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06/22/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY: Vol. 2, No. 25"

by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International
Sunday, June 22, 2008


RAYS TAKE TWO OF THREE VERSUS MARLINS

In an interleague series between Florida’s two major league teams that had meaning for both, the American League Tampa Bay Rays won two of three games over the Florida Marlins of the National League last weekend at St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field. The two clubs entered the set in second place in their respective leagues’ East Division, but in the end it was the upstart Rays who came away winners.

Tampa Bay won last Friday’s opener 7-3 as starter Andy Sonnenstine settled down after a rocky start to finish with five innings of three-run ball to take the win. Conversely, Florida’s Ryan Tucker struggled throughout his second major league start, allowing five runs on seven hits and three walks over five innings.

The Marlins went down quietly again one night later, losing 4-1 as Rays hurler Matt Garza went seven strong innings to allow just one score on three hits. Tampa Bay designated hitter Jonny Gomes celebrated his return to the lineup after serving a five-game suspension with a homer.
Florida came away with a win last Sunday by finally opening up one of baseball’s most potent offenses, beating the Rays 9-3. Wes Helms cranked a three-run second inning roundtripper off Tampa Bay starter Edwin Jackson, the first longball for the major league’s most prolific homer-hitting team in four games. Just for good measure, Florida’s Mike Jacobs slammed his own three-run homer in the fifth. Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco struck out 12 batters before being pulled with two out in the ninth inning.


FLORIDA EXTENDS SALLY LEAGUE TIES WITH GREENSBORO THROUGH 2010

The Florida Marlins have extended their Player Development Contract with the South Atlantic League’s Greensboro Grasshoppers through the 2010 season. Greensboro has been a Florida affiliate since 2003, and the Grasshoppers have drawn over 1.2 million fans to NewBridge Bank Park, becoming the first Class A franchise in minor league history to draw over 400,000 in each of their first three seasons in a new ballpark. Greensboro has won both the Sally League’s Club Merit Award and General Manager of the Year Award each of the past three years.

Marlins Vice President of Player Development Jim Fleming made the announcement last week.


THREE OF FOUR TAMPA BAY MANAGERS IN ST. PETE

When the Chicago Cubs paid a visit to Tropicana Field last week, it marked a reunion of sorts involving three of the four men to ever manage the Tampa Bay Rays. Current Rays bench boss Joe Maddon, who is in his third year managing Tampa, welcomed Cubs manager Lou Piniella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Rothschild was the Rays first manager between 1998 and 2001, while Piniella ran his hometown team between 2003 and 2005. Only Hal McRae, who managed Tampa Bay in 2001 and 2002, was absent. McRae is a coach with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Piniella was impressed with the Rays, telling reporters, “They’ve done a nice job. I wish them well, I really do.” Rothschild added, “The young players have started to develop and come through the system, and that’s what’s made the difference for them.”


EX-AMBASSADOR NAMED JAPANESE BASEBALL COMMISSIONER

Japan’s former ambassador to the United States has been approved as the new commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball. NPB club owners approved the appointment of 66-year-old Ryozo Kato to a three-year term last Wednesday.

Kato was Japan’s longest-serving ambassador to the USA, serving six-and-a-half years through last month. He is known as a baseball fan, and has thrown out the ceremonial first pitch several times in America during his diplomatic stay. “I have a strong passion for baseball” Kato says. “I try to listen humbly to a wide range of opinions and contribute my efforts to Japan’s baseball development.”

Kato will assume his new position July 1, succeeding acting NPB commissioner Yasuchika Negoro, who is 75.


TAKATSU SIGNS WITH KOREAN TEAM

Japanese baseball’s all-time saves leader has signed a contract with the Woori Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization. Former Yakult Swallows closer Shingo Takatsu joined the KBO’s last place team early last week.

Takatsu pitched 13 seasons with the Swallows between 1991 and 2007, saving a record 286 games during his Japanese career. He joined the Chicago White Sox in 2004, saving 19 games for them before signing a minor league contract with the New York Mets in 2005. The 29-year-old returned to Yakult in 2006 and spent two seasons with the Swallows before signing a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs last winter. After failing to make the Cubs’ major league roster, Takatsu considered retirement before signing with the Heroes last Sunday.


IMPORT PITCHER STRONG IN FIRST TAIWANESE START

The odyssey that is Nate Bland’s career has taken the 33-year-old left-handed pitcher across the Pacific Ocean to Taiwan, where Bland made his debut last weekend. After being drafted out of high school on the fourth round of the 1993 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Alabama native has toiled in the minor leagues for 16 seasons. Bland, who pitched 22 games in relief for the Houston Astros in 2003, has been signed by seven big league organizations since 2000, and has also worked in independent ball and in Mexico, where he was a reliever for Tijuana and Laguna in 2007.

Bland started for the dMedia T-Rex on June 13 against the Chinatrust Whales, tossing six-and-two-thirds shutout innings in a 2-0 T-Rex win in Taipei. Chinatrust starter Nee Fu-deh went all the way for the Whales, scattering two runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts.


MANILA CLINCHES FIRST, BUT BATANGAS HEATING UP IN PHILIPPINES

The Manila Sharks finally lost a game, but they’ve clinched first place in the Baseball Philippines standings with one weekend remaining until the Series 3 playoffs begin. Although the Sharks have things well in hand with a 9-1 record, the rest of the league is casting a wary eye on the Batangas Bulls.

The Bulls have scored 33 runs in their last 14 innings, and they haven’t surrendered a run nor committed an error in that same span. Batangas clobbered the Antipolo Pilgrims last Sunday, 19-0, to run their record to 6-4. Manila beat Taguig 6-4 while the Makati Mariners won their first game of 2008 with a 9-7 win over Dumaguete. The second-place Cebu Dolphins were idle.


PELLOW CONTENDING FOR TRIPLE CROWN IN MEXICO

Former Kansas City Royals infielder Kit Pellow is tearing up the Mexican League this season for the Saltillo Saraperos. Although Saltillo is in fifth place in the Liga’s Northern Division after an 8-11 start to the second half, the Saraperos swept to a first half title, thanks in large part to Pellow’s bat.

As of late last week, Pellow was leading the Mexican league with 27 homers and 80 RBIs after 72 games. He has ten more homers than Mexico City second baseman Carlos Valencia’s 17, and he’s 12 ribbies ahead of Monterrey third baseman Mendy Lopez. Mexico City’s Jose Macias leads the LMB with a .389 batting average, just three points ahead of Pellow’s .386. It’s way too early to award the Saltillo first baseman a triple crown, but it wouldn’t hurt to at least measure his hat size.

Monclova continues to lead the LMB North with a 13-6 record, but defending champion Monterrey is hot on the Acereros’ heels at 12-7, a half-game ahead of 11-7 Chihuahua. In the South, 15-4 Mexico City has cooled a little since a hot second half start, but they’re still three games ahead of second place Quintana Roo, who is 12-7.


ALEXEI BELL NAMED CUBAN NATIONAL SERIES MVP

Santiago de Cuba outfielder Alexei Bell has been unanimously voted Most Valuable Player of the 47th Cuban National Series. Bell broke Cuban single-season records with 31 homers and 111 RBIs for the 90-game regular season before leading Santiago to their second straight playoff crown. A five-tool athlete, Bell also swiped 25 bases and won a Gold Glove for his work in right field. Bell’s teammate, Rolando Merino, was named the Postseason MVP, while Santiago skipper Antonio Pacheco was elected Manager of the Year. Pacheco will lead Cuba in this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing. Ciego de Avila’s Adonis Garcia was picked Best Utility Player.

Among Cuban pitchers, Havana’s Jonder Martinez is the Best Right-Handed Pitcher in the CNS while teammate Yulieski Gonzalez was selected as Best Left-Handed Pitcher. Villa Clara’s Yosvani Perez won Rookie of the Year honors after going 11-2 with a 2.01 ERA. Isla de Juventud closer Sergio Espinosa was voted Reliever of the Year.

KINHEIM SEEKING REPEAT IN EUROPEAN CUP TOURNAMENT

Corendon Kinheim of The Netherlands hoped to win their second consecutive European Cup championship this past week in Grosseto, Italy. Kinheim, the reigning Dutch Major League champions, arrived in Italy with a league-leading 20-6 record. They went 4-1 in the Euro Cup last year, including a 3-1 win over France’s Rouen Huskies in the title game.

The Huskies are back in 2008, along with teams from Spain, Germany, Russia and Belgium. Italy is represented by two teams, host Montepaschi Grosseto and T&A San Marino. Kinheim is a favorite in this year’s tournament, but Rouen, Grosseto, Spain’s Puerto Cruz Marlins and Germany’s Mainz Athletics are expected to contend. Rouen is coming off a French League title last year with a 12-4 start this season, Grosseto has defended their 2007 Italian League pennant with an 18-9 record this year, Puerto Cruz leads the Spanish League at 17-3 in their quest for a second straight flag, and Mainz lost their first four games of the season before the defending German League champions won seven of their last ten outings.

Listen to World Baseball Today on Radio Miami International (9955kHz or www.wrmi.net)
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