Winter Hot Stove Report: A Look at Venezuela

Although today’s weather on Long Island saw temperatures well into the 60’s, the inevitable chill of winter is just around the corner. In fact, the air will certainly be getting quite cooler this weekend, so be sure to dust off the knit hats, gloves and scarves. With winter about a month away, it’s time to take a look at the Winter Hot Stove for the Ducks and see where some members of the Flock are currently playing winter baseball.

Like every season, many professional ballplayers do not go into hibernation between the end of the season in September/October and Spring Training. Rather than relax at home and take time off, they choose to head south and continue to play baseball in various other leagues around the world. A vast majority make their temporary homes in the Caribbean, where winter baseball leagues exist in countries such as Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.  We’ll start our look around the Caribbean Leagues this week by heading to Venezuela.

for0001jpg.940.600Lew Ford swinging away for Navegantes del Magallanes

As we alluded to earlier this offseason on the blog, 2014 Atlantic League Player of the Year Lew Ford is continuing to play baseball this winter. He is a member of Navegantes del Magallanes and is teammates there with two-time Atlantic League champion pitcher Bobby Blevins. Their team has faced some struggles thus far, posting a 12-13 record, which sits them eight games in back of the league lead. However both players have carried over their success from their season with the Ducks. Ford is currently batting .311 with one homer, eight RBI, 13 runs and five doubles and continued his stellar defensive season with this outstanding catch in center field. Blevins has appeared in five games (four starts) and is 1-2 with a 2.91 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 21 and two-thirds innings. Among their other teammates are several Atlantic Leaguers from this past season, including Rommie Lewis and Anthony Lerew (York), Jake Opitz (Southern Maryland) and Juan Apodaca (Lancaster).

262Blevins_Bobby_01Bobby Blevins delivering a pitch for Navegantes del Magallanes

Eric Niesen was another member of the Ducks pitching staff who turned in a terrific performance in 2014. The southpaw posted a 3.05 ERA in 59 games out of the bullpen and is now pitching for Caribes de Anzoategui. Through 10 games, he has yet to allow an earned run over five and one-third innings and has earned a win as well. Thanks to Niesen’s effort, Caribes is off to a flying start, posting a dominant 21-6 record that is good for tops in the league. He is teammates with former Southern Maryland Blue Crabs pitcher Daryl Thompson.

10612976_611348942695_7852985279642749794_nEric Niesen and his wife, Tina, on the field in Venzuela

Right-hander Jared Lansford, who transitioned from the bullpen to the starting rotation for the Ducks in 2014, has just appeared on the roster for Leones del Caracas in Venezuela. He has yet to appear in a game, but after a great season with the Flock, he will have the opportunity to impress abroad this winter. He is teammates with Blake Gailen (Lancaster) and Aharon Eggleston (Somerset), two players who Lansford defeated in the 2012 and 2013 Atlantic League Championship Series, respectively. Leones is 13-16 thus far, nine games behind Caribes.

C.J.-RetherfordC.J. Retherford running the bases for Tiburones de La Guaira

Although he did not arrive until late in the year, C.J. Retherford had some impressive at-bats with the Ducks this past September. He finished the season with a .314 batting average in a Ducks uniform and found a spot with Tiburones de La Guaira this winter. Since heading south, Retherford struggled a bit, batting .200 with one homer, seven RBI and four runs. He hasn’t appeared in a game since November 1, and his team has struggled, ranking last in the league with a 7-19 record.

CSAguilasvsLeonesSergio Perez pitching for Aguilas de Zulia

Another midseason arrival for the Ducks in 2014 that is playing in Venezuela is pitcher Sergio Perez. After making 20 appearances with the Flock, he is now pitching for Aguilas de Zulia. Perez has been given a starting role there and is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 11 strikeouts through 23 and one-third innings. He is teammates with former Barnstormer Reegie Corona, and Aguilas has gone 19-7 to this point, sitting just a game and a half behind Caribes.

Here are some other Atlantic Leaguers from 2014 that are playing in Venezuela this winter:
-Jon Hunton (Tigres de Aragua – Somerset)
-Ramon Castro (Tigres de Aragua – Bridgeport)
-Steve Hammond (Bravos de Margarita – Sugar Land)
-Tim Gustafson (Cardenales de Lara – Bridgeport)

Over the next several weeks, we will make our way around the winter baseball circuit in the Caribbean and even head to Australia to check out some Atlantic League alumni playing there. You can follow along with all of the winter leagues by CLICKING HERE. If you make a trip to any of these countries to watch some former Ducks play, or if you hear about any playing winter ball that we have not mentioned here, please let us know by commenting on the story or filling out a contact form. We’ll be updating the blog weekly with winter baseball news and eventually, with player signings for the 2015 Long Island Ducks.

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Posted on November 12, 2014, in Winter Hot Stove and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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