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05/28/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY: Vol. 2, No. 21"

Sunday, May 25, 2008
by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International

The Florida Marlins finally pulled the trigger on an acquisition that had been expected since early May when they singed veteran outfielder Jacque Jones to a minor league contract. The 33-year-old Jones is a career .278 hitter, but was released by Detroit on May 13 after being designated for assignment eight days earlier. He appeared in 24 games for the Tigers this season.
Although Jones will play for the Marlins’ Class A affiliate Jupiter in the Florida State League to get in game shape, he’s expected to move up to Miami in June, where he’ll provide some depth at all three outfield slots and a left-handed bat with some pop. Although Jones’ contract pays him seven figures annually, the Marlins will only be on the hook for a prorated major league minimum salary once he’s brought back to the majors.
The signing of Jones comes at a good time for Florida. Although the surprising Marlins continue to lead the National League East Division, they’ve had a shortage in the outfield since starter Josh Willingham was placed on the disabled list with a strained lower back. Veteran Luis Gonzalez has been filling in for Willingham and infielder Alfredo Amezaga has been platooning in center field and sharing leadoff duties with Cody Ross. Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez is expected to move Amezaga back to his backup infield role while platooning Jones and Ross in center. Jones may also spend time in left field.

The top pick in the 2007 amateur draft was expected to make his professional debut for the Tampa Bay Rays’ Florida State League Clearwater affiliate last Thursday. Pitcher David Price was scheduled to start against Vero Beach in historic Holman Stadium nearly 12 months after the former Vanderbilt star was the first name called by baseball commissioner Bud Selig at last June’s draft in Orlando.
Since then, Price has been plagued by a series of physical and circumstantial misfortunes preventing him from throwing a ball when it counts. He was impressive in spring training, and retired six of seven batters he faced in two major league exhibition games despite shoulder pain early in training camp. After resting up further, he pitched in extended spring training action, striking out ten Yankees batters in five innings while flashing a fastball in the mid-90’s. Among those strikeout victims was a rehabbing Alex Rodriguez, a Tampa native who also drilled a homer off Price during the game. Afterwards, A-Rod complimented the youngster, saying “I wish he were on our team. He has a very bright future. The Rays are doing a fantastic job of drafting these young guys.” For his part, Price said, “It’s been a while since I’ve thrown that many pitches, and it definitely took a toll on me out there at the end.”
With the unexpected strong start out of the gate by the parent club, the Rays have the luxury of allowing Price to develop at a less-hurried pace than if they were in their usual last-place position in the American League East standings. Last year, Price became the 13th pitcher taken first overall in the draft. The first, David Clyde, was rushed by the Texas Rangers from high school directly to the major leagues in 1973.

Former major league manager Terry Collins has stepped down as skipper of Japan’s Orix Buffaloes one month into his second season with the Pacific League team. Collins was named manager of the Buffaloes in the fall of 2006, replacing Katsuhiro Nakamura after Orix finished fifth in the six-team league in Nakamura’s only year as the team’s dugout boss.
However, the 58-year-old Collins was unable to do any better than his predecessor. The Buffaloes finished in last place for the 2007 season, and the team was in fifth place with a 21-28 record this year when Collins resigned after last Wednesday’s 7-3 interleague loss to the Central League-leading Hanshin Tigers. Although the Buffaloes were bolstered by the offseason acquisitions of Venezuelan slugger Alex Cabrera and outfielder Osamu Hamanaka, Orix has been plagued by injuries to members of their pitching staff.
Prior to joining the Buffaloes, Collins had been serving as player development director for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have a working relationship with Orix. He managed the Houston Astros from 1994 to 1996, and spent three years with the Anaheim Angels between 1997 and 1999. Collins has a reputation as a hard-nosed disciplinarian, which fits the image of a manager in Japan. However, according to some sources, he was undermined by Orix team management during his tenure there.

The defending Korea Series champion SK Wyverns are off to a strong start in 2008, and look to be the team to beat this season in the Korea Baseball Organization.
The Wyverns have won 28 of their first 41 games this year to take a firm hold of first place in the KBO, four-and-a-half games ahead of last season’s Korea Series runners-up Doosan Bears. The Hanwha Eagles are in third place in the standings, as they were in 2007, and the Lotte Giants and Samsung Lions are duking it out for fourth.
The Wyverns are leading the standings despite the relative ineffectiveness of 34-year-old American pitcher Kenny Rayborn, who’d been penciled in as a number one starter before the season but only has one win after 17 victories last year. Rayborn has allowed 14 runs in 15 innings over his last three starts. Much of the slack has been picked up by second-year starter Kwang-hyung Kim, who leads the KBO with six wins, 52 strikeouts and a 2.05 ERA. The left-handed Kim has a fastball that hits the low 90’s and a wicked 12-to-6 curveball.
A first-place regular season finish in Korea is very meaningful. The KBO playoffs are structured much like a pro bowling tournament. The third- and fourth-place teams square off in the first round, with the winner meeting the second-place team in the semifinals. The regular season champion gets a bye all the way to the Korea Series.

The Chinese Professional Baseball League’s defending champs are threatening to run away and hide from the rest of the pack. Five weeks into the season, the President Lions have a 26-9 record, far ahead of the 18-14-2 La New Bears. Each of the four other teams in the Taiwanese league has 14 wins, creating a logjam for third place.
One reason for the Lions’ success is pitcher Lou Pote, who is 7-0 with a 3.61 ERA. Another import with impact is third baseman Tilson Brito, who is hitting .322 with seven homers, 37 runs scored and 30 RBIs.

During a doubleheader sweep in Puebla last Wednesday, the Saltillo Saraperos set a Mexican League record with twelve hits in the second inning of their 15-1 nightcap romp over the Pericos which clinched the first half Northern Division title for Saltillo.
The Saraperos’ Refugio Cervantes opened the second frame with a double to right off Puebla starter Andres Meza. When the damage was done, Saltillo had twelve hits in the inning to break the league record of 11 hits in one inning, which was shared by six teams (most recently in 2006 by the Tijuana Potros against Laguna). Four Saltillo batsmen collected two hits in the inning, led by the double and homer of Jose de Jesus Munoz. Cervantes, Mario Valenzuela and Carlos Alvarez also had two safeties apiece.
In all, the Saraperos scored 13 runs in the second, two short of the Mexican league record of 15 runs in one inning set by the Mexico City Diablos Rojos against Torreon in 1941 and tied Veracruz one year later against Tampico.

The Solingen Alligators won both of their games against the Hanover Regents last weekend to remain the only undefeated team this year in German League baseball. The Alligators crushed Hanover 16-3 and 8-0, running their record to a perfect 13-0.
Solingen’s Kai Gronauer carried the big stick in both games, with an RBI double in the first game and a home run in the second. Pitcher Andre Hughes and Enorbel Marquez-Ramirez took away wins over the Regents, who fell to 3-10. The Alligators are outscoring their opponents by an average score of 10-2.
Not surprisingly, Solingen leads Germany’s North Division by two-and-a-half games over the 10-2 Paderborn Untouchables. The Bonn Capitals have won six straight games to take over third place from the Cologne Cardinals, who have dropped three in a row. In the South Division, there’s a tight two-way race between the Buchbinder Legionaires and Heidenheim Heidekopfe. Buchbinder’s 11-1 record puts them one game ahead of 10-2 Heidenheim. Buchbinder has been winning with defense, allowing just over two runs per game, while Heidenheim has taken the offensive approach by notching nearly 11 scores per contest.

The schedule for baseball in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games has been released. All eight nations will begin play Wednesday, August 13 with games on two adjoining fields at Beijing’s Wukesong Baseball Stadium.
Taiwan and The Netherlands will open things with a contest on Field 2 at 10:30AM local time, while host China meets Canada one hour later on Wukesong’s Main Field. There will be two nighttime games, starting with a 6:00PM Field 2 match between the United States and South Korea. Cuba and Japan will square off at 7:00PM on the Main Field.
The eight-team field will play a round-robin first round concluding with a full slate of games on Wednesday, August 20. Two days later, the top four teams will converge on the Wukesong Main Field for the semifinals. The Medal Round will take place Saturday, August 23, with the Gold Medal Game set for 6:00PM that night.

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Replies: 1 Comment

Well done, Bruce. It's a great comfort to me knowing baseball is being played all over the world - maybe there's hope. Thanks for the updates.

Posted by Max @ 05/28/2008 07:33 AM EST

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