Backstop Consistency Pays Off for Burg

BurgCatching

Alex Burg had two goals upon joining the Ducks for the first time in 2017: to win an Atlantic League championship and to earn a contract from a Major League organization. While he came up just short of accomplishing the former, he can now celebrate achieving the latter.

The catcher, who had signed on for a second season with Long Island back on February 1, was inked to a minor league contract by the Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend. He will head to Glendale, Ariz. to join the team at its spring training facility, looking to prove his worth to the organization.

“I’m really excited for this opportunity,” Burg said via telephone. “I’m hoping it all works out and that I get the chance to show I can play every day.”

BurgSwing

Getting to this point required a decision that Burg made back during the spring of 2017. Prior to beginning his first experience in the Atlantic League, he knew exactly what he hoped to gain from the opportunity. The Washington native was looking for some consistency after spending seven seasons as a utility player in three different Major League organizations.

“I told [Ducks President/GM] Mike [Pfaff] that I wanted to catch every day,” Burg recalled. “I felt like it was my best position but was something I hadn’t really done much of.”

During his time in the San Francisco Giants, Miami Marlins and Texas Rangers’ systems, the first place to look for Burg was not behind the plate. He spent most of his innings in right field (803.2) but was also frequently found at third base (649.0). He spent some time at first base, second base and in left field as well. Versatility is a tremendous asset for any ballplayer and a trait that field managers adore. However, Burg’s belief was that his best position was at catcher and that the key to returning to an MLB organization would be to spend a full season there.

“I felt like that was the best way to get back into affiliated baseball,” he opined. “If I could show that I could catch and still carry an offensive stick, I would obviously be more valued. Throughout my time in minor league baseball, everyone knows that I could go play any position with no issues. However, proving that I could catch would make me more appealing.”

Burg had never caught more than 25 games in a single regular season entering his inaugural year with the Flock in 2017. By year’s end, he would catch 98 games during the season and seven more in the playoffs. While the result was not, at least immediately, a contract with an MLB club, the outcome was what Burg called “the most fun [he’s] ever had playing baseball in [his] entire life.”

Burg-Baez

2017 represented a little bit of everything for the 30-year-old. While taking to a specific position for the duration of the season, the experience required a great deal of work to prove his worth behind the plate. As the season progressed, Burg received a great deal of help from his teammates and coaches and put in extensive work to refine his craft. The results on the field, in his opinion, were certainly a positive development.

“I was really happy with my defense,” Burg exclaimed. “That was something that was a definite question mark of mine. It was my first year of catching every day and was something I had to prove to myself that I could do. I felt like I made a lot of strides catching-wise. I still have a ways to go in that aspect, but I was really happy with the way I was able to play defense.”

A major reason why the Washington State University alum was able to develop defensively was the work he did with teammate Jordan Pacheco. The former big leaguer, who, like Burg, was signed by an MLB organization this offseason (Twins), was also fine-tuning his craft behind the plate. After suffering a shoulder injury the previous year, Pacheco needed to build back up the strength in his arm while also reacclimating to the role. This dynamic offered the forum for an exchange of tutelage between the two backstops.

“It was never a competition between us, which was really cool,” Burg reminisced. “Baseball can be kind of a dog-eat-dog world, but it never felt like that.  He told me that I threw really well and would ask me what I would do to get those results. Hitting-wise, I would tell him that I loved the way he swung and would ask what he did there. It became almost like an offseason friendship where every day we would show up, go over what we wanted to work on and then get out there to get better.”

BurgBatting

Though he was happy with the improvements made in his defensive game, his offensive performance was a bit of a bumpy road. Burg got out to a strong start to his season, driving in seven runs over the season’s first eight games and bringing a .278 batting average into the month of June. After securing a spot in the Atlantic League All-Star Game, the wear and tear from catching so frequently began to take its toll. Burg struggled in the second half despite the Ducks earning a postseason berth, and he ended the year with a .225 batting average, well below the .260 average over his previous seven seasons.

“I was extremely disappointed in how I broke down at the end of the season, in terms of my offense,” Burg noted. “I had a huge first half and made the All-Star Game. Being that it was the first time catching full-time, my body wasn’t used to the rigors of that second half. I was really disappointed in the way that I finished.”

Fortunately for the former Giants draft pick, a playoff spot gave him the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and show that he could still be dangerous offensively. In Long Island’s seven postseason games, no other Duck had a batting average within 50 points of him. Burg hit .348 (8-for-23), with the next closest teammate being Marc Krauss at .296. In addition, Burg clubbed two of the team’s three postseason homers, scored five runs and drew four walks.

Because of his tremendous turnaround, the Ducks were able to claim their second consecutive Liberty Division Championship over the rival Somerset Patriots. Looking back now on what allowed Burg to flip the proverbial switch, he was able to attribute the success to a conversation with a close friend and fellow ballplayer whom he works out with in the offseason.

“[Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman] Jake Lamb is a really good friend of mine,” he noted. “He had a second half struggle as well. We were talking, and I asked him, ‘what are you trying to do?’ He said that he just tried to back up on the ball a little more and simplify everything. Being in the playoffs and knowing that you’re 0-for-0 and get to start over helps a ton. Your numbers in the playoffs don’t matter. It’s just about trying to win as many games as possible and trying to bring home a championship. That mindset helped me and reenergized me offensively for sure.”

BurgAardsma

While his goal of bringing home a championship came up short against the York Revolution, his first experience in the Atlantic League was an overwhelming success. He was able to enjoy a high level of play, focus on winning and develop a consistent presence at one position. All of that has now culminated in a second chance at achieving his Major League dream, a chance that might not have happened otherwise.

“I feel like it exceeded all my expectations,” Burg asserted about his year with the Flock. “I really had no clue what I was walking into, and I had no idea that the baseball would be that good. The star power that you see in the league and the guys that can still play, it was truly awesome. I had more fun playing baseball last year than I probably had in my entire life. That was the main reason I was ready to come back [before the Dodgers offered a contract].”

Now that he has a full year of catching under his belt, Burg knows what to expect from the position. The mental and physical grind is tougher than just about any other position on the field. It has a significant effect over the course of time. Knowing this, and his desire to avoid a downturn as the season progresses, Burg has focused his offseason workouts on keeping his endurance high.

“I’ve just done a little bit more leg work and endurance-type activities,” he claimed. “You’re trying to feel stronger for a longer period of time. I’ve just developed a routine of doing similar things to what I had been but focusing more on my legs or increasing the number of reps. I also created a better maintenance program for the season. I think that will be a big help too. My lifts weren’t as good during the season as I would have liked them to be. I’m just trying to figure out a way to keep my body in better shape.”

It remains unclear where Burg will begin his 2018 season. He split time at Double-A and Triple-A in 2016 prior to joining the Flock, leaving either of those as his likely destination. However, the sky is the limit for him with the Dodgers. With a new workout regimen to keep up his strength, a full year of catching experience in his arsenal and a second chance at living out his dream, Burg could one day be wearing Dodger blue in a big league ballpark.

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Atlantic Leaguers Aplenty Among Caribbean Series Rosters

SerieDelCaribe2018

The Hot Stove has reached its highest temperature of the winter. MLB spring training is right around the corner, the month of February kicked off on Thursday, and tonight, the Caribbean Series officially gets underway. Guadalajara, Mexico will play host to some of the top professional ballplayers representing Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

Winter League championships have been crowned in each country, and now it is time to see which will reign supreme. Many of the players from those clubs, as well as those who narrowly missed out on a league title, will be taking the field in this illustrious tournament. Puerto Rico won the Caribbean Series last year, but host country Mexico has taken the title nine times overall.

Atlantic League fans need to look no further than the tournament to see some of their favorite players before the spring. Many Ducks and league alumni from the 2017 campaign, and from years past, will be taking part in the series. Although no league alumni will be featured on the Cuban roster, let’s check out who will be representing the remaining countries taking part in this year’s tournament:

MEXICO
StruckVenados

Representing the host country at this year’s Caribbean Series will be a roster primarily featuring players from Tomateros de Culiacan. The squad earned the Mexican Pacific League’s championship title in a thrilling seven-game series over Mayos de Navojoa that featured five games decided by two runs or less. It also saw Navojoa nearly erase a 2-0 series deficit in which they were shut out by the same 4-0 margin in each of the first two games.

Among the players from Culiacan who will play in the Caribbean Series are pitchers Casey Coleman and Derrick Loop along with outfielder Rico Noel. Coleman, who made 23 appearances (four starts) for New Britain in 2017, earned the win in the championship’s decisive Game Seven with one and two-thirds scoreless innings of relief. Loop, who last pitched in the Atlantic League with Sugar Land in 2016, gave up just one run in six and two-thirds innings during the Championships Series. Noel , the former big leaguer and 2017 Lancaster Barnstormer, had a pair of multi-hit games in the Championship. Also joining them is Noel’s Barnstormer teammate pitcher Daniel Moskos, who was a member of runner-up Navojoa. He totaled two saves and a win during the league finals but blew the save in Game Seven by yielding a run in the ninth inning of a 4-3 game.

In addition to those four, a pair of former Ducks will also be playing for Mexico in the Caribbean Series. Nick Struck, who pitched in Mexico during the 2017 regular season, posted a 1.78 ERA in 21 games for Venados de Mazatlan during the Winter League season before his team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. He went on to pitch in Venezuela for eventual-champion Caribes de Anzoategui before he was offered the opportunity to pitch for Mexico’s team in the Caribbean Series. 2015 Duck Ryan Kussmaul will also be on the squad. He had a sparkling 1.45 ERA in 19 games for Aguilas de Mexicali this winter and was part of the team that beat Mazatlan in the first round but lost to Culiacan in the semifinals.

PUERTO RICO
FisherCaguas

Puerto Rico’s regular season was shortened to 18 games due to the affects of this past year’s hurricane season. Defending league champion Criollos de Caguas led the league with an 11-7 record and went on to sweep aside Cangrejeros de Santurce in three games during the Championship Series, winning two games by a single run.

Representing Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series will be a pair of 2017 Ducks in pitcher Jake Fisher and infielder Ruben Gotay. Fisher was 1-1 with a 3.63 ERA in three starts during the winter season with Caguas and then started Game One of the finals. He allowed just one run in five and one-third innings, and though he allowed five hits and five walks, ultimately tooka no-decision in the team’s 2-1 win. While Gotay did not have the chance to play in the Championship Series, he batted .267 with seven RBI in 13 games during the Winter League season.

Several other Atlantic Leaguers will also be on the roster. Ivan Maldonado, who was part of the 2010 Ducks roster, won the Championship clinching Game Three with six innings of one-run ball in a 2-1 win. 2017 ALPB champion Dayron Varona went 5-for-11 with an RBI and two runs scored during the Championship Series for Caguas to earn a spot on Puerto Rico’s roster. Somerset Patriots infielder David Vidal went 1-for-9 with two walks in the finals for Caguas but was selected to play on the team as well. Though they didn’t play in the Championship, Skeeters catcher Wilfredo Rodriguez and Barnstomers/Bluefish pitcher Luis Gonzalez will also play for Puerto Rico.

VENEZUELA
GomezLara

Down south in Venezuela, the aforementioned Caribes de Anzoategui claimed this year’s championship with a victory in six games over Cardenales de Lara. The team reeled off three consecutive wins after falling behind in the series two games to one. The only former Duck on the winning squad was Struck, as we also mentioned earlier, though he will represent Mexico in the Caribbean Series. He put together a phenomenal Championship Series, totaling three saves, four and one-third scoreless innings and recording the final three outs in the clinching Game Six.

Veteran Blue Crabs pitcher Daryl Thompson will pitch for Venezuela in the Caribbean Series. He started Games One and Five in the Championship Series for Anzoategui and took no-decisions in both. The righty combined to allow four runs in 11 and one-third innings (3.18 ERA) though he did surrender 18 hits. Two-time former Duck Ricardo Gomez will also represent Venezuela after pitching for runner-up Lara. He threw three and one-third scoreless innings during the Championship Series. Other Atlantic League alumni on the roster for the Caribbean Series include Skeeters pitcher Felipe Paulino, who gave up two runs in two and two-thirds innings and took the loss in Game Four, and Bluefish infielder Luis Hernandez, who did not play in the Championship Series for Anzoategui. Hernandez’s rights are now owned by the New Britain Bees.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
EvansLicey

Finally, we round things out in the Dominican Republic where a wild Championship Series ended with Aguilas Cibaenas topping Tigres del Licey in seven games. Cibaenas held a 2-0 series lead, saw Licey even the series and then traded wins with Licey over the final three games. Only three of the seven games were decided by three runs or less, and three were decided by six or more runs.

Two Atlantic League alumni that played for Cibaenas and will represent the Dominican Republic at the Caribbean Series are outfielder Alfredo Marte and pitcher Josh Judy. Marte, who spent time in 2016 with Southern Maryland and York, only appeared once in the Championship Series as a defensive replacement. He did bat .271 though with a homer and five RBI during the winter season. Judy, a pitcher for York in 2013 and 2015, gave up two runs in three and two-thirds innings and collected a save in the league finals and had a 1.37 ERA during the Winter League campaign.

Also pitching for the Dominican will be three-year Lancaster starter Bryan Evans (2015-17). He compiled a 2-2 record with a 3.67 ERA in the regular season for Toros del Este but joined runners-up Licey in the Championship Series. He dominated in Game Three, pitching seven scoreless innings, yielding just two hits and two walks while striking out eight but took a no-decision after a pair of relievers coughed up a late 3-0 lead. Evans then came back in Game Five but was roughed up for four runs (three earned) on seven hits in three and two-thirds innings to take the loss.

The Caribbean Series begins on Friday night with five days of round robin play. The top four teams will then do battle in the semifinals on Wednesday, February 7. The Championship will follow on February 8 at 9:00 p.m. local time. Fans wishing to follow all the action can do so on ESPN Deportes by watching on their television or online HERE. Scoreboards are also available to keep track of the action via ESPN and MLB.com. Best of luck to all of the Ducks and Atlantic League alumni participating!

Dan Lyons Continues Legendary Ducks Career

Lyons-Swinging

The 18-year history of the Long Island Ducks has seen a wide swath of players don the team’s orange and black colors. From long-time Major Leaguers to players looking for a second chance at reaching the game’s highest level to those fresh out of college, each season’s roster has been a sort of “melting pot” of the professional baseball world. Despite the hundreds of players that have made their way to Central Islip, there have only been a select few to truly cement their place as one of the franchise’s legendary players. Dan Lyons is most certainly one of them.

After joining the club in a utility role prior to the 2011 season, he has been firmly etched into the shortstop position for the past six years. Lyons has batted in seemingly every spot of Kevin Baez’s lineup card, but while his place among the starting nine hitters may change, his presence among the group has been constant. That consistency will continue to remain in place during the 2018 season, after the 33-year-old re-signed with the team on Thursday, making him the first Duck to put pen to paper this year.

His accolades are plentiful. He is twice an Atlantic League champion (2012, ’13), three times an Atlantic League All-Star Game selection (2012, ’15, ’16) and twice a Post-Season All-Star (2012, ’15). The Minnesota native was named the Championship Series Most Valuable Player in 2012 after his infamous waddle-off bunt single, and he was the league’s first-ever winner of the Rawlings Gold Glove Defensive Player of the Year award. Lyons enters the 2018 season with a franchise record in sight as well, sitting just 68 games shy of equaling Ray Navarrete for the most games played in team history.

We sat down with the greatest shortstop in Long Island Ducks history this week to look back on what he’s accomplished thus far and what he is hoping to achieve this year:

Pacheco Turns Whirlwind Year into Second Chance at MLB

Pacheco-Heading-Home

What a year it’s been for Jordan Pacheco! Last spring, he received a new opportunity in his professional career: To play baseball for the Long Island Ducks. Then in the fall, he became a father for the very first time. Now, he has the chance to return to a Major League clubhouse.

The catcher, who played 42 games with the Ducks in 2017 and has 377 games of big league experience, signed a contract with the Minnesota Twins organization on Monday. He will be with the club during spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., with the plan to spend time in both minor and Major League camp. Though it remains unclear where he will begin the season, Pacheco is simply ecstatic to have a shot at getting back to “The Show”.

“It’s definitely awesome,” the 31-year-old exclaimed via telephone this week. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better especially after only playing a little bit last year. I’m definitely ready and excited for it.”

When asked about the Twins’ expectations for him, Pacheco replied “They’re just expecting me to play well and show my versatility. I hope to be able to help that organization out, whether I’m in Triple-A or the big leagues. ”

Pacheco-Catching

That versatility was certainly on display in 2017. After being released by the Cincinnati Reds following surgery the year prior to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, Pacheco needed another avenue to continue his road back to a roster spot. Enter the Ducks and the Atlantic League. Long Island signed him on May 26, giving him the opportunity to join Alex Burg in a rotation behind the plate. At the same time, he also was able to showcase his ability at first and second base, playing 12 games at the former and one at the latter.

“I didn’t have too many expectations going in,” he noted. “I just wanted to be able to go where I could play and come back from my shoulder surgery, and that was a perfect spot.”

Pacheco’s first month-and-a-half with the Ducks was a bit of a struggle for the backstop. He entered the All-Star break batting below .200 and had just three multi-hit games. Despite this, manager Kevin Baez stuck with the ex-Major Leaguer and gave him the opportunity to rebound. Pacheco then coupled that confidence with plenty of extra work on the field and in the batting cage before games. While working on his own game, he also was commonly seen offering up his veteran experience to fellow teammates.

“From the start, I felt like I had spent a bunch of time not being able to hit after my surgery, and I felt like I needed to make some time up,” Pacheco recalled. “From then on, you enjoy your teammates and you feel like you’re not even working hard. You’re just hitting, taking ground balls and having fun.  I do enjoy if I can help anybody out or if they can help me out. We were there to play baseball and be the best we possibly could be.”

All that hard work certainly paid off. The Albuquerque native appeared in 19 games during the second half of the season. He reached base safely at least once in every one, and he hit safely in all but four. He had multiple hits in three of his first five games and turned in a four-hit, four-RBI performance on July 29 in Bridgeport. Pacheco’s batting average skyrocketed from .188 to .273 and his on-base percentage rose from .235 to .351. At the beginning of August, the Ducks had won three consecutive games that would kick start a franchise record-tying 12-game win streak. However, on August 6, Pacheco’s season came to a crashing halt. An errant pitch from Bluefish pitcher Charles Brewer fractured his right wrist, ending his season prematurely.

“It definitely was disappointing,” he expressed. “I was there to play, and I thought we were playing well, winning and having a good time. Obviously when something like that happens, you can’t do anything about it.”

While the injury was a crushing blow for Pacheco, he was able to shift his focus positively from baseball to family.

“It did give me a lot more time to come home. My wife was pregnant, and she was just about due to deliver the baby. I guess the silver lining was that I got to spend more time with them instead of being out there playing. I took that as a positive, and I enjoyed every bit of that.”

Pacheco-Hitting

Jordan and his wife, Jessica, gave birth to a baby girl named Joie (pronounced like Joey), on September 23. Coincidentally that same day, the Ducks defeated the Somerset Patriots to earn their second consecutive Liberty Division championship and fifth in seven seasons. Though the couple was entering the world of parenthood for the first time, there was a sense of calm and excitement among them both that they could all be together as a family for a while.

“I don’t think there were any nerves,” Jordan reminisced. “We had both been ready for it and were definitely excited to meet her and get her into this world. Obviously when she was born, there were a lot of things that changed for me as a Dad and your perspective on having to take care of somebody. Other than that, she’s just a great baby. Just watching her and how much she changes every week, those are things you can’t get back.”

If the birth of his daughter and watching her grow over the first three months of her life wasn’t enough joy for Pacheco, the news he received to kick off 2018 certainly had to make him smile. Despite his back-to-back injury-shortened seasons, the Twins saw value in what he did as a member of the Ducks and extended him a contract offer. While playing baseball will take him away from his new family, the thought of getting back to the game’s highest level was too enticing to turn away from.

“They always say ‘It’s easy to get there, but it’s tougher to stay there,’ and I truly agree with that statement,” Pacheco asserted. “Being at the highest level and in that atmosphere is something that you almost get addicted to. The stadiums are gorgeous, the lights are bright, and those are the things you kind of miss. That’s definitely something that drives me.”

Pacheco-Running

Not only does he want to achieve those Major League aspirations once again. He wants to show himself, and others in his life, that he can complete the comeback story he is writing.

“Playing again after my shoulder surgery, I want to prove to myself that I can get back no matter what,” he said. “Obviously when you have a little daughter, you want to show her that Dad didn’t give up when he got hurt a little bit. That’s kind of my motivation right now.”

In the end, Pacheco is able to sit back and appreciate how the events of 2017 have transformed his life. Thanks to the Ducks and the Atlantic League, he was able to continue playing ball after being released from a Major League organization. Although his time on Long Island was cut short, it was instrumental in providing him the forum to continue his rehab and get back on the path to the big leagues.

“I think the Ducks were amazing,” Pacheco proclaimed. “They allowed me to go at my own pace and still be able to get on a baseball field and play some good competition. I thoroughly thank them for that opportunity, and it definitely was a big help as far as where I was at in my rehab and my career to just get out there and work and do whatever I needed to.”

Pacheco-Crosses-Home

Baseball continues to remain as unpredictable as ever. Fluke injuries can happen at any time. Organizational needs can change in an instant. While there is no way of knowing for sure what lies ahead for Pacheco, should the road lead him back outside of Major League Baseball, there is no doubt in his mind about where he would like to continue his career.

“I would always consider the Ducks, no matter what,” he asserted. “It’s a great organization, the people there are awesome, the fans were great, and the baseball definitely exceeded my expectations.”

First Updates of 2018

2018

Happy New Year, Ducks fans! We at “Quack of the Bat” hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday season and was able to enjoy this festive period as 2017 officially came to a close. With that, the 2018 calendar year has now begun, and with it, the drive towards Opening Day of Long Island’s All-Star Summer. Surely, teams will begin to build their rosters over the coming weeks and news about games, promotions and other events will be announced. However, there is already plenty of news surrounding the team as the 19th season of Ducks baseball gets underway.

MELVILLE JOINS THE ORIOLES
Melville-Orioles

It appears as though 2017 Ducks starting pitcher Tim Melville will be adding another Major League organization to his resume. The right-hander signed a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles on December 22, making them the sixth MLB club that he has been a part of (Royals, Tigers, Reds, Twins and Padres).

Melville was one of the biggest success stories among the Ducks roster last year. He joined the team after having pitched in the Majors with the Reds in 2016. The 28-year-old started nine games over the first seven weeks of the season, compiling a 3.45 ERA and 48 strikeouts. 14 of those punch outs came in a win at New Britain on June 7, which tied a single-game franchise record. It was no surprise that Melville’s contract was purchased by the Twins three days later.

He would excel with Triple-A Rochester, posting a 4-3 record, a 2.70 ERA and 64 strikeouts over 11 games (10 starts). That performance was worthy enough of a promotion to the big leagues on August 21, just over two months after his contract was purchased from the Ducks. Although he would struggle in three combined appearances (one start) between the Twins and Padres in the big leagues, he proved his value to MLB organizations during the 2017 campaign. Melville is certainly hoping to break spring training with the big club in Baltimore, but for now, the team has assigned him to Triple-A Norfolk of the International League.

WADDLE-OFF MAGIC FOR FORMER FLOCK MEMBERS
Retherford-Aguilas

Down in the Caribbean Winter Leagues, the playoffs have begun for a number of teams. One of those, Aguilas de Mexicali of the Mexican Pacific League, has earned a pair of walk-off victories to begin its postseason. In Game One of their series against Venados de Mazatlan, 2015 Duck Ryan Kussmaul pitched a scoreless eighth inning before 2014 Duck C.J. Retherford won the game in the bottom of the ninth. Retherford’s two-out RBI double put Aguilas ahead in the series. Former Patriot and Skeeter Roy Merritt started on the mound for Venados and was lifted from the game following eight innings of one-run ball.

The pair of former Ducks teamed up again in a 3-2 walk-off win the following day. Kussmaul tossed a scoreless eighth inning once again to keep the score tied at two, and Retherford stepped up to the plate to begin the bottom of the 11th. 2015 and 2016 Duck Nick Struck had tossed three scoreless innings of relief for Venados but gave way to Marcos Rivas to begin the inning. Retherford launched a walk-off homer to send the crowd of over 16,000 at Estadio B-Air into a frenzy. Aguilas finished the regular season in first place with a 26-7 record, a full six games clear of Mayos de Navojoa, who finished second.

STARTERS REUNITED IN VENEZUELA
Caribes

The two pitchers were teammates for three seasons together on Long Island, and they have now been joined together once again down in the Caribbean. John Brownell and Jared Lansford are both playing postseason baseball with Caribes de Anzoategui in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League. Brownell has typically been spending his winters in Puerto Rico with Criollos de Caguas, but with some uncertainty surrounding their season following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the righty took advantage of an opportunity to pitch in Venezuela. Lansford has recently been spending the year overseas in the Chinese Professional Baseball League.

Caribes finished fourth in the league with a 32-31 record. Brownell threw four innings of two-run ball in his lone start on December 21, while Lansford struggled, yielding 13 runs in 12 innings of work over five games (four starts). Caribes has jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the playoff series with Navegantes del Magallanes. Blue Crabs veteran pitcher Daryl Thompson, who ranked fourth in the Venezuelan League with a 2.79 ERA and second in strikeouts with 50, started Game One and earned the win with six scoreless innings. Brownell is slated to start Game Four on Saturday.

PITCHING PAIR IN DOMINICAN PLAYOFFS
Perez-Simon-Gigantes

Two more Ducks alumni are also part of a postseason bound team in the Dominican Republic this winter. 2017 starting pitchers Rafael Perez and Alfredo Simon have been teammates with Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Professional Baseball League. The club finished the regular season with a 29-21 record, good for first place by two games over a pair of other teams.

Perez pitched out of the bullpen and did quite well, allowing just two runs over 17 and two-thirds innings across 22 appearances, good for a 1.02 ERA. Simon totaled eight games, starting seven of them, and was 2-0 with a 4.03 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 29 innings. Thus far, Gigantes is out to a 1-3 start to the four-team round robin playoffs that are going on now through January 18. Neither Perez nor Simon has yet to appear in the playoffs. Tigres del Licey leads the league at 4-0 to this point and features several recent Atlantic League alumni (Alexis Candelario, Somerset; Bryan Evans, Lancaster; Patrick McCoy, Southern Maryland; Kevin Munson, Lancaster; Kyler Newby, Somerset; Angelys Nina, Bridgeport).

 

Be sure to keep an eye on the blog over the next few months for a variety of content. As the roster takes shape, we will have features on the players that will make up this year’s team. In addition, we will have further updates on winter league action and much more regarding the All-Star Summer festivities.

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