Good morning! With the chill of new-fallen snow, what a better way to warm up than with reports of our summer passion, baseball, from the sunny Caribbean! Today, the winter leagues wrap up as Venezuela crown a new champion with Cubs’ prospects playing a pivotal role. Cubs Den also names their Cubs Player of the Winter! For more information, take a look inside.
Venezuelan Winter League
Sunday – Anzoategui 9 – Lara 6
With Anzoategui ahead in the championship series two games to none, Sunday’s contest was tight before each team started getting into their bullpens. In the first four innings, the only tally was a solo home run by the Caribes’ Oswaldo Arcia. The tribe then opened things up in the fifth inning, When Cubs’ prospect Rafael Ortega doubled in the second run of the inning to put Anzoategui up 3-0. The Caribes would go on to score two more runs in the fifth to go up 5-0 on Lara.
After the Cardenales tightened things up with three runs in the top of the sixth, the Tribe was able to bounce right back. Anzoategui put up another four runs, highlighted by Ortega’s bases-clearing, three run triple. That would be all the Caribes needed as the bullpen wavered against the Redbirds in the final innings to make the final at 9-6 closer than the game seemed.
For the game, centerfielder Ortega was 2-for-5 with a double, triple, four RBI, and two runs scored. Ildemaro Vargas started at second base and batted second for Lara, going 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored.
Tuesday – Anzoategui 8 – Lara 7, 10 innings
Fighting for their playoff lives, Lara came out swinging on Tuesday. But the Anzoategui offense was too much for the Cardenales, as they was swept four games to none as it took 10 innings for the Caribes to beat them 8-7. Leadoff hitter Ildemaro Vargas got things started for the Redbirds in first with a walk. Vargas would then come around on a three-run homer from third baseman Carlos Rivero. The Tribe answered in the bottom of the first with two runs of their own.
Anzoategui then regained the lead in the third as Rafael Ortega had a one-out single and then stole second base. A base hit by second baseman Ali Castillo brought in Ortega and DH Oswaldo Arcia drove in Castillo.
The lead would change hands another five times, as Lara tied the game at 7-7 in the top of the ninth when Vargas doubled and scored on a single by centerfielder Gorkys Hernandez. In the bottom of the tenth, pinch-runner Cristian Pedroza scampered home on a close play as third baseman Niuman Romero delivered the walk-off single and championship to the Caribes.
In the game, Ortega would go 1-for-4 with a stolen base and a run scored for victorious Anzoategui, while second baseman Vargas was 2-for-5 with a walk, double, and two runs scored for Lara.
Player of the Winter – Rafael Ortega, OF
Signed by the Cubs in November, Rafael Ortega has bounced around in six different organizations since being signed by the Rockies in 2008. That also includes four stints in the majors with the Rockies, Angels, Marlins, and Braves.
A veteran of the Venezuelan Winter League from as early as 17-years old, Ortega has compiled a lifetime slash line on .278/.374/.397/.771 with 11 home runs and 19 stolen base in 310 games over the past ten years.
This past season, Ortega was the catalyst for champion Anzoategui. While he hit in the second and third slot, Ortega primarily batted lead-off and went .301/.427/.480/.906 with 8 doubles, a triple, 4 home runs, 2 stolen bases, and 20 RBI in 35 regular season games.
The 29-year old left-handed hitter will competing for a roster spot in spring training to provide an extra option at both lead-off and in centerfield.
This concludes Cubs Den’s coverage of the winter leagues for this season. We hope you have enjoyed the updates.