It’s amazing how easy it is to go from a solid major league hitter to a player who needs his best game of the season to raise his batting average to .227. Willy Aybar made a series of mistakes and continues to experience the consequences.
Dominican Winter League: Tigres del Licey 5, Aguilas Cibaenas 1
To pitch in these offseason leagues, young pitchers have to adjust to middle relief roles knowing that veterans are going to get preference for starter. Braulio Lara has been able to thrive in essentially a situational lefty role for Licey. In this game, he entered with 2 on and 1 out and ex-Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, and Lara struck him out and then forced Erick Almonte to ground out to the inning. Lara, who lowered his ERA in 10 appearances (although in vintage situational lefty fashion, only 5 innings) to 1.80, and he was rewarded for efforts with the win in the game. Jesus Colome also pitched in relief for Licey, working around a hit in a shutout 9th inning, and Juan Miranda went 0 for 4 while Omar Luna went 1 for 4 from the 2-hole for Cibaenas.
Leones del Escogido 7, Toros del Este 5
A pair of washed-up ex-Rays appeared for Escogido to go along with a player the Rays hope is just getting started in Enny Romero, who was just added to the Rays’ 40-man roster (more on that later today). Willy Aybar had a nice game, going 2 for 4 with a walk, but he still has a .227/.292/.227 line in 6 DWL games. Aybar, 29, still has some talent, but he’s two years removed from players affiliated baseball- last playing with the 2010 Rays- and it’s completely his own fault after he spent time in Dominican prison for beating his wife, and it was not an isolated incident. It’s just sad watching him struggle to his weight in the Dominican Winter League after he has squandered so much talent. The other ex-Ray in this game, Julio Lugo, went 1 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored while Romero allowed 2 hits but overcame them to toss a scoreless 8th for Escogido. He has a 3.12 ERA in 10 appearances for the Leones, allowing 10 hits in 8.2 innings but striking out 6 while walking 2.
Mexican Pacific League: Mayos de Navojoa 13, Venados de Mazatlan 3
Wes Bankston had a bounce-back game for Navojoa in this one, but it was the guy hitting in front of him that really stole the show. Bankston went 2 for 3 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored, upping his batting average to a square .300 on the season, but Steve Moss, an ex-Brewers prospect who has split the last few years between the Mexican League and Independent Ball, went 4 for 5 with 3 homers and 5 RBI. Moss’ three blasts moved him in front of Bankston for the team lead in home runs. Congrats to Moss on quite a memorable game.
Venezuelan Winter League: Leones del Caracas 6, Cardelanes de Lara 5 (10 innings)
Henry Wrigley returned to the Caracas lineup in this one after a rare off-day and went 1 for 4 with a double, bizarrely the only double of the day for the Leones compared to 3 home runs, including a a walk-off homer by Jesus Guzman of the Padres. Wrigley has mashed to a .333/.382/.582 line with 9 homers, 5 doubles, and 28 RBI in 34 VWL games, but the major issue him has always been his patience, or lack thereof, and that remains a problem as he has struck out 28 times against 9 walks. If you’re wondering why the Rays let him become a minor league free agent this offseason, that’s exactly why. Victor Zambrano also appeared for Caracas in this game, walking 3 in the 7th inning but managed to pitch a scoreless frame to lower his VWL ERA to 2.08 in 7 appearances and 13 innings pitched.