Most of the players seeing time in Winter Ball are either minor leaguers or coming off a rough year in the majors. Alex Torres is certainly an exception to that after a huge rookie year. But even a player riding high always has room for improvement, and Torres is working on plenty as he takes his pitching from Tampa Bay to the Venezuelan Winter League.
Dominican Winter League: Toros del Este 4, Leones del Escogido 1
Joey Terdoslavich stayed on fire for Este, going 2 for 4 with an RBI to reel off his third straight multi-hit game, upping his average to an even .300 in the procss. Mayo Acosta and Winston Abreu did not have the same luck, with Acosta going 0 for 3 with a passed ball and Abreu allowing a run on 2 hits without retiring ga batter.
Mexican Pacific League: Caneros de los Mochis 5, Mayos de Navojoa 2
The Mayos had a tough game, but you can’t say that about Jon Weber and Wes Bankston. Weber went 2 for 4 with an RBI while Bankston went 2 for 4 with a double and Navojoa’s other run batted in. Bankston now has 2 hits in all four of his games since returning to the Mayos’ lineup. That is one way to make people wonder where you have been.
Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League: Gigantes de Carolina 3, Cangrejeros de Santurce 1
Victor Mateo took the loss for Santurce, but only after another outstanding outing. He went 5 innings allowing 2 runs, 1 earned, 5 hits, striking out 2 while walking none. Mateo’s secondary pitches were not working as well as usual–you certainly could not tell from this start that he has struck out more than a batter per inning overall in the RCPBL–but he managed to fight through it and keep his team in the game. Mateo is 2-3 with a 3.55 ERA overall for the Cangrejeros, striking out 35 while walking just 8 in 33 innings, but also allowing 40 hits and 4 home runs (1.1 HR/9). If we can read anything into those numbers, it is that his changeup has really taken a step forward, becoming a strong pitch against hitters from both sides, but his fastball in the 88-91 MPH range remains unimpressive and his curveball hasn’t done much as a third pitch. After how far Mateo has come, though, he has given himself a chance to make the major leagues in a Rays uniform if he can keep improving. Jesus Feliciano went 1 for 4 with a run scored in the win for Carolina while John Rodriguez went 1 for 2 for Santurce in the loss.
Venezuelan Winter League: Aguilas del Zulia 9, Tigres de Aragua 1
Alex Torres keeps going strong for the Aguilas del Zulia. In this game, he went 6 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking 4 although his groundout to flyout ratio was outstanding at 8-1. The 1 run Zulia did allow came on an RBI single by former Rays minor leaguer Hector Gimenez. Zulia has pitched well for the Aguilas, but it has been nothing compared to what he did last year. In 2012, his strikeout to walk ratio was an unbelievable 86-27 in 60.1 innings–he struck out 86 while no other VWL pitcher struck out 60. He was overpowering, and while Winter League stats don’t often mean much, it looked everything like he had broken through. This year, however, his strikeout to walk ratio is just 22-16 in 22.1 innings pitched. What happened? Maybe Torres is just starting to tire out (he is up to 126.1 innings on the year), but what would be interesting is if he is working on his slider, which he threw just 5% of the time in 2013 after it had been an effective pitch in the past. That is the type of thing the numbers can’t tell us, but if Torres is really working on something and breaks through with it, that could make all the difference as he enters his second season as a key piece of the Rays bullpen.