02/06/2013 2:02 AM ET
Venezuela looking to shore up Classic rotation
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
HERMOSILLO, Mexico -- At the moment, Luis Sojo is managing Venezuela's Navegantes de Magallanes in the Caribbean Series. And in a few weeks, he'll serve as skipper for his home country in the World Baseball Classic for the third straight time.
"It's a huge honor, for them to give me that responsibility and to have confidence in me for such an important tournament. It gives me a lot of satisfaction," Sojo, who manages the Yankees' Class A affiliate in the U.S., said in Spanish. "The end goal is to win that championship, which we've been looking for since 2006, and I think this year we're very prepared for that."
Offensively, the Venezuelan team is stacked, with Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Miguel Montero and Pablo Sandoval all listed on the provisional roster.
But starting pitching is developing into a concern.
Sojo said Tuesday that Red Sox pitchers Felix Doubront and Franklin Morales have bowed out, opting to stay in camp with their team all spring. The Marlins' Henderson Alvarez, per ESPNdeportes.com, is also likely out despite being named on the provisional roster. Mets starter Johan Santana, who has expressed a desire to play, isn't expected to get insured because he finished last season on the disabled list. And the Rockies' Jhoulys Chacin has the same issue because he compiled more than 60 days on the DL last year.
That leaves Team Venezuela without much in the rotation beyond Felix Hernandez, Anibal Sanchez and Carlos Zambrano. And in a pool with the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, that could be an issue.
"We have some question marks there [in the pitching staff], but we keep working," Sojo said. "We have until the 20th to finalize the roster. Offensively, we have a little bit of everything. Pitching is what we're trying to nail down to reach our goal and finalize the team."
Cora enjoying time as GM for Puerto Rican team
HERMOSILLO, Mexico -- For a good portion of his 14-year career, Alex Cora's future as a Major League coach or manager had been considered a foregone conclusion.
But he's really starting to like this whole general manager thing.
"This experience may have made me change my mind," said Cora, the former infielder who's serving as a first-year GM for Puerto Rico's Criollos de Caguas in the Caribbean Series.
"A lot of people saw me more on the field, either as a coach or as a manager or whatever. But honestly -- and it's not because I don't think it'll go well [as a coach] -- there's just something about putting together a team, about planning a roster from Day 1, and continuing to build it and watch it grow that I really like."
Cora said he's already been contacted by a couple of Major League organizations about serving in some coaching capacity, but has had to turn those opportunities down. That, however, has more to do with his 9-year-old daughter, Camila, whom he wants to spend the majority of the summer with in Puerto Rico.
Cora, who last played for the Nationals in 2011 and has spent several winters in the Puerto Rico Baseball League, will do 40 nights of TV work for ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" during the season, but that's a far more flexible schedule than any big league gig.
"For me, it's important to be with [Camila] for an entire summer," Cora said, "and that's why I still haven't been looking to sign a contract with anybody for any position."
Cora's Puerto Rico club dropped its first three games of this Caribbean Series, but beat a loaded Dominican Republic team in extra innings Monday and on Tuesday defeated Venezuela, 4-1, thanks to solid bullpen work and five combined hits by Jesus Feliciano and Ramon Castro. Venezuela and Puerto Rico are both 2-3, with two games left before Thursday's championship.
There's still work to be done in Puerto Rico, which hasn't put nearly as much resources into baseball as other Latin American nations in recent years. And Cora wants to be a big part of the efforts.
"We're not where we want to be, but I think we're better than we were two or three years ago," Cora said in Spanish. "I think the process is going to be slow. We need to keep structuring the [winter ball] league, and we have to find a way to make this work like it does in Mexico, the Dominican and Venezuela. We just have to keep working. We have a lot of young kids who got the opportunity to play this year, and that's going to give us something we can build on."
Caribbean Series showcasing flying camera
HERMOSILLO, Mexico -- Is a future component of Major League Baseball broadcasts on display at this Caribbean Series? Alejandro Mendivil, CEO of the startup company DVL Productions here in Mexico, sure hopes so.
Eight months ago, Mendivil began experimenting with a helicopter-like remote-control camera at different sporting events, and now it can be seen hovering over the fans at Estadio Sonora.
Mendivil's company was hired by Caribbean Series organizers to shoot a documentary of the event, and the floating camera -- one of four they're utilizing -- has been capturing unique bird's-eye views pregame, postgame and between innings in real time.
Its first appearance at a baseball game in Mexico was the Mexican Pacific League opener for the local Naranjeros de Hermosillo. Mendivil, who can be seen standing on top of the third-base dugout with bulky remote in hand for most of the Series, said it costs less than any other video camera used in baseball stadiums.
His hope is that it's eventually used in broadcasts for Major League games.
"Hopefully it can catch on like that," Mendivil said. "That's one of our goals."
DR clinches spot in Caribbean Series final
HERMOSILLO, Mexico -- Down two to Mexico's Yaquis de Obregon in Tuesday's eighth inning, the Dominican Republic's Leones del Escogido scored seven runs, propelling them to an 11-6 victory to clinch a spot in Thursday's Caribbean Series championship game at Estadio Sonora.
Thanks to that big frame -- sparked by a two-out, bases-loaded walk by Luis Jimenez, a two-run single by Abraham Almonte, an RBI single by Julio Lugo and a three-run homer by Jose Ramirez -- Escogido is 4-1 and in good shape to notch its third title in four years.
Thursday's finale, which starts at 7 p.m. MT and is the first of its kind at the Caribbean Series, will pin Escogido against the team with the second-best record. In the previous format, which was strictly double-round robin play, they would've already been champions -- like last year, when they clinched with two days left.
Mexico, Venezuela and Puerto Rico are all 2-3 with one game left for each. The first tiebreaker to determine teams that advance to the final is head-to-head matchups; the second is run differential.
Earlier on Tuesday, Puerto Rico's Criollos de Caguas notched a second straight victory by beating Venezuela's Navegantes de Magallanes, 4-1. Efrain Nieves pitched five innings of one-run ball, Jesus Feliciano had three hits and Ramon Castro homered for the Criollos.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show," and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.