who attended the events there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the 2013 season.

Finally, the Royals announced their promotions and giveaways for 2013, featuring a Billy Butler bobblehead, a retro powder blue jersey and Ketchup, Mustard and Relish bobbleheads. Sadly, there isn’t a Eric Hosmer Amish Warrior bobblehead like I proposed last year. Oh well, there’s always 2014.

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Winter Warm Up Day 1 Recap

Here are a few player notes and info from thus far into the Cardinals Winter Warm Up. Besides the updates provided by John Mozeliak yesterday, there was a bit of player provided news as well. As for below, here is yesterday’s info:

Wainwright

  • Jamie Garcia said that while he was mentioned in association with Team Mexico for the upcoming World Baseball Classic, which he never intended to participate in the tournament and wasn’t asked to. “It’s a tough decision. It’s an honor to represent your country, but now is not the right time.”
  • Garcia also has not thrown off a mound yet, but is on schedule with his preparation.

 

  • Matt Adams, who had elbow surgery during the offseason, said he is rehabbing well. He also dropped 10-15 pounds as part of new nutrition plan he undertook as well.

 

  • Marc Rzepczynski described his season last year as an up and down affair, leaning on a philosophy that Tony LaRussa described in saying “The season is a roller coaster, and the goal is to keep the rollercoaster as small as you can. And it got a little big last year.”

 

  • Chris Carpenter says he is feeling as good as he does any season at this point, and does not anticipate any adjusted spring regime. In response to the competition for the pitching staff amongst the young arms, he is excited to work with them all, and no singular one impresses him more than any other. “Everyone in this community and organization should be excited about what the team has.” He joked that he will show up “ready to compete for the rotation when
  • About his future after this season, Carp has no plans yet and will decide on if he will continue to play after this year. However, if he has more health issues he doubts he would undergo any more rehab to keep playing.

 

  • Adam Wainwright reported that he’s undergoing a completely normal offseason in the fashion that he did before his Tommy John surgery. He is stated that he was forced to alter his approach at times last season, including throwing a four-seam fastball for the first time since 2006.
  • His breakthrough moment was his May 27th, complete game win versus the San Diego Padres. “That was when I really felt like I was back”, said Wainwright. As for season goals, he does not see 200 inning as a personal mile marker (he threw 198 in 2012), but that “when you get to the Roy Halladay, 250 to 260 inning mark is when it’s an achievement.
  • He was not contacted to participate in the World Baseball Classic, and would have declined due to resuming his normal training regime. However he did state he would be very interested in participating next time, as it is a great honor.

CheapSeatsPlease

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Royals Extend 21 Invites To Spring Training

KCRoyalsPressRelease

KANSAS CITY, MO (January 9, 2013) — The Kansas City Royals announced today that the club has invited 21 non-roster players to Major League Spring Training in Surprise, Ariz.  Among the invitations are nine pitchers, four catchers, four infielders and four outfielders.

Pitchers (9):

Blaine Boyer, 31, is 9-14 with a 4.81 ERA in 233 Major League relief appearances for the Braves (2005-09), Cardinals (2009), Diamondbacks (2009-10) and Mets (2011).  The 6-foot-3, 245-pound right-hander from Marietta, Ga., is a groundball specialist, allowing just 17 home runs in 234.0 innings.  He was signed as a minor league free agent on January 3, 2013.

22-year-old Sugar Ray Marimon pitched for both Wilmington (High A) and Northwest Arkansas (AA) in 2012.  He was a Carolina League All-Star, posting a 4-2 record with a 2.12 ERA in 14 games (nine starts) before his promotion to the Naturals.  Marimon, a 6-foot-1 right-hander from Cartagena, Colombia, was signed by the Royals as a non-drafted free agent on November 20, 2006.  He earned a win for Colombia over Nicaragua on November 16, 2012 in World Baseball Classic qualifying and also tossed 5.0 scoreless innings over two appearances for Licey in the Dominican Winter League this offseason.

Michael Mariot, 24, was the Northwest Arkansas (AA) Pitcher of the Year in 2012, recording a 6-3 record with a 3.40 ERA in 31 games, including 14 starts.  The University of Nebraska product is a 5-foot-11 right-hander from Southlake, Texas, who was selected by the Royals in the eighth round of the 2010 Draft.

34-year-old right-hander Brian Sanches returned to the Royals organization on a minor league contract on November 20, 2012 after nearly 10 years with other clubs.  Sanches was the Royals’ second-round selection in 1999.  He pitched in the Kansas City system until August 26, 2003 when he was traded to San Diego for outfielder Rondell White.  The 6-foot-1 Nederland, Texas native has made 195 career appearances, all but two in relief, in the Majors with the Phillies (2006-07, 2012), Nationals (2008) and Marlins (2009-11), recording a 13-7 record with a 3.75 ERA in 235.0 innings.

Atahualpa (at-ah-WALL-pa) Severino, 28, posted a 3-0 record with three saves and a 2.81 ERA in 46 relief stints for Syracuse, Washington’s Triple-A affiliate, in 2012.  The left-hander was signed to a minor league contract on November 14, 2012.  Born in Cotui, Dominican Republic, Severino saw his only Major League action in 2011 with the Nationals, recording a 1-0 record with a 3.86 ERA in six games.

Left-hander George Sherrill, 35, is 19-17 with 56 saves and a 3.77 ERA in 442 career Major League appearances, all in relief, for the Mariners (2004-07, 2012), Orioles (2008-09), Dodgers (2009-10) and Braves (2011).  The 2008 American League All-Star made just two appearances for Seattle in 2012 before undergoing Tommy John surgery on his left elbow on May 4.  Born and raised in Tennessee, the current Utah resident has held left-handed batters to a .186 batting average in his Major League career. He was signed to a minor league deal on December 12, 2012.

Yordano Ventura, 21, was the 2012 Wilmington Pitcher of the Year, a Carolina League All-Star and tossed a scoreless inning as the starting pitcher for the World squad in the SiriusXM MLB Futures All-Star Game in Kansas City on July 8, 2012.  The 5-foot-11 resident of Samana, Dominican Republic, opened 2012 at Wilmington, posting a 3-5 record with a 3.30 ERA in 16 starts.  Signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Royals on October 8, 2008, the right-hander also made six starts for Northwest Arkansas.

25-year-old Ryan Verdugo was a Pacific Coast League All-Star and member of the All-PCL Team in 2012.  The southpaw also made his Major League debut for the Royals in July in a start.  Verdugo was 12-4 at Omaha (AAA) with a 3.75 ERA in 27 games (24 starts).  He was acquired by the Royals from the San Francisco Giants on November 7, 2011.

Dan Wheeler, 35, is 25-43 with a 3.98 ERA in 589 outings over a 13-year Major League career for the Rays (1999-2001, 2007-10), Mets (2003-04), Astros (2004-07), Red Sox (2011) and Indians (2012).  Born in Rhode Island but now living in Florida, the right-hander split the 2012 campaign between the Cleveland Indians and Triple-A Columbus.  He signed a minor league contract with the Royals on December 16, 2012.

Catchers (4):

28-year-old Adam Moore was claimed on Outright Waivers from the Seattle Mariners on July 7, 2012 and appeared in four games with the Royals in September.  The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder has appeared in the big leagues for parts of the last four seasons, playing 72 games.

Manuel Pina was re-signed by the Royals after appearing in 49 minor league contests for Surprise (R) and Northwest Arkansas (AA) in 2012, as well as one game with the big league club in September.  The 25-year-old from Venezuela missed the first three months of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee during Spring Training.

28-year-old Max Ramirez remains in the Kansas City system after initially signing as a minor league free agent on December 14, 2011.  The resident of Barquisimeto, Venezuela, has appeared in the Majors with the Texas Rangers in 2008 and 2010.  Ramirez spent all of 2012 with Omaha, batting .300 with 17 home runs and 77 RBI in 110 games.

Julio Rodriguez, 23, was acquired by the Royals with left-handed pitcher Antonio Cruz from the Detroit Tigers for infielder Wilson Betemit on July 20, 2011.  The Hato Mayor, Dominican Republic resident was a minor league All-Star in 2008, 2010 and 2011 and named the Dominican Tigers Player of the Year in 2008.  Rodriguez batted .234 in 67 games for Northwest Arkansas a season ago.

Infielders (4):

23-year-old Christian Colon was the Northwest Arkansas Player of the Year and a Texas League All-Star in 2012.  The middle infielder saw his season end prematurely in mid-August due to a right eye injury after batting .412 in five games for Omaha.  Colon, the club’s first round pick (fourth overall) in 2010 out of Cal State-Fullerton, hit .289 with five home runs and 12 stolen bases in 73 games for Northwest Arkansas.  The right-handed batter is hitting .301 with 13 stolen bases in 39 games for Ponce in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

Anthony Seratelli, 29, hit .299 with 17 doubles, 17 home runs and 66 RBI in 115 games for Omaha in 2012.  The versatile switch-hitter also stole 15 bases.  The Royals purchased Seratelli from the Windy City ThunderBolts of the Frontier League on February 27, 2007.

38-year-old Miguel Tejada, signed as a minor league free agent on December 31, 2012, is a six-time All-Star and was the 2002 American League MVP after batting .308 with 34 home runs and 131 RBI with Oakland.  The 15-year veteran is a career .285 hitter with 304 home runs, 1,282 RBI and 463 doubles in 2,118 games for the A’s (1997-2003), Orioles (2004-07, 2010), Astros (2008-09), Padres (2010) and Giants (2011).  Tejada played 36 games for Triple-A Norfolk in 2012 and is currently batting .284 with nine doubles, four home runs and 19 RBI in 34 games for Aguilas in the Dominican Winter League.

Infielder Brandon Wood, 27, spent 2012 at Triple-A Colorado Springs in the Rockies organization, batting .259 with 10 home runs and 64 RBI on 119 games.  The former top prospect in the Los Angeles Angels system has played in 272 Major League contests since his debut with the Angels as a 22-year-old in 2007.  He is a career .186 hitter with 18 home runs for the Angels (2007-11) and Pirates (2011).  Wood signed a minor league contract with the Royals on November 19, 2012.

Outfielders (4):

Endy Chavez, 34, an 11-year Major League veteran, signed a minor league deal with the Royals on December 26, 2012.  He made his debut in 2001 with Kansas City after the Royals selected him from the New York Mets organization in the 2000 Rule 5 Draft.  The 6-foot resident of Valencia, Venezuela, is a career .269 hitter with 118 doubles, 32 triples, 26 home runs, 229 RBI, 341 runs and 100 stolen bases for the Royals (2001), Expos (2002-04), Nationals (2005), Phillies (2005), Mets (2006-08), Mariners (2009), Rangers (2011) and Orioles (2012).  The left-handed hitting and throwing outfielder appeared in 64 regular season games with Baltimore last season, also playing in three Division Series games against the Yankees.  Chavez hit .276 with 15 walks in 30 games for Magallanes in the Venezuelan Winter League.

26-year-old Luis Durango hit .289 and stole an International League-leading 46 bases in 62 attempts for Triple-A Gwinnett in 2012, serving as the club’s primary centerfielder.  The 5-foot-9 switch-hitter from Panama has played 39 games in the Major Leagues for the San Diego Padres in 2009 and 2010, hitting .292 with seven stolen bases in eight attempts.  Durango, who signed a minor league deal on November 8, 2012, competed for Caribes in the Venezuelan Winter League, batting .286 with six steals and playing all three outfield positions.

Xavier Nady, 34, has played 11 seasons in the Major Leagues with the Padres (2000, 2003-05), Mets (2006), Pirates (2006-08), Yankees (2008-09), Cubs (2010), Diamondbacks (2011), Nationals (2012) and Giants (2012).  He is a career .270 hitter with 101 home runs and 406 RBI in 939 games.  The 6-foot-2, 215-pound right-handed hitter and thrower split 2012 between the Nationals and Giants organizations, playing 59 games at the Major League level.  Nady signed a minor league pact on December 18, 2012.

Willy Taveras, 31, is a seven-year Major League veteran who has compiled a .274 career average with 195 stolen bases for the Astros (2004-06), Rockies (2007-08), Reds (2009) and Nationals (2010).  The Dominican Republic resident led the National League with 68 stolen bases in 75 attempts for Colorado in 2008.  Taveras is currently batting .255 with nine stolen bases in 52 games for Obregon in the Mexican Winter League.

Pitchers and catchers will report to Surprise on Monday, February 11.  Workouts for pitchers begin the following day, Tuesday, February 12.  The remainder of the squad will report on Thursday, February 14 and begin workouts for the 2012 campaign on Friday, February 15.

Posted in RoyalsComments (1)

Wilmington Rocks Matsuzaka In 7-2 Win

Salem, VA – On frigid night with penetrating winds that shattered the warmest of layered clothing, the cherry on top had the Wilmington Blue Rocks (8-8) facing a rehabbing big leaguer in Daisuke Matsuzaka.  What appeared to be a recipe for offensive anemia instead cooked up a healthy helping of 12 hits and three home runs, both season-high marks, in a 7-2 defeat of the Salem Red Sox (7-8) on Monday night.  Wilmington’s third straight win, its fifth in seven games, lifted it to .500 for the first time on the young season.

Whit Merrifield found himself down 0-2 in the count against the two-time World Baseball Classic MVP to begin the game.  He then found himself rounding the bases, as he sent a ball over the 25-foot high wall in left for his first home run of the season.  Two batters later, Cheslor Cuthbert doubled and Brian Fletcher followed with a lengthy at-bat.  He fouled off pitch after pitch before sending a single to left that scored Cuthbert for an early 2-0 lead.

Geulin Beltre got in on the act when he slammed Matsuzaka’s first pitch of the second over the left-field fence for his first homer and a 3-0 margin.  Matsuzaka (0-1) gave up three runs on six hits over four innings in his first rehab outing since undergoing Tommy John surgery last June.

Wilmington starter Jason Adam saw an infield hit, a soft single and a walk all come with two outs to load the bases in the second.  But the 20-year-old induced a fly-out to center from Jackie Bradley, Jr. to leave the bases loaded and cruised to his first win as a Blue Rock.  Adam (1-1) tossed five scoreless frames, struck out five and lowered his league-leading ERA to 0.40.

Cuthbert provided run-scoring hits in the fifth, seventh and ninth.  They combined with Brett Eibner’s first Wilmington homer in the eighth to make it 7-0.  Cuthbert, a highly-touted 19-year-old third baseman, went 4-for-5 with two doubles and three RBIs in his best game as a Rock.

After Sam Runion held the Sox scoreless in the sixth and seventh, Jon Keck did the same in the eighth.  In the ninth, Chase Boruff had two outs and two strikes on the board when he gave up a two-run double to Brandon Jacobs that spoiled the shutout.  He struck out Travis Shaw thereafter to end the game.

Yordano Ventura (0-1, 3.86) looks for his first win as a Blue Rock when the series continues at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday night.  He will face fellow right-hander Keith Couch (2-1, 3.38).  Broadcast coverage begins at 6:35 p.m. as studio hostRob Cunningham brings fans the Rocks Report Pre-game Show, presented by Wawa, on 89.7 WGLS-FM and online at wgls.rowan.edu. 

PEBBLES OF KNOWLEDGE:
According to the National Weather Service, winds gusted in excess of 30 mph during the course of the night.  The flags showed the wind flowing toward left field most of the game, where two of the Rocks’ three homers cleared the fence. Brett Eibner’s blow went into the wind in right-center field.

Whit Merrifield’s leadoff homer was the third of his two-year tenure with the Blue Rocks.  He fell a triple short of the cycle and scored four runs.

Sam Runion’s two scoreless innings lowered his ERA to 1.17.  The former starter has allowed just one run in four relief appearances and 7.2 innings.

Over their first 13 games of the year, the Blue Rocks scored a total of 36 runs.  In their last three they have plated 22.

While the stats from Sunday’s suspended game will not count until the game is completed and official on June 8, consider this.  A Wilmington club that entered the weekend as one of baseball’s two teams sans home run now has seven over the last three days.

Posted in Minors, RoyalsComments (0)

Could Oquendo Find Solace Within The Division

The Cardinals shocked most everyone by hiring Mike Matheny as the manager for the 2012 season. Many thought Jose Oquendo was the heir apparent to the throne.

To Oquendo’s credit, the alleged snub to the position did not deter him from returning to the Cardinals as their third base coach. For how long is a completely different question.

The Houston Astros officially announced the dismissal of the team’s president, TAl Smith, and general manager, Ed Wade. What has been left unclear is how the field manager and coach positions will be handled. Many within the organization feel that it may be left up to the new general manager.

Jose Oquendo has often been thought of as the next manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. Over the past few seasons he has been interviewed for various vacant positions in Major League Baseball. Though it has not been clear as to why, he has not to my knowledge received a second interview for any position. It is thought within the industry that Oquendo was simply preparing himself for the position in St. Louis and, while thankful for the interview, was not interested in pursuing the opportunities further.

Oquendo has served as the manager for the Puerto Rico team in the two installations of the World Baseball Classic. Heralded for his work there with both established veterans and young players, it propelled Oquendo’s name to the top of many managerial lists. His continued work within the country during the major league off season keeps his name being talked about as a coach ready to make the jump.

While there have been some openings in baseball this year, very few line up for a coach like Oquendo the way the Astros’ position, should it become vacant, does. It is a young ball club that will most likely be searching for a manager to grow with them. The payroll and expectations will be kept low for the next few seasons and a manager that can work with the youth of the farm system to help develop them into the future of the franchise will become paramount.

The toughest decision to come for the Astros may be where their future lies. With a pending move to the American League, the manager will need to be very flexible and capable of running a team utilizing National League rules one season and American League rules the following. A young manager, in terms of experience managing, would fit that requirement as well. The drawback for Oquendo in that sense would be his tenure being completely National League based.

Many fans assumed, hoped and dreamed of “The Secret Weapon” managing the St. Louis Cardinals. With the appointment of Mike Matheny, that time may well have passed. I for one believe he deserves a chance in Major League Baseball and Houston may provide the best opportunity of all.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

Posted in CardinalsComments (3)


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