by Bruce Baskin, Baseball Mexico, http://baseballmexico.blogspot.com/
MANNY RODRIGUEZ HOMERS, CHARROS PULL INTO LMP CO-LEAD
After a forgettable two-season 2018 stint in the Mexican League with Monclova and Quintana Roo, Manny Rodriguez may be getting his groove back in Jalisco.
The perennial All-Star second baseman broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning with a solo homer off Los Mochis starter Chris Huffman as the Charros went on to beat the host Caneros, 4-2, Sunday night as 5,932 watched at Mochis’ Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada. Rodriguez had a rocky Spring season in the LMB, leaving the Acereros two weeks into the schedule and forcing a trade to the Tigres, where he played the rest of Spring and the entire Fall campaign. While he had a power surge with 9 homers in 54 games but only hit .253 and .294 for the two seasons. Although Rodriguez picked up the pace after landing with the Tigres, it was for all intent a lost summer for the 36-year-old Guasave native. He’s off to a good winterball start with the Charros, however, with a .333 batting average over his first eight games (including a sizzling .467 mark in four home contests). Rodriguez’ homer Sunday night was his second and he now has eight RBIs. It’s early yet, but perhaps Manny’s spring of discontent in Monclova has faded from his rear-view mirror.
The win hoisted Jalisco into a three-way tie for the Mexican Pacific League’s first-half lead with identical 5-3 records. Co-leaders Mazatlan and Culiacan both lost Sunday night. The Venados lost a 3-2 contest at Hermosillo as Bryce Brentz’ RBI single gave the Naranjeros a win in walkoff fashion in the bottom of the tenth. The Tomateros fell, 4-1 in Mexicali as C.J. Retherford singled, doubled and drove in two runs for the victorious Aguilas, who are now a half-game out of the lead in third with a 4-3 record.
Mazatlan’s strong start can be attributed to their collective .315 batting average, an unusual trait for a Venados team that has traditionally relied on pitching to win. Four of the LMP’s top seven batters are in the Mazatlan lineup. While Navojoa’s Alonzo Harris tops the list at .472 (Harris’ five steals ties Mexicali’s Juan Perez for most), the Venados have four hitters inside the Top Ten: Azael Sanchez at .458 (2nd), Anthony Giansanti and Brian Hernandez at .423 (tied for 4th) and Sherman Johnson at an even .400 (7th). The aforementioned Manny Rodriguez is tied with seven other batsmen for the lead in homers with his two longballs while his eight ribbies are tops in that category as well.
Although Mazatlan has maintained their strong pitching tradition with a team ERA of 2.59, that figure only ranks fourth among the MexPac’s eight teams. Mexicali and Navojoa are tied with a stingy 2.16 while Culiacan is third at 2.56. The LMP has long been a pitcher’s league, a contrast with summer’s hitter-friendly Mexican League, but the hurlers are ahead the hitters more than usual. Obregon reliever Jesus Anguamea has won twice in four outing to be the only 2-0 man in the league. Mazatlan’s Jose Hernandez has yet to allow a run in 12 innings over two starts (he’s 1-0) and Mexicali veteran Javier Solano’s 15 strikeouts in 11.2 frames tops that list. Evan Marshall of Mazatlan is tied with Jalisco’s Grant Sides with three saves apiece. Marshall has not been scored upon in four appearances, giving up two hits and no walks in four innings.
MEXICO WINS 2 OF FIRST 3 GAMES AT U-23 WORLD CUP IN COLOMBIA
A Mexico team consisting of many of the country’s top young ballplayers has won two of its first three games at the WBSC’s Under-23 World Cup tournament in Barranquilla, Colombia. Twelve national teams are entered in the competition, with Mexico in the six-team Group A along with host Colombia, Japan, Taiwan, South Africa and The Netherlands. Group B consists of Australia, South Korea, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and both the Czech and Dominican Republics.
Mexico snuck past Taiwan, 2-1, last Friday in the World Cup opener. Alan Garcia’s two-run single scored Roberto Valenzuela and Julian Ornelas in the bottom of the first inning. Garcia played outfield three years in the Padres system before debuting for Puebla in the Mexican League fall season, batting .259 in 25 games. That ended up being all the offensive support that starting pitcher Luis Rodriguez and four relievers would need. Rodriguez, who went 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA in 21 relief appearances for Quintana Roo this fall, gave up one run on five hits in as many innings to earn the win. Erick Casillas (Oaxaca) worked a scoreless ninth for the save.
Manager Enrique “Che” Reyes’ squad made it two straight Saturday by pounding The Netherlands, 14-7. The Mexicans scored at least one run in every inning but the second and third as they outhit the Dutchmen by a 16-to-12 margin. Outfielder Fabricio Macias, who played in the Pirates system this year after two seasons in Saltillo, had three hits (including a homer), three runs and three RBIs for the winners while Bernardo Heras (Puebla) had three hits, scored twice and drove in a run. Starter Francisco Haro (Campeche) gave up three runs in five innings, but he struck out nine Dutch batters and pitched well enough to win.
Things fell back to Earth on Sunday as Japan knocked Mexico out of the unbeaten ranks by a 7-2 count. The Japanese got off to a 4-0 lead before Heras put the Verdes Grande on the scoreboard with a solo homer in the top of the fourth, but the only other Mexican run came two frames later when Daniel Mercado (Union Laguna) singled in Roberto Valenzuela from third. Marco Jaime (Leon) had two of Mexico’s six hits while pinch-hitter Walter Higuera (Yucatan) added a seventh-inning double, but this one was Japan’s to lose early. Saul Castellanos (Saltillo) was bombed for five runs on seven hits in ust 3.2 innings to absorb the loss.
As might be expected, World Cup games not involving host Colombia have not been witnessed by large crowds at Barranquilla’s Estadio Edgar Renteria. Only 62 hardy souls attended Mexico’s Friday tournament opener against Taiwan. Although a reported 500 showed up for Saturday’s Mexico-Netherlands game, only 250 wandered in for Sunday’s Mexico-Japan encounter. Conversely, crowds of 3,500 came out for each of Colombia’s first two games (their Sunday night tilt with South Africa was halted by rain in the second inning).
First round round-robin play is scheduled to conclude Tuesday, weather permitting, with a three-day “super round” commencing Wednesday prior to Saturday’s Bronze and Gold medal games.
MENESES LEAVES TOMATEROS, MAY PLAY IN JAPAN NEXT YEAR
After not getting a callup to parent club Philadelphia despite winning the AAA International League’s Most Valuable Player award, Joey Meneses is hoping for a fair shot in Japan next year. The Culiacan native has reportedly been negotiating with a Nippon Professional Baseball team and has not played for his hometown Tomateros since homering and driving in three runs in a 6-1 Mexican Pacific League win over Los Mochis last Wednesday.
The 26-year-old Meneses was signed by the Phillies as a free agent last winter after seven seasons in the Atlanta system, including MiLB.com Organization All-Star selections in 2014 and 2017. He’d batted .282 with a career-high 9 homers for the Braves’ Mississippi affiliate in the AA Southern League, playing in that loop’s All-Star Game in 2017, a good year but not good enough to keep his job. The Phils signed him to a minor league deal and assigned him to their IL farm club in Lehigh Valley, where he proceeded to hit .311 while leading the circuit in homers (23), RBIs (82), and OPS (.870) while tying with Columbus’ Brandon Barnes for most runs scored (75). The IL named the 26-year-old both MVP and Rookie of the Year for 2018 for his efforts while unsurprisingly placing the first baseman on their postseason All-Star squad. Lehigh Valley won the Northern Division title with a league-best 84-56 record before falling to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in four games in the first round of the playoffs.
Meneses was never brought to Philadelphia despite his breakout campaign for the Iron Pigs, even after MLB rosters were expanded to 40 players on September 1. The 6’3″ 220-pounder was on a one-year deal with the Phillies, making him a free agent going into this offseason. He has reportedly been in contract talks to play for the Orix Buffaloes, who were formed by a 2005 merger between the Pacific League’s Orix Blue Wave and Kintetsu Buffaloes. The Buffaloes finished fourth in the PL with a 62-69 record. Japanese teams are allowed four foreigners on their 25-man rosters (there are no limits to gaijin in NPB’s minor leagues) and while pitchers Andrew Albers (9-2/3.08) and Brandon Dickson (4-6, 3.55) plus outfielder Stefen Romero (.235/23/62) probably played well enough to be brought back in 2019, Chris Marrero (.201/11/26) dropped off noticeably since a good 2017 debut in Osaka and the ex-Nats and Giants first sacker may be considered expendable.
Meneses was batting .417 with a homer and 6 RBIs over four games when he made his last appearance for the defending MexPac champion Tomateros, managed this year by Lorenzo Bundy. Meneses hit .248 with 6 homers for Culiacan in 66 games last winter.