The Undercards: Joel Peralta, Juan Cruz Sharp in Winter Debuts, Wes Bankston Suddenly Red-Hot Again


In Winter Ball, major league players like to go their hometown team and get a few relaxing games in. Their intentions are nice, but the players around them want to win, and especially as a major leaguer, you better play well. Joel Peralta and Juan Cruz got off to a good start to that on Thursday night.

Dominican Winter League: Tigres del Licey 4, Toros del Este 3 (16 innings)

This marathon finally ended in the 16th when three current and former New York Mets put together a game ending rally for the Tigres. Jordany Valdespin and Timo Perez both singled, and two batters later,  Anderson Hernandez laced a walk-off single to give Licey the 4-3 win. Valdespin had already been a hero back in the 14th, singling in the game-tying run after a Danilo Sanchez RBI double had given Este a 3-2 lead in the top of the frame. The three Mets were outstanding, with Anderson having a 4-hit day, but earlier in the game, a trio of ex-Rays got into the game, also all for Licey. Juan Cruz made his winter debut for Licey, pitching the 7th and 8th innings allowing just a hit and a walk, and he struck out 4 and recorded his other 2 outs on the ground. Cruz managed a 2.78 ERA in 46 appearances for the Pirates in 2012 but was bizarrely released in August. The reason: the Pirates needed room on their roster for new blood in their bullpen after a 19-inning game. Ironic that Cruz made his debut in the same type of game. Juan Miranda entered as a defensive replacement at first base in the 9th and wound up getting three plate appearances, going 1 for 2 with a walk, before getting pinch-ran for in the 14th. Speaking of defensive replacements, pinch-runners, and the like, both teams used 25 different players in this game, with Licey using 17 positions players and 8 pitchers while Este used 14 position players and 11 pitchers. The last Ray in the game was Jesus Colome, who tossed a perfect 11th with a strikeout. Always fun to see games as crazy as this and see some ex-Rays (and Mets) play well.

Leones del Escogido 6, Gigantes del Cibao 5

Joel Peralta made his debut for the Gigantes in the 6th and was as dominant as a pitcher as good as he is should be in Winter Ball, tossing a perfect inning with 2 strikeouts and the groundout. The Gigantes would have been better served, though, using him in his customary 8th inning role. In the 8th, Willy Aybar pinch-hit and notched a single off Juan Perez that loaded the bases with nobody out and put the tying run at the plate in a 5-1 game. Perez rebounded to get the next two batters out before Cibao decided to bring in closer and ex-Ray Jhonny Nunez. But Nunez did not do the job by any stretch. He allowed a game-tying grand slam to Mauro Gomez to knot the game at 5. Then in the 9th, Nunez allowed a leadoff double to Yankees prospect Melky Mesa, who was bunted to third by ex-Ray Julio Lugo, and after an intentional walk of Fernando Tatis, Wilkin Castillo hit a flyball to center for what turned out to be a game-winning sac fly as Escogido game all the way back to win 6-5. Nunez has pitched great for Cibao- even after allowed 2 runs in this game his ERA is still just 1.90- but he was completely off on Thursday night.

Mexican Pacific League: Mayos de Navojoa 10, Naranjeros de Hermosillo 3 (7 innings- shortened due to rain)

Wes Bankston looked to have really cooled off. But just like he has done time and again for Navojoa, whenever it has looked like his magical run was over, he has delivered a couple of outstanding games to get him right back on track. After a 2-homer game on Wednesday, Bankston was huge for the Mayos again last night, going 3 for 5 with a double, a homer, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored. His numbers on the MPL season keep getting more impressive- now he’s at .296/.360/.522 with 9 doubles, 11 homers, 36 RBI, and a 31-21 strikeout to walk ratio in 50 games and 207 plate appearances. Humberto Cota also appeared in this game for Hermosillo, going 0 for 1 with 2 walks and a run scored. Jorge Cantu hasn’t played in the last couple of games for Hermosillo, and he tweeted that it was because of a viral infection. Good luck to him getting better as he’s been on fire for the Naranjeros.

Venezuelan Winter League: Tigres de Aragua 4, Bravos de Margarita 3

I’m thoroughly confused by Joey Gathright right now. We all remember that Gathright is not a very good hitter, and he’s hitting .316 as the leadoff man for Aragua including 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored in this game. Gathright did hit .268 in 1329 big league plate appearances, and it’s not like he’s hitting for any power with the Tigres as just one of his 14 hits has gone for extra bases, so it’s not so crazy at all that he’s hitting over .300 in Winter Ball in just 41 plate appearances. The bizarre thing is that he has not even attempted a stolen base. Yes, a player who swiped 20 bases thrice in the big leagues and has no power has not even tried to steal a base. What is going on with that, Joey?