Rays Winter Ball Recap: Cesar Suarez Breaks Out With Grand Slam
By Robbie Knopf
When you’re in a slump, you just want to find some way to get out of it. Running into a misplaced fastball with a trio of wonders on it can do wonders for a player’s confidence.
Dominican Winter League: Tigres del Licey 4, Gigantes del Cibao 3
A Rays lefty appeared for both sides in this one as Sergio Escalona went 0.2 innings for Cibao allowing a walk while Braulio Lara retired the only battter he faced for Licey. Wilson Betemit had been 2 for 2 with a triple for the Gigantes, but his manager took him out when Lara came in, and Lara forced pinch-hitter Hanser Alberto to ground out. Espinosa now has a 0.89 ERA through 14 appearances (although his strikeut to walk ratio is just 5-6) while Lara has faced two batters and retired them both.
Mexican Pacific League: Yaquis de Obregón 6, Tomateros de Culiacán 1
Rays minor league free agent signee Ali Solis had a strong game for the Tomateros, going 1 for 2 with a walk and throwing out the only runner that attempted to steal against him. Solis has strong numbers for Culiacán, hitting to a .311/.360/.485 line with 6 doubles, 4 homers, and 13 RBI in 111 plate apperances, but the walks are what he really needs more of as he has just a 30-8 strikeout to walk ratio in MPL play so far. Iker Franco, playing in just his second game for the Yaquis since returning from injuries, went 1 f0r 3, and Jorge Cantu went 0 for 3 with a walk.
Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League: Criollos de Caguas 3, Cangrejeros de Santurce 2
Victor Mateo experienced very mixed results in his start for Santurce, allowing 2 runs on 7 hits in just 3.1 innings but also striking out 5 while walking 1. A couple of the hits were cheapies, but they were mostly hard line drive hits. Mateo had power stuff in this game, getting 3 of his first 4 outs via the strikeout, but maybe he was feelling a little bit too good and tried challenging hitters too much. In any event, considering Mateo had just a 5.5 K/9 this year at Double-A, more strikeout are definitely a good sign. Mateo now has an insane 21-5 strikeout to walk ratio in 17.2 innings pitched for the Cangrejeros.
Venezuelan Winter League: Tiburones de La Guaira 10, Leones del Caracas 4
Cesar Suarez is hitting .268 so far in the VWL play. He wishes it was higher, but there are certainly worse batting averages in the world. The big difference between this winter and last winter for Suarez, however, has been his power. Last year, Suarez drilled a league-leading 18 doubles to go along with 6 home runs for a .472 slugging percentage. He entered Thursday, though, with just 5 doubles and 1 homer for a paltry .328 SLG. But one swing can change a lot of things. Suarez punctuated the Tiburones’ 7-run 4th inning with his grand slam, and he has to hope more extra-base hits are ahead. Bobby Abreu went 1 for 1 with 2 walks and an RBI in the loss for Caracas.
Tigres de Aragua 8, Caribes de Anzoátegui 6
We always talk about Leslie Anderson, who went 1 for 5 for the Caribes, but it was Hector Gimenez who had the big game. In the 3rd inning, Gimenez tied the game at 3 with a 2-run double, and then, after the Caribes had scored 3 in the top of the 8th to grab all the momentum, Gimenez slammed a solo home run to put them back in their place. On the day, Gimenez went 2 for 4 with a homer, a double, 3 RBI, and 3 runs scored. Gimenez has been the opposite of Suarez, not hitting much (.228 BA), but hitting for tremendous power when he does, slamming 9 homers and 5 doubles for a .463 SLG.
Navegantes del Magallanes 7, Aguilas del Zulia 4
Considering the Rays’ not exactly storied history with catchers, pretty amazing that a team would employ two of them in the same game by choice–but that is exactly with the Navegantes did. Robinson Chirinos went 1 for 3 with a run scored before Jesus Flores replaced him for defense, and Flores proceeded to have a game-tying hit-by-pitch in the 8th inning. The Navegantes actually had four Rays total appear in the game as Erik Hamren worked around 2 walks to toss a scoreless 5th and Jean Machi was perfect in the 9th. Hamren now has a 1.80 ERA in 13 appearances for Magallanes, but walks have been the issue as his strikeout-to-walk ratio is just 7-6.