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03/11/2006 Archived Entry: "VIVA BEISBOL (Mexican Pro Baseball News)"

Solid pitching, big bats lead to Pool B championship

ANAHEIM - Teams who have both good batting and good pitching are usually going to win their fair share of games, and such was the case last week when Mexico combined hot hitting with sharp pitching to win two of three Pool B games and a berth in Pool 1 for the World Baseball Classic’s second round. Mexico, the United States and Canada all had 2-1 records after the Yanks clubbed winless South Africa 17-0 Friday in a five-inning, mercy rule-shortened game at Scottsdale Stadium, so the Mexicans were awarded first place, the USA second and Canada third on the basis of a tiebreaker rule in which teams are placed according to ERA rates in head-to-head competition among the tied teams. Thus, Canada stays home even though they beat the USA Wednesday by an 8-6 score.

After a hard-played 2-0 loss to the United States Tuesday in Phoenix, in which pitcher Rodrigo Lopez and four relievers combined to limit the USA to six hits but were only supported by four hits from their own batting order, Mexico exploded for a 10-4 win over South Africa Wednesday and a 9-1 pounding of Canada Thursday to power their way out of the first round and into second round pool play in Anaheim along with South Korea, Japan and the USA. Pool 2 in San Juan will consist of a lineup of teams from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.

The biggest Mexican bat in Pool B belonged to second baseman Jorge Cantu, as the Tampa Bay product led the team in several offensive categories, including hits (5), homers (2), RBI’s (6) and total bases (11) en route to a .385 batting average. Outfielder Karim Garcia went 3-for-5 to post Mexico’s highest batting average at .600, and also drew a pair of walks for a .538 on-base percentage. As a team, Mexico batted .297 as eight hitters registered .300 or better averages.

All that batting almost obscured the tremendous pitching performances by manager Paquin Estrada’s mound staff, coached by ex-MLB stars Fernando Valenzuela and Teddy Higuera. As good as Lopez was against the USA Tuesday, he is near the bottom of the ERA list for Mexico. No less than ten hurlers went unscored on in the first round, while Esteban Loaiza is at 1.80 after one round and Lopez stands at 2.25. A former catcher, Estrada did a masterful job with the pitching staff as all 15 Mexican hurlers saw action and only Loaiza recorded more than four innings, leaving the pitchers well-rested heading into Anaheim. Mexico’s 2.42 ERA was the best in Pool B competition.

Mexico opens Round Two play Sunday night in Anaheim against South Korea.

POOL A: South Korea 3-0, Japan 2-1, Taiwan 1-2, China 0-3.
POOL B: MEXICO 2-1*, United States 2-1*, Canada 2-1, South Africa 0-3.
POOL C: Puerto Rico 3-0, Cuba 2-1, Netherlands 1-2, Panama 0-3.
POOL D: Dominican Republic 3-0, Venezuela 2-1, Italy 1-2, Australia 0-3.

Pool 1: Angels Stadium, Anaheim, California
Date (Local time) Visitor v Home
Sunday, March 12 (1:00pm) Japan v USA
Sunday, March 12 (8:00pm) MEXICO v South Korea
Monday, March 13 (7:00pm) USA v South Korea
Tuesday, March 14 (4:00pm) Japan v MEXICO
Wednesday, March 15 (7:00pm) South Korea v Japan
Thursday, March 16 (4:30pm) USA v MEXICO

Pool 2: Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Date (Local Time) Visitor v Home
Sunday, March 12 (2:00pm) Cuba v Venezuela
Sunday, March 12 (9:00pm) Puerto Rico v Dominican Republic
Monday, March 13 (2:00pm) Dominican Republic v Cuba
Monday, March 13 (8:00pm) Venezuela v Puerto Rico
Tuesday, March 14 (8:00pm) Venezuela v Dominican Republic
Wednesday, March 15 (8:00pm) Cuba v Puerto Rico

Finals: PETCO Park, San Diego, California
Date (Local Time) Visitor v Home
Saturday, March 18 (12:00pm) Semifinal 1: Pool 2 #2 v Pool 2 #1
Saturday, March 18 (7:00pm) Semifinal 2: Pool 1 #2 v Pool 1 #1
Monday, March 20 (6:00pm) Championship: SF 1 winner v SF 2 winner

MAESTROS of MEXICO: Jorge Orta, infielder/outfielder (1972-87)

Although he was born in Sinaloa and spent four years on rosters of Mexican teams, Jorge Orta never played in the Mexican League. He did, however, put in 16 seasons in the majors (all but one in the American League) and retired as the most productive MLBer to have come out of Mexico up to that time.

Jorge Orta Nunez was born December 26, 1950 in Mazatlan, the son of Pedro “Charolito” Orta, a Cuban-born third baseman who moved to Mexico in the 1940’s and spent eight seasons in the Liga, batting .301 over 500 games. Jorge broke into pro ball with Fresnillo of the Class A Mexican Center League in 1968 as a 17-year-old, and hit .265 in 20 games. He bounced around the Mexican Class A ranks from Fresnillo to San Luis Potosi, Puerto Mexico and Mexicali. It was in Mexicali that Orta led the Mexican Northern League in 1971 with a .423 average in 58 games. That was enough to get noticed by the Chicago White Sox, who signed him to a contract and assigned Orta to Knoxville of the Southern League in 1972.

Midway through the season, Orta (who was batting .316 with the Smokies) was brought up to the big club, and although he only hit .202 in 51 games, he never played another minor league game. Orta spent the next three seasons as Chicago’s starting second baseman, batting .316 in 1974 and .304 in 1975. However, Orta was never a good fielder and eventually was moved to designated hitter in order to keep his bat in the lineup while taking his glove out of it. After a ho-hum 1979 in which he hit .262, Orta signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Indians, who shifted him to the outfield.

After a decent 1980 season with the Tribe (he hit .291 with 10 homers and 64 ribbies), Orta was swapped after the 1981 campaign with two minor leaguers to Los Angeles for pitcher Rick Sutcliffe and second baseman Jack Perconte. He only hit .217 with the Dodgers in 1982 and was dealt to Toronto for 1983 (and hit .237 with ten homers) before landing in Kansas City, where he spent the last four seasons of his career. Although Orta never reached double figures in homers with the Royals after hitting ten or more eight times between 1974 and 1983, he was a timely hitter as a platoon DH for three seasons. He went 1-for-3 in the 1985 World Series for KC against St. Louis, his hit coming on a disputed play in which he hit a dribbler to Cardinals first baseman Jack Clark. Clark tossed the ball to pitcher Todd Worrell covering first to apparently beat Orta, but umpire Don Denkinger ruled the batter safe on the play (which was pivotal in the Royals’ WS victory).

Orta called it quits after batting a career-low .180 in 21 games for Kansas City in 1987. He retired with a career .278 batting average along with 130 homers and 745 RBI’s in 1,755 games. While he never played during the summer in the Mexican League, as mentioned, he did spend ten winters in the Mexican Pacific League and hit .281 with 57 homers playing for Navojoa, Mazatlan and Mexicali.

Jorge Orta was selected to the Salon de la Fama in 1996. Although he was enshrined as a second sacker, he is a member mostly by way of a productive bat that set the bar for Vinny Castilla, Erubiel Durazo and other Mexican major league batters who followed after him.

NEXT MAESTRO: Salome Barojas, pitcher (1976-96)


Last week’s Quiz answer: Ruben Amaro and Ruben Amaro Junior were the first Mexican father-son combination in major league baseball. Ruben Senior made his MLB debut on June 29, 1958 for the St. Louis Cardinals, but spent the majority of his career with the Philadelphia Phillies. Ruben Junior played his first big league game in 1991 for the California Angels. Like his father, he spent a large part of his playing days with Philadelphia, which was his birthplace on February 12, 1965.

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