The Undercards: Jorge Cantu Stays Red-Hot, Wes Bankston Drives in 2
By Robbie Knopf
Jorge Cantu is one of the most inconsistent players in the history of baseball. Not once, but twice in his major league career has he gone from a great season to a mediocre one to stuck at Triple-A. That continues to be the case with Cantu this offseason in the Mexican Pacific League. Even after slamming 7 homers in his last 13 games, he is still hitting just .247 on the MPL season.
Dominican Winter League: Aguilas Cibaenas 5, Leones del Escogido 3
Ironically, the best performances by ex-Rays in this one came on the losing Escogido side. For the Aguilas, Manny Ramirez went 1 for 5 and Hector Luna (who the Rays selected in the 2002 Rule 5 Draft before returning him without him appearing in an MLB game) went 0 for 3 with a walk, but for the Leones, Julio Lugo went 2 for 3 with a sac bunt while Willy Aybar delivered an RBI single as a pinch-hitter. Lugo is hot right now, going 9 for his last 15 (.600) in his last 4 games, but Aybar is actually even hotter, pinch-hitting in Escogido’s last 3 games and delivering a single each time, including 2 RBI.
Ostrellas de Oriente 7, Tigres de Licey 0
A couple of ex-Rays got into this one for Licey as Juan Miranda went 2 for 4 and Jesus Colome worked around a walk to toss a scoreless relief inning, striking out 1. Colome has tossed shutout ball in his last 2 outings since allowing 3 runs without recording an out on December 5th. It’s going to be a lot of work to lower his ERA, which currently stands at 6.75, into reasonable levels.
Gigantes del Cibao 8, Toros del Este 5
It didn’t cost them in this one, but I’ll say this again: why is Jhonny Nunez closing for Cibao with Joel Peralta appearing earlier in the game? Peralta at least tossed the 8th for the Gigantes, allowing a hit but striking out 2, while Nunez allowed a homer to Jamie Romak before he could finish off the game in a non-save situation. Rhyne Hughes went 2 for 4 with a double for Cibao appearing in his first game since December 4th. Nice to see him back on the field after recovering from whatever has been ailing him.
Mexican Pacific League: Venados de Mazatlan 3, Algodoneros de Guasave 2 (10 innings)
On the pitching side, a former Ray started and a current closed for Mazatlan, and the result was a tense but well deserved victory. Jeff Bennett had about the worst 11 big league appearances with the Rays in 2009 that you could possibly imagine, managing just a 9.95 ERA, a 4-11 strikeout to walk ratio, and 2 home runs allowed in 12.2 innings pitched. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since. His results were quite different, however, on Saturday. Bennett went 7 innings for the Venados allowing 2 runs on 7 hits, striking out 5 while walking 3 and posting an incredible 12-1 strikeout to walk ratio before departing in a 2-2 game. After two pitchers combined for a scoreless 8th, Matt Buschmann came in for the 9th and wound up tossing 2 innings as the game went into extra innings, allowing a hit and a walk in his 2 innings but striking out 3 and and getting 2 more of his outs on the ground. Buschmann has been great for Mazatlan, managing a 2.45 ERA in 5 appearances including 2 shutout frames in his last two appearances. A Mario Santana RBI single provided the winning margin for Mazatlan in the 9th and gave Buschmann the win in the game. Henry Mateo, a speedy outfielder who appeared at Triple-A for the Rays in 2009, also went 1 for 5 for the Venados hitting out of the leadoff spot.
Mayos de Navojoa 12, Caneros de los Mochis 7
Wes Bankston extended his hitting streak to 4 for the Mayos, going 2 for 5 with 2 RBI. Bankston has been unbelievable over the course of the streak, going 8 for 15 (.533) with 3 homers and 9 RBI.
Yaquis de Obrgon 6, Aguilas de Mexicali 3
Also staying hot was Jon Weber for Mexicali, who went 2 for 4 to raise his MPL average to .316. He has a great 8-game hitting streak going and is hitting a ridiculous 15 for 33 (.455) with 3 doubles and 5 RBI over the course of the streak.
Tomateros de Culiacan 9, Naranjeros de Hermosillo 6
There’s no stopping Jorge Cantu right now. Cantu homered again for Hermosillo in this game, his 7th in his last 13 games and his 13th on the MPL season, as part of a 1 for 3 day as he has been on fire. Yes, more than half of Cantu’s homers have come in the last 13 games as opposed to the previous 28. Cantu still has just a .247 MPL average but has managed a nice .343 OBP and a great .553 SLG. Humberto Cota went 0 for 3 for Hermosillo but did get hit by a pitch and score a run.
Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico): Game 1: Gigantes de Carolina 11, Leones de Ponce 9
Game 2: Leones de Ponce 6, Gigantes de Carolina 2
Jesus Feliciano had a great Game 1 for Carolina, going 1 for 2 with a triple, 2 walks, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored. Just of 5 of his 29 RCPBL hits have gone for extra bases. In Game 2, Feliciano went 0 for 4 and Eddie Morlan did not have a great game, allowing a run on 3 hits in 1.2 innings, striking out 1. But for Ponce, a previously undiscussed ex-Rays minor league, Jose Ruiz, went 1 for 3 with a walk and a 2-run homer. Ruiz has a very bizarre career path. The Rays signed him out of Cuba in 2010 at age 25 and started him in the Dominican Summer League before bumping him all the way up to Double-A, and then they released him at the end of the year. Ruiz split 2011 between Double-A and Triple-A in the Rangers organization before spending 2012 at Independent ball. Ruiz is in the unfortunate position of being a first baseman without very much power and bad defense, although he does have great plate discipline, managing a 134-88 strikeout to walk ratio in 1062 pro plate appearances.
Venezuelan Winter League: Tiburones de La Guaira 11, Caribes de Anzoategui 0
Cesar Suarez‘s game got off to a nice start for La Guaira as he went 2 for 2 with a walk, an RBI, and 2 runs scored, before getting pinch-run for in the 4th. This game was a rout, but it still isn’t a good sign that he was taken out of the game so early. You have to hope Suarez is OK. He’s been excellent for the Tiburones all season, managing a .313/.361/.470 line in 231 plate appearances.
Cardelanes de Lara 9, Tigres de Aragua 0
The only recognizable ex-Ray in this game, Joey Gathright, went 0 for 4 for Aragua, but two lesser-known former Rays had nice games. Brian Sweeney started for Lara and was great, going 6 innings allowing just 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 3 while walking none. Sweeney’s career is kind of sad as he has a 3.38 ERA in 73 career MLB appearances for the Mariners and Padres but never could find consistent work. Now at age 38, it looks like the end of the line is coming for him. Sweeney was briefly in the Rays system back in 2005. Another 38 year old ex-Ray appeared for Lara as Tomas Perez went 2 for 4 with a run scored. Perez was a super-utility player for the Devil Rays back in 2006, playing all four infield positions plus the corner outfield spots but hitting just .212.