Rays Winter Leagues Recap: Manny Ramirez Is Still “Manny”
By Robbie Knopf
Manny Ramirez had a great career, albeit one stained by performance-enhancing drugs. No matter what we think of him, though, it’s amazing that he keeps finding a way to make an impact. This season, that came as a player/coach for the Chicago Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate, and on Tuesday night, he made his presence felt on the field.
Arizona Fall League: Salt River Rafters 5, Peoria Javelinas 0
Well, the Tampa Bay Rays representatives in the Arizona Fall League have certainly done worse than this. Patrick Leonard went 0 for 3 at the plate for the Javelinas while Zach Cooper and Colton Reavis had less than disastrous appearances. Cooper allowed a run on 1 hit in 1.2 innings, walking 1, while Reavis allowed a run on a hit and a walk in 1 inning, striking out 1. Both Cooper and Reavis have looked slightly better since disaster appearances, and hopefully they will continue improving.
Dominican Winter League: Aguilas Cibaenas 10, Estrellas de Oriente 7
The Aguilas can literally say that they could not have won this game with Manny Ramirez. He got them on the board with a homer in the 4th inning and wound up going 2 for 4 with a homer, a double, a walk, 3 RBI, and a run scored. Attention, baseball world: Manny has arrived.
In regards to the other Rays-related players from this game, Matt Fields went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, and a run scored for Oriente, his teammate Chris Rearick retired the only batter he faced, and Juan Sandoval allowed a run in 0.1 innings for Cibaenas. Fields had truly been all-or-nothing before that walk, managing the same .250 average and OBP against a .583 slugging percentage entering this game.
Mexican Pacific League: Caneros de los Mochis 3, Naranjeros de Hermosillo 1
A trio of former Rays minor leaguers appeared for the Caneros in this game, and it is the one who we haven’t seen yet who was most interesting. Justin Christian went 1 for 4 with a run scored out of the leadoff spot for los Mochis–it is nice that they have stuck with him at the top of the order even though he’s hitting just .143. Then again, his 7 walks against 4 strikeouts are a sign that better things are on the way. While Christian led off the game for the Caneros, Carlos Fisher finished by striking out the only batter he faced for the save.
When I first saw Alberto Castillo‘s pitching line from this game, it reminded me of Matt Moore from 2013. He went 5 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 8 while walking 5. In any event, who is Castillo?
Well, Castillo was originally a third round pick by the San Francisco Giants in 1994, but his struggles landed him in Independent ball by 1999. He caught the eye of the Devil Rays and they signed him in 2001, but he missed the entire season from injury and was released the next year. Castillo toiled in Independent ball once again until the Orioles signed him in 2008, 10 years since he had last played with a major league affiliate. Then, somehow, he made the Orioles’ roster before the end of that year, the start of a halfway-decent major league career spanning parts of four seasons in relief.
Now, at age 39, Castillo is not only playing, but also starting games even though he has been primarily a reliever since 2003. That’s pretty crazy. Given that he already shocked everyone once to make the major leagues, though, he may think that a second career as a starter is worth pursuing.
Charros de Jalisco 6, Mayos de Navojoa 4
Jon Weber has been adding another dimension to his offensive game lately for the Mayos: plate discipline. He went 2 for 3 with a walk in this game, delivering his third straight multi-hit game. The walk was also his third in his last five games and he continues to get more comfortable at the plate. Finding some patience amid these hot streaks is always key–Weber won’t hit .371 all season, but a few walks will help him stay productive.
Aguilas de Mexicali 4, Tomateros de Culiacán 2
The primary storyline we should talk about is that Mike Jacobs hit a go-ahead home run for Mexicali in the 8th inning to cap a 2-for-4 day. For Jacobs, the homer was his second in as many games and also gives him a nine-game hitting streak to begin the season. This is a guy with something to play for–he may turning 34, but he has played well at Triple-A the last three years for the Arizona Diamondbacks. There is a chance that he could get one last crack at the big leagues.
The other thing to talk about was the adventures of Ali Solis. At the plate, Solis 1 for 3, but he was picked off second base in the top of the third inning. Luckily for Solis, he had the perfect revenge in the bottom of the frame, picking Chris Roberson off first base. Obviously it would have better if only the latter pickoff had occurred, but nice to see Solis have something fall his way amid a rough year.
Venezuelan Winter League: Caribes de Anzoátegui 5, Bravos de Margarita 4
Always nice when we have a highly contested games with impact Rays on both sides. For Bravos, Taylor Motter went 2 for 3 with his 4th stolen base on the season. So, Motter has 4 stolen bases in 11 games for Margarita after just 15 in 119 games for Montgomery this season. Did the Rays ask him to work on stealing bases this winter?
On the Caribes side, Tomas Perez went 2 for 4, Brandon Allen went 1 for 4 with a run scored, and Jesus Flores went 0 for 3. Perez has his average up to .448 thanks to a seven-game hitting streak including five multi-hit games. Pretty good for a player that will turn 41 in December.
Leones del Caracas 4, Navegantes del Magallanes 3
I have stopped trying to understand why in the world Henry Rodriguez is hitting so well. After going 1 for 3 with a solo homer, 2 walks, and 2 runs scored in this game, Rodriguez has a .486/.548/.730 line on the season. Obviously he’s not this good, but he even has 5 walks against just 2 strikeouts in 42 plate appearances! Maybe Henry Alejandro Rodriguez, as he is now called, is simply a better hitter than Henry Rodriguez.
Daniel Mayora did not have the same luck, going 0 for 4 in this game.