The Undercards: Manny Ramirez Steals Show With Homer on First Dominican Winter League Pitch


Manny Ramirez has always driven baseball fans completely insane. But when he was going strong, there wasn’t anything like it. Ramirez had another magical moment on Wednesday night.

Arizona Fall League: Phoenix Desert Dogs 7, Surprise Saguaros 0

The Desert Dogs had an incredible game, holding the Saguaros to just 2 hits while showing impressive offense on their end. In terms of the Rays prospects, Kevin Kiermaier went 2 for 4 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored, Richie Shaffer started in left field and extended his hitting streak to 5, going 2 for 4 with a run scored, Tim Beckham went 0 for 4 with a sac fly, and Chris Rearick struck out 2 working around a walk in a scoreless inning. Hunter Morris returned from injury (or whatever was sidelining him), so Shaffer may stop starting on a regular basis for Phoenix, and that would be a shame. He has played in the Desert Dogs’ last five games, going 6 for 17 (.353).

Dominican Winter League: Leones del Escogido 3, Aguilas Cibaenas 2

The stadium was packed and everyone stood as Manny Ramirez stepped up to the plate as the cleanup hitter for the Aguilas Cibaenas in his first Dominican Winter League at-bat since 1994, right before his rookie season in the big leagues. Despite everything he had gone through and everything he had done, he was still their hero. The sound was deafening, the cameras flashing, as he dug into the right-handed batter’s box. With Ramirez being 40 years old and three years removed from doing anything of consequence in the big leagues, people had to be skeptic at least someone in the back of their minds that Ramirez’s performance itself would be anything worth cheering. Then suddenly, on the very first pitch from ex-Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera, Ramirez swung and hit a flyball to right field. The ball just kept carrying and the crowd stood in disbelief. The ball cleared the right field wall, landing in the first row of the seats for a home run, and the crowd erupted. It was the Leones who actually won the game, with Cabrera going 7 innings of 2-run ball before Rays pitching prospect followed with a scoreless inning, getting a pair of groundouts while working around a walk, and the Athletics’ Fautino De Los Santos nailed down the save. Ramirez ended up going 1 for 3 with his improbable home run along with a walk, while former Rays prospect Omar Luna went 1 for 4. Aguilas fans didn’t get the finish they wanted, but they received quite a moment when Ramirez connected.

Estrellas de Oriente 7, Tigres del Licey 5

Rays pitching prospect Braulio Lara made an appearance Licey in this one, going 1.1 hitless innings allowing just a walk while striking out 2. Lara has a 2.08 ERA on the DWL season in 4.1 innings pitched across 8 appearances.

Mexican Pacific League: Caneros de Los Mochis 11, Naranjeros de Hermosillo 9 (10 innings)

This game didn’t end the way the Naranjeros would have liked, but what a finish this game had. The Caneros were up 8-5 entering the 9th inning and career Mexican Leaguer Eder Llamas got 2 outs around a single as the Caneros were 1 out away from victory with Jorge Cantu coming up to the plate. But the ex-Devil Rays slugger kept the game going and then some, slamming a 2-run homer and suddenly the Narenjeros were within a run. The deficit disappeared one batter later when former Reds prospect Jesse Gutierrez followed with another home run to tie the game at 8. But the Caneros kept their cool struck for 3 runs in the 10th to win the game 11-9 after the Naranjeros were able to respond with just 1 run in the bottom of the inning. Cantu’s only hit of the game with his clutch 2-run homer as he went 1 for 5, but another ex-Devil Rays actually homered in the game, but he’s much harder to remember than Cantu, principally because he never made the major leagues in Tampa Bay. Catcher Humberto Cota signed with the Devil Rays as an international free agent in 1997 and had a huge season the following year at Rookie-level Princeton, posting a .310/.399/.580 line with 15 homers and 61 RBI in 67 games. But just one year later, the Rays traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates with fellow catcher Joe Oliver for outfielder Jose Guillen, who would have his best years after the Rays subsequently released him, and middle reliever Jeff Sparks. Cota wound up seeing time in the big league for the Pirates each year from 2001 to 2007, including serving as their primary catcher in 2005, but never hit much, managing just a .233/.280/.358 career line in 562 plate appearances. In any event, Cota went 3 for 5 with a solo homer in this one as the Naranjeros’ DH.

Mayos de Navojoa 10, Tomateros de Culiacan 8

Wes Bankston went 1 for 4 with 2 RBI and a run scored as the Mayos won despite allowing 4 runs in the last 2 innings of the game. Bankston, the ex-Rays prospect who made the big leagues with the Oakland A’s, has been the Mayos’ top hitter, posting a .304/.385/.489 line with 5 homers, 15 RBI, and 14 walks against 13 strikeouts in 25 games.

Venezuelan Winter League: Navegantes de Magallanes 3, Caribes de Anzoategui 2 (11 innings)

The Magallanes managed to walk off in 11 innings with ex-Rays prospect Chris Nowak being the reason they got that far, slamming a 2-run homer in second inning as part of a 1 for 3 day with a walk. Erold Andrus went 1 for 5 in the game while Leslie Anderson went 0 for 4 with a walk- but Anderson is still hitting .341 in 10 games and the Rays probably care about Anderson improving his patience as much as anything else moving forward.

Tigres de Aragua 15, Tiburones de La Guaira 10

Wednesday in Aragua was a great day to be a hitter and a couple ex-Rays minor leaguers were able to capitalize. Second baseman Cesar Suarez, who was in the system from 2006 to 2009, went 2 for 5 with a homer and 3 RBI, while Ray Olmedo, who the Rays kept at Triple-A in 2009 and 2011, went 1 for 4 with a double and 2 RBI. Suarez has a .352 average in 19 VWL games and is giving himself a chance for a minor league contract with an MLB team after not appearing in affiliated ball since 2010.

Leones del Caracas 7, Aguilas del Zulia 6

Henry Wrigley and Ryan Reid spent 2012 as teammates at the Rays’ Triple-A Durham franchise. But in this game, they matched up against each other with the game on the line, and Wrigley came out ahead as the Leones stunned the Aguilas. The Aguilas led 5-0 in the game before the Leones rallied for 5 runs in the 7th inning to tie the game, including an RBI double by Wrigley. But in the bottom of the inning, Tigers prospect Justin Henry delivered a sac fly to give Zulia a 6-5 lead. But Zulia reliever Manuel Olivares allowed a hit batsman and a single with 1 out in the 8th, and the Aguilas brought in Reid, their closer, to try to escape the jam. Two batters later, Wrigley came to the plate with 2 outs, the bases loaded, and the Aguilas still clinging to their 6-5 lead. But Wrigley changed that in a hurry, coming through with a 2-run single to give Caracas a 7-6 lead, and that was the final margin in the game. It was a rare tough appearance for Reid as he allowed 2 walks and a hit in 1.2 innings, striking out 2 but allowing both runners he inherited to score. Reid has a 1.74 ERA on the VWL season and had walked just 1 batter in 9 appearances entering Wednesday while striking out 9. On the other end, Wrigley had a huge game, going 4 for 4 with a double and 3 RBI, and he now has a .349/.403/.587 line in 29 VWL games with 8 homers and 26 RBI.