Rays Winter League Recap: Juan Apodaca Homers in Navegantes Win
By Robbie Knopf
This is definitely a weird time to be saying this, but who doesn’t like postseason baseball? The Winter League playoffs are in full swing, and players like Juan Apodaca have been delivering the dramatic moments we have come to expect.
Dominican Winter League: Toros del Este 7, Estrellas de Oriente 1
Crazy things happen in the postseason, and apparently one of them is Mayo Acosta‘s sudden ability to hit. The longtime Tampa Bay Rays organizational catcher homered the other day and followed it up in this game by going 2 for 4 with a double, an RBI, and 2 runs scored. He also picked a runner off first base.
Acosta is currently a minor league free agent, and he is finding to attract enough attention to signed by another major league team. With two of Bobby Wilson, Curt Casali, and Luke Maile set to begin the season at Triple-A while Justin O’Conner and Maxx Tissenbaum split time at Double-A, the Rays don’t need a catcher like Acosta anymore. Can Acosta play his way to an invite to another team’s big league camp?
Ramon Ortiz had a rough start for Oriente in this game, allowing 4 runs in 2.2 innings pitched and digging them a hole they could not overcome.
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Gigantes del Cibao 2, Aguilas Cibaenas 1
Manny Ramirez had a nice game for the Aguilas in their loss, going 2 for 4 with a double. In 24 at-bats for them so far in the postseason, he’s hitting to just a .208/.296/.375 line but does have a homer, a double, and 4 RBI. More importantly, he also has a 3-3 strikeout to walk ratio, meaning his approach at the plate has not deteriorated. The DWL playoffs are a round-robin that lasts a while and Cibaenas has to hope that Ramirez can hit his stride.
Ramon Ramirez worked a shutout inning for Cibao in their win while Cesar Cabral struck out the only batter he faced for the Aguilas.
Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League: Congrejeros de Santurce 9, Criollos de Caguas 1
Rene Rivera had a big game for the Congrejeros to help lead them to the blowout victory. He went 3 for 5 with a double, an RBI, and 2 runs scored, also throwing out 1 of 2 attempted basestealers. We rarely get the opportunity to discuss major league players for the Rays playing in Winter Ball, but Rivera is still at it and finding success.
Venezuelan Winter League: Aguilas del Zulia 3, Tiburones de La Guaira 1
Cesar Suarez and Alex Cabrera accounted for a little bit too much of the La Guaira offense in this game. Suarez went 2 for 3 with a walk while Cabrera went 1 for 3 with a walk. Daniel Mayora and Jason Pridie appeared in this game for Zulia, but Mayora went 0 for 4 while Pridie went 0 for 3 with a walk.
Navegantes del Magallanes 1, Caribes de Anzoátegui 0
Doesn’t it always seem like the catcher batting 8th turns out to be the hero in the postseason? Juan Apodaca drilled a solo homer in the 5th inning to provide the only run the Navegantes would need in their victory. The pitchers Apodaca was catching delivered great performances, and he was kind enough to give them some run support.
We should really be noting, though, that Apodaca is not your average catcher that hits at the bottom of the order. He finished the regular season with a .315/.396/.472 line and was especially unbelievable in his last 10 games, hitting to a .429/.500/.771 line with 6 doubles, 2 homers, and 12 RBI. This isn’t the type of hitter Apodaca usually is, but he’s on fire now and the Navegantes will ride his streak as long as they can.
Henry Rodriguez also had a nice game for the Navegantes, going 2 for 4. Rodriguez is hitting .375 in his new surroundings after moving from the eliminated Leones del Caracas to the Navegantes for the VWL playoffs.