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12/11/2006 Archived Entry: "VIVA BEISBOL: Soria goes second in MLB Rule 5 draft, hurls perfect game"

by Bruce Baskin

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It’s easy to see why Joakim Soria might feel he had a pretty good week.

The Obregon Yaquis pitcher was taken by the Kansas City Royals with the second selection of the 2006 Major League Baseball Rule 5 draft last Thursday at Organized Baseball’s annual winter meeting in Florida. The right-handed Soria has been dominant this winter in the Mexican Pacific League, with a 9-0 record and 1.73 earned-run average for the Yaquis, who lead the LMP’s second half standings after failing to reach the playoffs last winter. Soria has struck out 73 batters in 71.1 innings, allowing just 19 walks along the way, and opponents are batting less than .200 against him. Obregon manager Homar Rojas, who led Yucatan to their first Mexican League pennant since 1984 last summer, converted Soria from relief pitching to a starting role this season. While Soria has been very successful as a close the past two years for both the Yaquis during the winter and the Mexico City Red Devils during the summer, he has obviously adapted well to his spot in the rotation.

Soria’s latest outing would seem to justify the Royals’ faith in him. On Saturday, he became just the third pitcher in MexPac history to throw a perfect as the Yaquis whitewashed the powerful Hermosillo Naranjeros by a 6-0 count. Soria retired all 27 men he faced, with only three of them able to so much as stretch the count out to a full 3-and-2, including defending LMP batting champion Juan Carlos Canizalez and major league infielder Jerry Hairston, Jr., who joined Hermosillo last week.

Interestingly, according to Carlos Fragoso in Mexico City, Obregon has been involved in all three LMP perfectos: The Yaquis’ Vicente Romo tossed a perfect game against Guaymas in 1971, while Mazatlan’s Jesus Moreno turned the trick against Obregon in 1989.

The Rule 5 Draft is baseball’s version of a crapshoot: You pay stake money to play the game, then roll the dice and pray for success. It’s not necessarily a high-stakes game, with major league teams only paying $50,000 for a single-round draft of Class AAA players not protected on a big league team’s 40-man roster. The price goes down to $25,000 for subsequent drafts of players in lower classifications. While Rule 5 draftees do not usually make a major impact on the teams who draft them, there are exceptions. The Florida Marlins picked outfielder Dan Uggia in last winter’s Rule 5 Draft, and rewarded them with an appearance in the All-Star Game. It’s safe to say the Minnesota Twins chose wisely a few years ago when they selected Johan Santana, who has become one of the top pitchers in the major leagues the past three years.

Soria was picked from the San Diego Padres, who owned his MLB rights (Mexico City owns his summer ball contract in Mexico, and would need to be compensated if Soria sticks with Kansas City). The 6’2” righty actually missed both the 2003 and 2004 seasons due to injury before a 2005 comeback season in Mexico with the Red Devils. The Padres had Soria pitch a few games for their Class A Midwest League affiliate in Fort Wayne last spring before shipping him back to Mexico City. There was a rumor that Oakland was going to try to swing a trade for the first overall pick in the draft from Tampa Bay in order to draft Soria, but that the deal fell through.

After Saturday night, it appears the Padres’ and Athletics’ loss may the Royals’ gain.

Obregon 11-7, Culiacan 10-8, Hermosillo 10-8, Mazatlan 9-8,
Guasave 9-9, Navojoa 8-9, Los Mochis 8-10, Mexicali 6-12

RESULTS of games from DECEMBER 5 through DECEMBER 10

Los Mochis 6, Hermosillo 3 (MOC-Travis Driskill pitched 7 innings of 3-run ball for win)
Guasave 8, Mexicali 6 (GUA-Mario Valdez and Armando Rios both hit home runs)
Culiacan 12, Obregon 3 (CUL-Karim Garcia hit 2 homers, including grand slam)
Navojoa 4, Mazatlan 0 (NAV-Oscar Rivera had 7IP/0R/8K line to raise record to 6-2)

Hermosillo 6, Los Mochis 4 (HMO-Oscar Villareal got final two outs of the game for 1st save)
Guasave 7, Mexicali 3 (MXI-Isidro Marquez made LMP-record 483rd pitching appearance)
Obregon 8, Culiacan 7 (CUL-Garcia hit grand slam for second game in row to tie LMP mark)
Navojoa 4, Mazatlan 3 (NAV-Mayos hit 7 homers, 2 of them by Marshall McDougall)

Los Mochis 2, Hermosillo 1 (MOC-Jose Ortiz hit a 2-run single in top of 9th inning)
Mexicali 5, Guasave 4 (MXI-Benji Gil stroked a 2-run double in Aguilas’ 5-run 3rd frame)
Obregon 6, Culiacan 5 (OBR-Adan Munoz swatted a 3-run homer in top of 9th entrada)
Mazatlan at Navojoa, rained out

Mazatlan 4, Mexicali 3 (MAZ-Francisco Javier Valdez hit game-winning single in 9th)
Guasave 9, Navojoa 0 (GUA-Rudy Gonzalez and three relievers combined for shutout)
Culiacan 5, Los Mochis 4 (MOC-Jose Ortiz crunched a grand slam for Caneros in loss)
Hermosillo 3, Obregon 2 (HMO-Jesus Cota’s 9th inning solo homer broke 2-2 tie)

Mazatlan 6, Mexicali 1 (MAZ-Oscar Bustillos went to 5-1 after tossing six shutout innings)
Guasave 8, Navojoa 5 (GUA-Mario Valenzuela blasted 2 homers for Algodoneros)
Culiacan 3, Los Mochis 2 (CUL-Starter Steve Smyth let in 1 run on 5 hits over 6 frames)
Obregon 6, Hermosillo 0 (OBR-Joakim Soria threw third perfect game in LMP history)

Mexicali 5, Mazatlan 1 (MXI-Humberto Cardenas and two relievers combined for 5-hitter)
Navojoa 3, Guasave 1 (NAV-Oscar Rivera let in 1 run over 8 innings for 2nd win of week)
Los Mochis 5, Culiacan 1 (MOC-Jose Ortiz hit a homer and RBI single)
Hermosillo 4, Obregon 3 (HMO-Geronimo Gil hit a 3-run homer, his 10th)

Mazatlan at Guasave, Culiacan at Hermosillo, Navojoa at Mexicali, Obregon at Los Mochis

Mazatlan at Culiacan, Mexicali at Hermosillo, Guasave at Los Mochis, Navojoa at Obregon

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