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Baseball Analysis   Bruce Baskin 

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           A former Major League Baseball pitcher who represented the Union Laguna Algodoneros in the 2019 Mexican League All-Star game died Sunday, March 14 of an apparent heart attach at home in his native Santo Domingo, Domincan Republic. Eulogio “Frankie” de la Cruz had turned 37 years old two days earlier.


           De la Cruz was signed as an 18-year-old by Detroit in 2002 and assigned to the Tigers' Gulf Coast League affiliate in Lakeland, Florida that summer. He was a reliever his first three years in the Detroit system (saving 17 games for West Michigan of the Midwest League in 2004) before splitting time between the starting rotation and bullpen by the time he made his MLB debut for the Tigers in 2007, making six relief appearances. According to de la Cruz, that was when he got his nickname because Detroit manager Jim Leyland couldn't pronounce “Eulogio” and started calling him “Frankie” instead.


           De la Cruz was one of six players traded to the Marlins the following offseason for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. He made his lone big league start for Florida against San Francisco at home on May 25, 2008, giving up two runs on two hits in three innings during a 5-4 Marlins win. He was sent down to AAA Albuquerque shortly after that and was named the Pacific Coast League's Pitcher of the Week as a starter in June.


           The 5'11” righty went on to appear with San Diego in 2009, pitched in Japan with the NPB Yakult Swallows in 2010 and was a reliever for Milwaukee in 2011. In 26 MLB games, de la Cruz had a 0-0 record and an 8.16 ERA over 32 innings.


           De la Cruz resumed his globetrotting ways by playing in Asia again in 2012 (going 3-1 for the Uni-President Lions of Taiwan's CPBL), made his LMB debut with Monterrey in 2014 and turned in a 4-3 record in 12 starts for the Sultanes and then went to Italy in 2016 to pitch for Nettuno (3-4, 2.65 ERA).


           De la Cruz then spent the next three summers in the Mexican League, posting an aggregate 20-18 record for Saltillo, Mexico City and Union Laguna while appearing in the 2017 and 2019 All-Star Games. In the latter year, he won the Algodoneros' pitching triple crown by leading the team with six wins, 92 strikeouts and a 4.91 ERA on a team that allowed 8.05 earned runs per game and finished 37-79.


           Although he usually spent his winters pitching in the Liga Dominicana, de la Cruz did pitch one Mexican Pacific League game for Jalisco in 2014-15 and started seven games for Mexicali (3-1, 4.65) in 2018-19. He spent the last two seasons with the LiDom's Este Toros, turning in an 0-1 record and 2.35 last winter in seven appearances (with one start). The Toros won the pennant in 2019-20 but de la Cruz did not pitch in the Caribbean Series in San Juan, Puerto Rico.


           The Algodoneros had hoped to bring de la Cruz back to Torreon this summer but there were reportedly “some immigration procedures” to hurdle before he could return to the Estadio Revolucion mound in 2021 after missing all of last year's canceled season. He would've been reunited with Union Laguna manager Omar Malave, who was de la Cruz' winterball skipper in Venezuela with Magallenes during the 2017-18 season.  





            A third Mexican League preseason tournament has been scheduled on the heels of similar four-team events in San Luis Potosi and Puebla. The Copa Maya is slated to be played between May 13 and 16 at Merida's Parque Kukulcan, home of the Yucatan Leones. The Leones will be joined by the Quintana Roo Tigres, Campeche Piratas and Tabasco Olmecas in the four-day tournament.


            The Copa Maya will be the culmination of a larger effort during which the four clubs will form what they're calling the Southeast League (or Liga Sureste). The LMB South rivals will play each other in an 11-game miniseason with single evening contests between April 29 and May 12 at each other's home ballparks.


            The Copa Maya will feature day/night doubleheaders between Thursday, May 13 and Saturday, May 15, with games scheduled for 12PM and 7PM.  The event will wrap up with two games on Sunday, May 16: A 12PM contest for third place followed by a 7PM title for the championship. Seeding for the final day will be determined by team record compiled during all Liga Sureste and Copa Maya matches up until then.


            Games will include typical training camp rosters of established players, foreigners and prospects. Two of the four teams will be playing under new managers. Former pitching great Francisco “Pancho Ponches” Campos will be Campeche's dugout boss, replacing Jesus Sommers, while Tabasco has brought in veteran skipper Pedro Mere filling out the lineup cards to take Ramon Orantes' place. Adan Munoz will be back for his first full season running the Tigres (he took the place of the fired Jesus Sommers in early 2019, with Sommers sliding over to take the Campeche job later that season) and Geronimo Gil will likewise be opening his first preseason with Yucatan after replacing Luis Carlos Rivera in June 2019.


            Now that there are the San Luis Potosi Cup (Aguascalientes, Durango, Guadalajara, Leon and Monterrey), Battle of Legends (Mexico City, Oaxaca, Puebla and Veracruz) and the Copa Mayo (Campeche, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Yucatan) on the docket, that leaves the defending champion Monclova Acereros, Saltillo Saraperos and Tijuana Toros as the only Liga teams without a preseason tournament of their own. Give them time.


Mayan Cup Schedule

Kukulcán Park, Merida

Thursday, May 13th
Yucatan Lions vs Campeche Pirates, 12 pm
Tabasco Olmecs vs Quintana Roo Tigres, 7pm

Friday, May 14
Campeche Piratas vs Quintana Roo Tigres, 12 pm
Tabasco Olmecas vs Yucatán Leones, 7pm

Saturday, May 15
Tabasco Olmecas vs Campeche Piratas, 12 pm
Tigres de Quintana Roo vs Leones de Yucatán, 7pm

Sunday, May 16
4th place vs 3rd place, 12 pm
2nd place vs 1st place, 7pm





            Culiacan Tomateros rightfielder Sebastian Elizalde has signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets for the second year in a row. The 29-year-old Guaymas native, who was named Most Valuable Player for the Mexican Pacific League this winter, has been assigned to Class AA Binghamton and expects to report to the Mets' spring training complex in Port St. Lucie, Florida next month. He'd been slated to open the 2020 season with Binghamton before the pandemic led to all affiliated minor league baseball to cancel their seasons.


            That the Mets have assigned the veteran flychaser to their AA affiliate is somewhat curious because Elizalde had previously spent all or part of two seasons at AAA Louisville during his five-year stint in the Reds organization. After being an organizational All-Star in 2014 and playing in the 2015 Florida State League All-Star Game, Elizalde hit .297 with five homers for AA Pensacola in 2016 before putting up a .277 average and swatting eight longballs for Louisville in his AAA debut season of 2017. He then hit .254 with a pair of roundtrippers in 21 games in 2018 before the Bats loaned him to Monterrey for the rest of the year.


            Elizalde was no stranger to the Sultanes, for whom he made his professional debut in 2010 at age 18. He went 1-for-3 over 11 games with Monterrey while playing mostly as a defensive substitute in left field. After playing sparingly for the Sultanes the next two summers, Elizalde's contract was sold to Cincinnati early in the 2013 season and he was assigned to the Reds' Arizona Rookie League affiliate and placed on the 60-day disabled list twice, ending the campaign for him. He began his career north of the border with Class A Dayton in 2014 and worked his way up to Louisville over the next four years.


            More polished when he returned to Monterrey, Elizalde hit. 297 and .333 with a combined 12 homers and 46 RBIs in 75 games over the two shortened 2018 seasons as the Sultanes defeated Oaxaca in the Serie del Rey to cop the Fall 2018 pennant under manager Roberto Kelly after falling to Yucatan in the Spring championship series. The six-foot, 190-pounder saw limited action with Monterrey in 2019, batting .319 with one homer and eight RBIs over 39 games. His LMB rights remain with the Sultanes.


            “El Predator” has experienced more stability playing winterball, where he has played ten seasons in the Mex Pac (five for Hermosillo, five for Culiacan). He's done well since becoming a regular for the Naranjeros in 2014-15 and gone on to bat .293 with 39 homers in 404 LMP regular season games. During his recently-concluded MVP season for the Tomateros, he batted .282 and was among the league leaders in doubles (13), homers (11), stolen bases (12) and RBIs (45). He's also represented Mexico in the last two Caribbean Series and gone 9-for-37 (.243) at the plate with a homer and five RBIs over 10 games.



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