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MAYOS ELIMINATED, LMP PLAYOFF TEAMS DETERMINED
When Navojoa dropped a 3-2 decision to Obregon on Tuesday, the Mayos were mathematically eliminated from the Mexican Pacific League playoff picture for next month, ensuring that Caribbean Series host Mazatlan has secured a post season berth. With Los Mochis already long out of the picture, that left eight teams to open the LMP Quarterfinals on Saturday, January 2.
After games on Monday, December 28, the Hermosillo Naranjeros were in line for the top overall seed with a two-half total of 19 playoff points with two games remaining in the regular season, followed by Obregon (17 points), Guasave (14) and Monterrey (also 14). Those would be the four teams with home-field advantage during the first round. The next four seeds are projected to be Mexicali (13.5 points), Jalisco (11), defending champion Culiacan (11) and Mazatlan (10).
Things are close enough in the second-half standings that seeding placements could change after the regular season closes Wednesday, but both Navojoa (8.5) and Los Mochis (7.0) will be done no matter what happens, although players like infielders Esteban “El Pony” Quiroz and Isaac Rodriguez are almost certain to be added as reinforcements for teams moving on to the postseason
Hermosillo (17-11) has benefited from the strong pitching of veteran Juan Pablo Oramas all season and last Sunday was no exception. Oramas won his eighth game of the year by taking a 5-3 triumph over Guasave. Oramas tossed six innings and allowed three runs (all in the top of the first) while scattering nine hits and striking out four before leaving the contest with a two-run lead. Reliever Raul Barron hurled scoreless ball over the final three frames to save the win for the Naranjeros. Oramas is now tied the Mex Pac lead in wins with Guasave's Fernando Miranada. Both have identical 8-2 records, although Oramas' 2.80 ERA is a full run lower than Miranda's 3.86.
The Orangemen got some bad news when they learned that first baseman Roberto Ramos won't be joining them for the playoffs after all. The team had been anxiously awaiting the hometown slugger to report after his strong 2020 debut in the Korea Baseball Organization, but Ramos celebrated his 27th birthday Monday after re-signing with the LG Twins for $800,000 plus incentives that could bring his income up to $1 million in 2021. Ramos received a reported $500,000 this year after swatting 38 homers for the Twins and received interest from other KBO teams before agreeing to return to Busan for a second year.
Mexicali (16-11) was a half-game behind Hermosillo in second place and Guasave continued their strong second LMP season one game out of the lead at 16-12. It's been quite a busy week for the Algodoneros, who said goodbye to shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena on what a team press release (which repeatedly misspelled his last name as Arruebarruena) was “common agreement between both parties.” The Cottoneers cited both a shin injury suffered in a recent game with Mexicali and Arruebarrena's ongoing bout with diabetes for his declining on-field performance (.333 average with 10 homers in 29 games), although they did thank the Cuban for his “dedication and professionalism, blah blah blah.”
Guasave also placed starting pitcher Thomas Dorminy (3-4, 3.44) on the disabled list with back pain. In turn, the Algodoneros picked up Cuban pitcher Yoenni Yeri and veteran third baseman C.J. “Rabbit” Retherford to join Cuban oufielder Yadier Drake as the team's three foreigners allowed on the active roster. Sports manager Alejandro Ahumada said, “We need to strengthen the middle part of the batting order and we believe Retherford is the man for that task.” Retherford broke into pro ball in 2007 in the White Sox system and has gone on to play several years in both the LMP and Mexican League, representing Mexicali in the 2017 Caribbean Series.
First half champion Obregon (15-13) has rebounded from a slow second-half start to pull into a fourth-place tie with Monterrey (15-13). Jalisco (14-14) and Mazatlan (13-15) are sixth and seventh, respectively, while Culiacan and Navojoa are knotted in a tie for eighth at 12-16 each. While the champion Tomateros have had a hangover season following their LMP title last winter, a couple of their pitchers recently overcame their team's lukewarm 2020-21 performance. Edgar Arrendondo has signed a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks for the 2021 season. The 23-year-old spent seven season in the Texas system, reaching AA Frisco in 2019 and winning seven games, but the Rangers let him go earlier this year and he didn't pitch last summer. Arredondo, who was 15 when he debuted with the Quintana Roo Tigres by tossing two scoreless innings in a 2013 game, is 4-1 with a 2.74 ERA in seven starts for the Tomateros this winter.
Another Culiacan hurler, J.C. Ramirez, has reached an agreement to pitch next year in Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League. The 32-year-old Nicaraguan, who pitched in eight MLB seasons (most recently with the Angels in 2019), will join Mexican Manny Banuelos on the Fubon Guardians staff in 2021. He has a 4-2 record for the Tomateros with a 1.74 ERA in six starts this season. It's unknown whether he'll stay with Culiacan for the playoffs.
CAPACITY SET AT 45 PERCENT FOR CARIBBEAN SERIES
The Caribbean Professional Baseball Confederation, the Mexican Pacific League and the host Mazatlán Venados have confirmed details of the 2021 Caribbean Series to be played from January 31 to February 6, 2021 at Estadio Teodoro Mariscal in the port city.
CBPC commissioner Francisco Puello Herrera, Mazatlán mayor Guillermo Benítez, LMP president Omar Canizales Soto and Serie del Caribe Organizing Committee president Ismael Barros all confirmed plans for the 63rd edition of the Crown Jewel of Latin Baseball.
"We are supervising with the Mexican Pacific League so that the conditions of the Caribbean Series in terms of players are the best in terms of health," said Herrera, who also presented the trophies for the upcoming CS champion plus Dream Team members.
“Mazatlán is a safe destination in terms of the virus,” commented mayor Benitez, inviting everyone to attend the Caribbean Series. “We are in the third consecutive day in which there is no active case. That gives us great confidence that we have all the tools to control the pandemic. That is why Mazatlán is the first tourist destination in the country to get out of the pandemic and we will continue to strictly comply with the protocols.
“We are a bio-safe city.”
In addition, in the virtual conference that brought together media of different nationalities, it was confirmed that between the governments of the state of Sinaloa and the municipality of Mazatlán, the host ballpark will have all the security measures and protocols to hold up to 45 percent of Estadio Teodoro Mariscal's 16,000-seat capacity (or 7,200 spectators). According to an LMP press release, “this will allow baseball to continue as a recreational tool for Mazatlan fans, as it has done in the 2020-2021 Season of the ARCO Mexican Pacific League, with an excellent management supported by the modernity of the stadium.”
The Caribbean Series is scheduled to bring together the winterball champions of Mexico, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico as full CBPC members of the Confederation, as well as Colombia and Panama and as guest countries for the second and third times, respectively. Cuba will not be represented in Mazatlan after pulling out of last winter's Serie del Caribe in San Juan Puerto Rico on short notice, citing visa concerns.
Herrera also gave thanks for all the support the CBPC, the Organizing Committee, the LMP and state government authorities have received from Sinaloa governor Quirino Ordaz.
FANS CAN CHOOSE MEX PAC AWARD WINNERS
The Mexican Pacific League has announced on its Twitter account how fans can choose the loop's Most Valuable Players in separate offensive, defensive and pitching categories for the 2020-2021 campaign. This is the first time in which the LMP has involved fans in such selections while “not leaving this to a certain sector of the press,” a league office press release states.
On its Twitter account, the Mex Pac invites fans to sign up and, with two simple steps, vote for their favorite players in the different departments. Fans must register with personal data before the can begin voting on candidates in five separate categories:
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Baldomero “Melo” Almada Trophy
Jonathan Aranda, Obregon
Faustino Carrera, Obregon
Luis Miranda, Guasave
Missael Rivera, Jalisco
Oscar Rojas, Guasave
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Benjamin “Cananea” Reyes Trophy
Gerardo Alvarez, Monterrey
Sergio Gastelum, Obregon
Juan Navarrete, Hermosillo
Bronswell Patrick, Mexicali
Oscar Robles, Guasave
Roberto Vizacarra, Jalisco
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Vicente “Huevo' Romo Trophy
Dallas Martinez, Obregon
Luis Miranda, Guasave
Luis Ivan Rodriguez, Jalisco
Juan Pablo Oramas, Hermosillo
Miguel Pena, Mexicali
Javier Solano, Mexicali
RELIEVER OF THE YEAR*
Alberto Baldonado, Culiacan
Roberto Espinosa, Mazatlan
Jesus Pirela, Mazatlan
Fernando Salas, Hermosillo
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER*
Dariel Alvarez, Jalisco
Japhet Amador, Jalisco
Sebastian Elizalde, Culiacan
Isaac Paredes, Mazatlan
*Partial list of candidates available at post time.