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Baseball Mexico

by Bruce Baskin
June 24, 2019 - Mexican League (ML)

OLMECAS' ORAMAS LIGHTS-OUT OUTING OPENS LMB SECOND HALF

Juan Pablo Oramas has been one of the more itinerant pitchers in Mexican baseball over the past decade. After signing with San Diego as a 16-year-old international free agent from Tabasco, Oramas toiled two summers for the Padres' Dominican Summer League team in 2007 and 2008 prior to a spectacular Mexican League debut in 2009. Pitching for the Mexico City Diablos Rojos, the 5'10" righty went 9-1 with a 2.31 ERA in 25 games (14 starts) and was named Rookie of the Year.

Oramas went back to the Padres and pitched another five years in their system and reached the AAA Pacific Coast League before his release following the 2014 campaign. He signed with Toronto and attended spring training with the Jays before being let go in early April and returning south of the border for good with the Diablos in 2015. Oramas went 15-8 over his first two summers back in Mexico City before a 1-6 record and 6.68 ERA over 15 starts in 2017 resulted in his offseason trade to Tabasco for veteran reliever Sergio Valenzuela.

He had a good Spring 2018 season for the Olmecas, going 6-2 with a 3.13 ERA in 11 outings, but fell to 2-3 and 5.09 last fall. Oramas was off to a rocky start in 2019 under new Tabasco manager Ramon Orantes at 2-6 and 4.97 this spring and there was nothing to indicate what would happen when he took the mound for the Olmecas to open the second half of the schedule against Durango in Villahermosa last Friday.

Oramas turned in one of the most dominant performances of his 13-year career, blanking the Generales by a 1-0 count and scattering four singles. He struck out 15 batters and walked two as 85 of his 118 pitches went for strikes. In an almost-prescient moment, the lights at Parque Centenario 27 de Febrero went out just after Oramas whiffed Durango leadoff batter Aneury Tavarez to start the game. After the 20-minute delay, the 210-pounder went on to paint a nine-inning masterpiece in front of an intimate announced gathering of 1,234 spectators in the gallery. His Olmecas teammates would only score once, in the bottom of the first when Cuban newcomer Roel Santos led off with a triple and scored on a Gerson Manzanillo sacrifice fly to left, but that was all the support Oramas would need.

Tabasco dropped their next two games to the Generales to fall to open the second half at 1-2 (with a 22-39 season record). The Olmecas are not without talent and definitely have a Cuban flavor: Besides recent-arivee Santos, outfielder Ronnier Mustelier is batting .407 with nine homers in 55 games while fellow gardener Daniel Carbonell has a .338 average with 11 homers and 12 steals. Another import, Puerto Rican third baseman Jovan Rosa, is hitting .346 with seven homers and 33 RBIs in 36 contests as the entire Tabasco team has a .303 average to tie for ninth with Saltillo and Yucatan, which tells you how things have gone for pitchers with the new Franklin ball this year. Orantes' mound staff has had it worse than most with a team ERA of 6.39 (and that's with FOUR shutouts, including Oramas' gem last Friday).

We say "worse than most" because Laguna (7.30), Aguascalientes (7.55) and Leon (7.88) pitchers may be forgiven for taking on nervous tics a la Herbert Lom's Inspector Dreyfus character in the Pink Panther movie series. Rieleros pitchers in particular might be in a state of collective shellshock after serving up the most homers (138) and walks (297) while their 713 hits allowed and 490 runs allowed rank second. Somehow amid the carnage surrounding him, Aguascalientes reliever Anthony Carter is 7-2 with seven saves and a 3.06 ERA over 25 appearances. Carter HAS given up eight homers in 32.1 innings so he's not exactly been unscathed.

MAYOS NAME ADAN MUNOZ MANAGER FOR 2019-20 SEASON

A familiar figure among longtime Mexican baseball observers has been signed as the Navojoa Mayos' new manager. Former catcher Adan Munoz will take the reins of the Mexican Pacific League team from Willie Romero. A combustible personality who won two Manager of the Year awards with Yucatan in the Mexican League and led the Mayos to the Mex Pac championship series in 2017-18, the 44-year-old Romero's contract was not renewed after Navojoa finished with a 26-31 overall record and missed the LMP playoffs last winter. Prior to managing, the Venezuelan spent six years as an outfielder in the Dodgers organization and played another 14 summers in the Mexican League for Saltillo and Yucatan, batting .334 with 147 homers before his 2012 retirement. Romero hit .331 for the 2006 Liga champion Leones, collecting 24 of his 300 career stolen bases (eighth all-time in the LMB).

While Romero earned his playing reputation as a flamboyant centerfielder and baserunner, Munoz has been known as a tough, no-nonsense catcher over two decades in the Mexican League. A career .279 hitter with 303 doubles and 162 homers among his 1,522 Liga hits, Munoz was named manager of the Quintana Roo Tigres on May 9, replacing Salon de la Fama member Jesus Sommers (the only man in LMB history with over 3,000 hits) at the helm with the Cancun club showing an 11-18 record. Since then, the Tigres have gone 11-17 under Munoz. While not as visibly demonstrative as Romero, the 6'2", 215-pound Munoz is not without a boiling point and (like Walter Alston with the Dodgers years ago) the Empalme, Sonora native is tough enough to back up orders issued to his charges.

Munoz will take over a Navojoa team that had some talent in the dugout last season. First baseman Victor Mendoza hit a team-high .323 with six homers and 30 RBIs and has since performed in the Caribbean Series and for the Mexican National Team in Japan, Alonzo Harris played second base and batted .302 with seven homers, scoring 51 runs, while third baseman Jovan Rosa clubbed 15 longballs with 45 RBIs to augment a .275 average. Other Mayos vets last winter included shortstop Paul Leon, outfielder Alan Sanchez and catcher Fernando Flores, all former LMB All-Stars. Top Navojoa pitchers included Jaime Lugo (5-3 with a 2.75 ERA), Marco Carrillo (5-4, 3.08) and closer Jesus Pirela (3.22, 16 saves).

SEARCH CONTINUES FOR INVESTORS IN GUASAVE

The search continues for investors in the Guasave's new Mexican Pacific League ballclub. The Algodoneros were hastily established over the winter as fulfillment of an earlier campaign promise to voters in the Sinaloa city by then-candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, now president of Mexico. Guasave re-enters the LMP next season along with Monterrey and while the Sultanes will bring one of the country's top baseball organizations and its largest ballpark into winterball with them, Guasave holds no such advantage in either history, facilities or resources.

The Algodoneros will play in the LMP's smallest market and in one of its oldest ballparks, although 49-year-old Estadio Francisco Carranza Limon is getting a major facelift thanks to billionaire Alfredo Harp Helu, who owns both the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Oaxaca Guerreros. Harp was induced by AMLO to put some pesos into the reborn Cottoneers and is largely footing the bill for stadium renovations (the 8,000-seat venue is expected to be ready when the Mex Pac opens play October 12), but has indicated he has no desire to own a third baseball team at this time.

As a result, efforts are being made to find new investment money to maintain the fledgling franchise. Among the names being bandied about is Francisco Ochoa, a Guasave resident and founder of the El Pollo Loco chain of restaurants. Another is Guadalupe Miranda, called the "King of Beans" for his role as director of agribusiness giant Grupo Cintar in Los Mochis.

Veteran GM Gabriel Low, who has run teams in Leon and Guadalajara and been an MLB scout, announced the hiring of Salon de la Fama member Juan Navarrete as Guasave manager. One of the greatest second basemen in Mexican League history (a .327 average on 1,979 hits with 236 steals over 16 seasons), the 65-year-old Durango native led the final iteration of the old Algodoneros in 2013-14. New owner Armando Navarro moved the team to Guadalajara, where Navarrete led the Jalisco Charros to the LMP Championship Series against eventual champion Culiacan in 2014-15. He's also in his third decade coaching in the Oakland minor league system. Son Juan, Jr. was an infielder at Grays Harbor College near the Washington coast last year.

A special mini-draft between the two LMP newcomers was held last week during which each team selected four players with dual citizenship (thus not counting against the six-foreigner limit). The Algodoneros took shortstop Marco Jaime and pitchers Mark Serrano, Geno Encina and Adam Quintana. Jaime represented Leon at last week's All-Star Game in Mexico City while the three pitchers are all Monclova moundsmen in the LMB. For their part, the Sultanes selected pitcher Mario Morales (Monclova), first baseman Eric Aguilera (Union Laguna), utilityman Alex Mejia (Monclova) and third baseman Michael Wing (Aguascalientes). Like Jaime, Wing performed in the recent LMB All-Star game and also took part in the Home Run Derby.

Between the expansion draft and last week's special draft, both Guasave and Monterrey each own the rights to 36 players with the July 3 LMP draft of unprotected players next in the roster-building process.


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Mexican League Stories from June 24, 2019


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