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04/12/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY: Vol. 2, No. 15"

by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International

When the season opened, the Florida Marlins were expected to occupy the cellar of the National League East Division standings, but following their 10-4 win over Washington last Wednesday, the Marlins were sitting on top of the division standings with a 5-3 record. The Fish were a game-and-a-half ahead of Philadelphia and New York, who were in a virtual tie for second place.
Shortstop Hanley Ramirez was off to a hot start for Florida, hitting .414 with two homers and six RBIs over eight games, and first baseman Mike Jacobs offset a poor .212 batting average by cracking four homers and driving in nine runs, both team highs. Shortstop Roberto Andino has had little playing time behind Ramirez, but he’s been making the most of his chances. After delivering a pinch-hit homer against the Mets on April 1, Andino belted a two-run pinch shot against the Nationals six days later.
Pitching has been another story. Florida starters have been horrible, with only Scott Olsen having an ERA under 6.00. The bullpen has picked up the slack, as Kevin Gregg has won one game and saved another and fellow relievers Renyel Pinto and Justin Miller each have a victory, but the truth is that the Marlins have been winning in spite of their pitching, not because of it.

Tampa Bay designated hitter Cliff Floyd is expected to miss four to six weeks after undergoing knee surgery last Friday. An MRI test taken Wednesday showed a torn medial meniscus in the 35-year-old’s right knee. Floyd was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to last Monday. He was hitting .333 with two homers and five RBIs for the Rays over the first four games of the season before being scratched from the lineup with knee pain last Monday.
Floyd has missed a large portion of the past two seasons and has endured a long list of injuries over the course of his 15-year major league career, including a broken wrist, neck pain, shoulder pain, various muscle strains and Achilles tendon problems. He says he wasn’t sure when or how his knee was injured, but allowed that he began experiencing pain during spring training. Floyd underwent similar surgery on his left knee in 1999, and was back in action in three weeks.
In Floyd’s absence, Tampa Bay has brought up Justin Ruggiano from Class AAA Durham. Ruggiano played last winter for the Baseball World Cup champion USA team.

The Atlanta Braves have placed closer Rafael Soriano on the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis in his right elbow. Soriano had made four appearances prior to being placed on the DL last week (retroactive to April 7), and had a 2.25 ERA with one save, striking out five batters in four innings.
Soriano came to the Braves last year in a trade sending pitcher Horacio Ramirez to Seattle, and signed a two-year, $9.1 million contract with Atlanta after posting a 3.00 ERA and converting nine of 12 save opportunities. The Mariners have released Ramirez.

When Major League Baseball began its 2008 season, 28 percent of the players on Opening Day rosters and disabled lists were born outside the United States.
In all, 239 of the 855 major leaguers (including restricted or disabled players) were born in 16 different countries besides the USA. The record for highest percentage of foreign-born players occurred in 2005, when 29.2 percent of those on Opening Day rosters were born outside the United States.
This season, the most players born outside the 50 states come from the Dominican Republic, with 88. Venezuela is next on the list with 52 players, with Puerto Rico contributing another 29. Japan had 18 players on Opening Day rosters, Canada had 14, Mexico had 11 and Cuba 8. Other countries or territories represented include Australia, Colombia, Curacao, South Korea, Nicaragua, Panama, Taiwan, Holland, and the Virgin Islands.

The 47th Cuban National Series semifinals are in full swing, and defending champion Santiago de Cuba is finding themselves in a dogfight for playoff survival.
Santiago won the first two games of their best-of-seven Eastern Division final series with Villa Clara before the challengers came back with two wins of their own to know the set up at two games apiece. Santiago gave themselves a little breathing room last Wednesday by clobbering Villa Clara 12-6 as right fielder Rolando Merino had a perfect 5-for-5 night at the plate with three doubles. Merino scored three runs and drove in four more to key Santiago’s 18-hit attack against seven Villa Clara pitchers.
In the Western Division finals, Pinar del Rio tied their series at 2-2 with a 6-3 home win over Sancti Spiritus. Both teams collected eight hits, but Pinar right fielder Yosvani Peraza stroked a homer and drove in three runs to turn in the night’s top offensive performance. The real story was Pinar pitcher Pedro Lazo, the Cuban National Series all-time wins leader. Lazo posted a complete game effort, scattering eight hits and three runs over nine innings while striking out five batsmen and walking none. After going 10-4 for the regular season, Lazo has won two games and saved another in the postseason.

A 16-3 record at the beginning of a season can do nice things for a team. The defending Mexican League Southern Division champion Yucatan Leones have gotten off to a great start by losing just three of their first 19 games, and hold a four-and-a-half-game lead over the Mexico City Diablos Rojos, who are second with an 11-7 mark. Tabasco is just behind the Red Devils with a 10-9 record. The Olmecas recently bolstered their roster with the addition of two former major leaguers, infielder Fernando Seguignol and pitcher Colter Bean. Seguignol played five seasons with the Expos and Yankees and another five years in Japan, including Nippon Ham last year. Bean is an eight-year minor league veteran, with call-ups to the Yankees in 2005 and 2006.
Things are much tighter in the LMB North, with just two games separating the top four teams. Monclova leads the division with a 13-6 record, Laguna and Saltillo are tied for second at 12-7, and Chihuahua holds fourth at 11-8. Defending Mexican League champion Monterrey continues to struggle, sitting in seventh place in the North with a 7-12 mark, six games off the pace.

Okinawa’s Shogaku High School defeated Saitama’s Seibo Gakuen, 9-0, last weekend to win their second National High School Invitational Tournament at Osaka’s Koshien Stadium. Nao Higashihama pitched for the third day in a row for the Okinawans, holding Gakuen to six hits with six strikeouts, tossing the first complete-game shutout in the Koshien final since Daisuke Matsuzaka did it ten years ago. Shogaku won their first title in 1999.
Shogaku scored the game-s first run in the top of the first when leadoff batter Hijiri Iko tripled and came in to score on Ryoji Otsuka’s wild pitch. Iko put icing on the cake in the fifth inning with a three-run inside the park homer, scoring the game’s final run in the bargain. Seibo Gakuen had the bases loaded with two out in the seventh, but a fly out to left by Ryo Two ended the inning as the Saitama school missed a chance to win the spring Koshien tourney in their first appearance.

Nippon Professional Baseball will appoint Japan’s outgoing ambassador to the United States as its next commissioner. Ryozo Kato is scheduled to be appointed to his new post after he is confirmed at a meeting of Japan’s 12 professional baseball clubs.
The 66-year-old Kato is seen as an appropriate successor to acting commissioner Yasuchika Negoro. He is familiar with Major League Baseball, and his international experience with American business and government leaders is considered crucial to NPB, which is hoping to internationalize Japanese baseball in the future. Kato is well-known in baseball circles, and is said to have a close relationship with Softbank Hawks manager Sadaharu Oh, who is baseball’s all-time home run king.

The Hanshin Tigers won nine of their first 11 games to take a two-and-a-half game lead over Chunichi and Yakult in Japan’s Central League standings. The Dragons and Swallows are tied for second place with 6-4 records, although Chunichi also has one tie. Hiroshima holds fourth place, Yomiuri is in fifth, and Yokohama comes up last.
The Pacific League has been playing one week longer than the Central, and a tight battle has developed for the lead between the Seibu Lions and Nippon Ham Fighters. Seibu holds a tenuous half-game lead with a 10-7 record, while Nippon Ham is at 10-7. Lotte, Softbank and Orix are all tied for third with 8-9 marks. Despite being the only Pacific League team with a perfect record at home Rakuten is last at 7-9. The Golden Eagles are 5-0 at home, but only 2-9 on the road.

The Baseball Philippines league has opened its Series 3 competition with a slightly different look. Instead of a six-team, two-division used last year, BP will field a single division of eight teams in 2008 with the addition of the expansion Batangas Bulls and Antipolo Pilgrims. After the first weekend of action, last fall’s two finalists, the Cebu Dolphins and Manila Sharks, led the league with 2-0 records while Antipolo and Batangas were tied for third at 1-0. The BP website ( offers online streaming of games.

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