Wednesday Winter Hot Stove – Edition 9

Ramon-Castro-Caguas
The Wednesday Winter Hot Stove is back for the New Year, and with it, the countdown has begun to Opening Night of the 2014 season. Believe it or not, there are just 114 days remaining until the Ducks take the field at TD Bank Ballpark in a Championship Series rematch against the Somerset Patriots. Be sure to keep it right here at “Quack of the Bat” from now until then on all the news regarding player signings for the Ducks and see how the 2014 team will shape up.

For now, we’re going to keep some of our thoughts on the warmer side and head down to the Caribbean to get an update on some of Ducks playing in the Caribbean Winter Leagues. Each of the four countries hosting winter baseball have finished up their regular season and begun the playoffs. Many Ducks have made great impacts, specifically some of those we have talked about here on the blog.

Criollos de Caguas in Puerto Rico finished the regular season at 21-19, tied for the league’s best record. So far in the round robin playoffs, they have gone 2-2, one game behind Mayaguez who is 3-1. Two former Ducks helped lead the way this season for Caguas: Ramon Castro and John Brownell.

Castro finished eighth in the league in RBI with 19, third in doubles with 11 and 14th in batting at .276. The former big leaguer also ended the season with hits in four of five games, including a pair of multi-hit games, to help Caguas solidify its playoff positioning. On the mound, Brownell was near the top of the league in several categories. His ERA of 2.68 in nine starts was good for fourth in the league, his 37 strikeouts also ranked fourth and his 47 innings pitched was good for third. Even more impressive was that the ALCS MVP of 2013 yielded just 11 walks and two home runs in those 47 innings.

Brownell struggled in his first postseason appearance, but another former Duck did a strong job in relief of him. Shaun Garceau threw three and two-thirds scoreless innings of relief on January 3 in a 4-3 defeat. Brownell responded better in relief two days later, pitching a pair of scoreless innings after another former Duck, Derek Blacksher, tossed a scoreless frame. At the plate, Castro has played in two games, posting a 1-for-3 performance with two runs scored in the playoff opener.

Another former Duck who joined the action in Puerto Rico a little late in the winter but had a spectacular month of December was closer Leo Rosales. The Atlantic League All-Star in 2013 pitched in eight games during the month with Leones de Ponce, throwing eight shutout innings and earning three saves. The righty struck out seven batters while allowing just two hits and two walks.

Ponce has also gone 2-2 so far in the playoffs, but Rosales has struggled somewhat since the calendar flipped to 2014. On January 4, he allowed a run and two hits in the ninth inning of a 3-0 loss to Carolina, and the next night, he surrendered three runs on three hits against Mayaguez, earning a blown save and loss in a 4-3 defeat. The good news is, Rosales has frequently rebounded from tough setbacks like this before, and hopefully he has a chance to redeem himself and lead Ponce deeper into the postseason.

James Houser, who spent most of 2013 with the Flock, had a strong year with Cangrejeros de Santurce. The southpaw was tied for second in the league with four wins, tied for fifth with 37 strikeouts, fifth with 46.1 innings pitched and 11th with a 3.69 ERA. Despite his success as a teammate of former Ducks Eric Niesen, John Rodriguez, Ivan Maldonado and Benny Cepeda, Santurce missed out on the playoffs by going 18-22 during the year.

CLICK HERE to keep track of all the action in Puerto Rico during the postseason

Ford-Lew-600x378

Down in Venezuela, one of the key Ducks during the 2013 championship run, Lew Ford, has continued to dominate at the plate. Playing for Navegantes de Magallenes,  Ford has put together a fine winter season offensively. The former big leaguer batted .304 in 56 games, compiling five homers, 29 RBI, 37 runs, seven doubles and three triples. Magallanes finished fourth in the league during the season at 33-30 but is 4-1 so far in the round robin playoffs, tied with Caribes de Anzoategui for the best record. Oddly though, Ford has appeared in just one game, serving as a pinch hitter on January 3.

Another former Duck that’s had a fine season in Venezuela is Justin Hampson. The Mets farmhand and former big leaguer who pitched for Long Island in 2010 made 18 appearances out of the bullpen for Tigres de Aragua and gave up just two earned runs in 11 innings, good for a 1.64 ERA, and struck out eight batters as well.

CLICK HERE to keep track of all the action in Venezuela during the postseason

The Caribbean Winter League postseason is continuing to heat up and soon enough, the Caribbean Series will take place. This is the highest tournament at the Club Level in Latin America with games taking place in the beginning of February. The winners of each of the four countries in the winter leagues, along with the Cuban National Series, take part in the tournament. Last year, Yaquis de Obregon of Mexico took home the title when the tournament was held in their native country. This year’s Caribbean Series will be held at Estadio Nueva Esparta in Porlamar, Margarita Island, Venezuela. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on all that takes place during the winter league playoffs here on the hot stove and also update you on Ducks player signings as they occur.

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Posted on January 8, 2014, in Winter Hot Stove and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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