Yoshitomo Tsutsugo Three Consecutive Multi Homer Games

July 22nd, 2016

The Yokahama Bay Stars 24 year old outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo is another rising superstar to watch in the NPB. His walkoff homerun yesterday in the 12th inning gave the Bay Stars a 3-2 win over the Yomiuri Giants. He drove in all the runs for the Bay Stars with an RBI single in the first and a solo homerun in the sixth in a 4 for 5 day.

In his previous two games Tsutsugo had slugged two homeruns in each game, 9-2 and 9-8 wins over the Yakult Swallows. In the 9-8 win his last homerun was a solo shot in the top of the ninth inning giving the Bay Stars their 9-8 win. In the last three games Tsutugo has hit for the cycle with 6 homeruns, a double, single and triple, four walks, 6 runs scored and 9 RBIs. The homer barrage now gives him 28 for the season, a career high and second most in the NPB. In his previous three seasons in the NPB Tsutsugo has hit 22, 24 and 24 homeruns.

The 28 homeruns now leaves him one behind the other young 23 year old Japanese superstar Tetsuto Yamada, who has 29. Both players are fighting for the Japanese triple crown with Yamada leading in hitting (.347) tops in homeruns (29) and tops in RBIs (73). Tsutsugo is second in batting average (.328), second in homeruns (28) and third to Takahiro Arai (69) in RBIs with 66.

Perhaps the 2017 WBC will highlight some of these young superstars blossoming in Japan, outslugging the foreign hitters who in years past were the homerun hitters in the NPB. Not with Yamada and Tsutsugo in the league.

Baseball Reference shows that Tsutsugo played in the Dominican Winter League in 2015 where he struggled for average (.206) and did not hit a homerun in 40 plate appearances. Perhaps that experience has been responsible for his break out season in 2016, despite his struggles with Escogido. He has hit .300 or better in his last three complete NPB seasons.

Haarlem Notes

July 21st, 2016

Myworld heads back to the States tomorrow. Some notes on my impression of Haarlem, Netherlands and Pim Mulier Stadium. It is a little bit different than about writing about minor league cities and the parks I went to last month.

***Haarlem is a cool place. It gives off a beach vibe with the canals and the sea gulls floating in the air. Every now and then they give out a cry and you feel you are at the beach. Supposedly they have a beach, but that was not my purpose for coming to Haarlem. It was to watch baseball. I never got out to what they call their beach. Coming from San Diego beaches are usually disappointing.

***The city has curvy, winding brick layered streets with a huge town square where it feels pretty nice to find a table at a local eatery, order a beer and just watch the people pedal their bikes past you while you are savoring your beer without a care in the world. Sometimes it makes you wonder where these people are pedaling their bikes.

***Haarlem is noted for being the center of the tulip bulb growing business. When I see tulips sprouting in my front yard each spring I’ll think of Haarlem.

***The New York city Harlem was named by the Dutch settlers after this city. The newer Harlem has gotten better, but when I think of ghettos I think of Harlem, New York. We certainly did a number on that city after the Dutch settlers left.

***There is lots of beer brewing in Haarlem, dating all the way back to the 15th century. They used to make the beer from the water in the canals but that got too polluted so they had to improvise. It makes sense when sitting in the town square to relax and drink a beer brewed in Haarlem. They have a lot of choices for you to make.

***When walking around the brick structured dwellings and businesses that surround the city take a closer look at each of the buildings. Some of the brick or walls date all the way back to the 12th or 15th century. You can still see some of the old writings carved in the leftover stone that is still used to support the newer office building.

***The Honkball tournament is every other July so if you want to watch some baseball and relax in a cool city, visit Haarlem in 2018. If you want to visit in September of this year they will be having the European championships at Pim Mulier stadium. You will see a few more errors than you see in major league baseball, but the atmosphere is good. They have some traditions that are unique to their culture, such as doing deep knee bends whenever a pitcher is changed in the middle innings. They also carry some of the American traditions, such as singing “Take Me out to the Ballgame” during the bottom of the seventh.

***The stadium is Pim Mulier Stadium. It is not a large facility, holding about 3,000, more if you include the tented suites that sit in back of the stands. There are no arm rests to the seats or cupholders, but it is better than bleacher seating. The stadium sits in the middle of a large sports complex that houses other baseball fields, soccer fields and outdoor tennis courts. There was no reserved seating at the tournament, so it is first come first to pick your seat. That becomes critical when you consider the only shade in the stadium is directly behind home plate, covering about 40 seats. For 7 PM starts the sun is still shining in July at 9 PM. Many of the fans bring their umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun. They also bring their coolers filled with food and drinks.

***They have a small museum inside the stadium along the third base side. The museum takes you through the history of Dutch baseball. If you can’t speak Dutch you will have to be satisfied with looking at the pictures. The 2011 World Cup champions have a corner there, an event myworld witnessed as the Netherlands upset Cuba for the Gold Medal. The United States team sent a group of minor league players including Travis d”Arnaud. The Netherlands had Didi Gregorius at short, Jonathan Schoop at third base, Xander Boegarts, who played right field but was mainly a bench warmer and others I’m probably forgetting.

***The concessions include a donut stand, lots of ice cream facilities, a kibbling (fish and chips)stand, a candy stand, a place for hamburgers and a bar where you can get beer from the tap. The choices are a little different from what you would see at an American park.

***As far as the stadium itself, there is a scoreboard that records the pitchers velocity and the name of the batter and his batting average. They have a video board in right center field, but that is a little too small to see unless you carry binoculars. The park itself with its chain link fences would be no different than a local college field, though nowadays some of the college baseball fields are ramping up their stadiums to give themselves a minor league look about them. The fences all carry sponsor advertising.

***That’s about it.

Two Players Implicated in KBO Match Fixing

July 21st, 2016

NC Dinos pitcher Tae-Yang Lee and Nexon Heroes outfielder Woo-Ram Moon have both been implicated in match fixing scandals. Lee was accused of walking players in certain innings but has been taken off the team since late June because of elbow pain. Moon is doing his mandatory military service and playing in the Future’s League. Both were drafted by the Heroes and were teammates for a short while.

If both players are found guilty they could receive jail sentences and could have life time bans instituted against them that will apply to the major leagues, NPB and the Taiwan professional league. That will put an end to their major league career.

Another player, Samsung Lions pitcher Ji-Man An has been accused of financing an illegal gambling operation. He claims he was just loaning a friend money to start a business. An faced questioning last year along with ex Cubs pitcher Chang-Yong Lim and current Cardinals pitcher Seung-Hwan Oh for betting on illegal overseas gambling operations. The Lions removed An off their roster because of shoulder pains.

Where there is success there is money to be made. The KBO needs to recognize that the more money they make on baseball and the less they compensate their employees (the players) the more susceptible they are to being bought off. If as a player you are being compensated fairly there is more risk involved in dealing with gamblers.

Netherlands Defeats Australia to Win Pool

July 21st, 2016

As an umpire your job is not to get noticed. If no one knows you are there you’ve probably done a decent job. Second base umpire Winfried Berkvens was certainly noticed by Australian manager Jon Deeble, especially in the third inning after two balk calls and a safe call at second when the shortstop dropped the ball after making the transfer to throw to first. The safe call was reversed to an out but the two balk calls frazzled pitcher Wilson Lee that he gave up five runs in the third inning and that was the ball game. Netherlands beat Australia 7-2 to win their pool. The games now go into a double elimination format to determine a champion.

Both teams traded runs in the opening frame. Christopher Garia scored a run for Netherlands with his double just inside the left field line. He got a huge jump to steal third and then scored on a ground out. Trent Oeltjen launched the first pitch he saw from Jim Ploeger deep into right center that landed somewhere in the other ball fields.

The third inning got started by the Netherlands after a bunt single by Nick Urbanus that bounced past the pitcher’s mound. A balk call moved him to second where he scored on a single by Remco Draijer that skipped off the glove of first baseman David Sutherland. Christopher Garia hit the ground ball that Australia could not turn two on, Aaron Sayers dropping the ball on the transfer. After some arguing and a conference with the umpires the safe call was reversed and an out recorded. That did not deter the Netherlands. Yurendell deCaster singled past third. A wild pitch put runners on third and second. Gianison Boekhardt hit a fly ball to left that was caught but the second base umpire again called a balk and the out was negated, one runner scoring and the other advancing to third. With the infield in and Boekhardt given another opportunity to bat he bounced a ball over the head of the drawn in second baseman to score a third run. Gilmer Lampe made it a five run inning by powering the ball over the left field fence. That was the end of the day for Wilson Lee and a 6-1 lead for the Netherlands.

Australia scored another run in the bottom frame but Jim Ploeger would allow no more runners to cross the plate in his seven innings of work. Kevin Kelly and Tom de Blok each tossed a shutout frame. Netherlands got a solo shot from Dwayne Kemp in the seventh to finish the scoring 7-2.

Japan 1 Taiwan 0

Japan did not play their best hitter Tatsuhiko Satoh after he went 0 for 4 with an error against the Netherlands but Japan got 9 shutout innings from a group of five pitchers to beat Taiwan 1-0. The lone run was scored in the fifth after a single by Takuya Sato and a double by Ryoya Koneko plated Sato. Taiwan could not advance a runner past second base in the game.

Game Notes: In the eighth inning of the Netherlands/Australia game a famous Dutch singer (did not catch his name but many of the older women were swooning) started singing one of his songs. Most in the stadium were familiar with the Dutch words and sang along with him. The song went into the first hitters at bat, who tried to tell the umpire to tell the singer to quit. The umpire was waving to the public address announcer to cut the music but no one was going to interfere with this singer. His song lasted through two Australian at bats…The Australians have another quirk they do in the middle of an inning when a pitcher is replaced. A song is played and the fans get up and start doing deep knee bends or squats…Even the Justin Timberlake song “Dance, Dance, Dance” is played at the Dutch parks. I thought only major league baseball parks felt an obligation to play his song…The suites were much fuller for the Australian game than the Japanese game, meaning a larger crowd at the game since the stadium was packed…The second game ended at 9:45 and it was still light out…David Sutherland did not impress me with his defense at first base and his speed. He may be a big man but it will take a lot of work to get him to the major leagues…Shane Lindsay came in to pitch and struck out three of the four hitters he faced. His fastball has gone from the high 90s to the low 90s…The home plate umpire for the Netherlands game had a large outside corner that had many of the players perplexed…Two Taiwan pitchers impressed. Yi-Chung Liao had the Japanese hitters guessing on many of his pitches, producing poor swings. His curveball floated to the plate in the low 60s. En-Sih Huang walked one and struck out three, all of the three whiffs looking. His first nine pitches were strikes and not one Japanese hitter swung. The home plate umpire for this game also had a large strike zone…Chihiro Onishi showed excellent range getting to a ball in right centerfield. Not a lot of major leaguers could have made the catch he made…The problem myworld has with the way the championship bracket is set up is Curacao, the last place team needs only two wins to get to the finals. The other four teams need to win three games. It pays to finish in last. A rested Curacao team then gets to play the loser of the first and second place team match, so they even get to face a tired team.

Final pool standings

Netherlands 4-0
Australia 3-1
Japan 2-2
Taiwan 1-3
Curacao 0-4

Padres Sign Cuban Outfielder Jorge Ona

July 21st, 2016

The Padres continue to rocket past their international bonus cap for 2016/2017, inking 19 year old Cuban outfielder Jorge Ona to a contract. The Padres have been linked for a number of months to Ona. The push required was major league baseball declaring Ona a free agent. They did that a couple days ago and the Padres got his autograph on a $7 million bonus contract yesterday. They will also be paying a $7 million penalty to major league baseball for being so far over their international salary bonus.

Ona is a youngster with emerging power. Because he can spray the ball to all fields he could be one of those high average, with decent pop outfielders in the Lorenzo Cain mold. His arm is good enough to slot him in right field. A few at bats in the minor leagues will define what kind of player Ona will be. Myworld has not seen him play so our assessment of him is only based on what we have read about him.

Taiwan and Netherlands Wins Honkball Doubleheader

July 20th, 2016

Myworld is in the Netherlands and we were at Pim Mulier Stadium to watch our first two games yesterday. When you purchase tickets you have to purchase day tickets but it entitles you to both games. There is no reserved seating. Those who get to the park first grab the best seats. With a two to three hour break between the first game and second game very few people leave their seats to sacrifice what they claimed for the Netherlands versus Japan match. You read books, eat at the park or lay your belongings on the seat to reserve them. It was a sellout for the second game with very few seats available in the stadium that holds about 3,000. That is dedicated fandom to stay in the stadium two to three hours to watch the second game.

Taiwan 7 Curacao 0

The first game saw Taiwan battle Curacao, which brought a good crowd for an afternoon game, when most people would be working. Taiwan pitcher Tzu Peng Huang silenced the Curacao bats for eight innings, including the bat of Kelvin Silvania, who came into the game hitting .500. Curacao got a runner to third in the fourth inning, but that was the closest they got to home, limited to six hits. Tzu had a fastball in the high 80s with a decent breaking pitch.

Taiwan scored early off Curacao pitcher Rodienne Albertus. A lack of command of his pedestrian pitches proved to be his undoing, walking the leadoff hitter. Yu-Ting Tsao advanced to second on a ground out and scored on a double landing in the right centerfield gap hit by Tzu-Hsien Chan. Rightfielder Sherwenne Antersign dove for the ball but fell far short of it.

The second inning found the Curacao defense at fault for most of the damage. A one out single by Yu-Chieh Kao got the inning started. Ming-Hung Wu grounded a ball to second. Rupert Ustacia bobbled the ball, then tried to make a hurried throw to first, throwing the ball away. Chung-Yu Chen got a clutch two run single up the middle to score two after a hit batsman and walk loaded the bases. After the inning Taiwan was up 4-0.

Taiwan put the game away in the sixth with three more runs. Yu-Ning Tsao scored three times but was on base all five times he came up, walking twice, singling and getting on base via an error. Chen drove in three runs with his two hits.

Netherlands 7 Japan 3

This was the closest game with the Netherlands pulling away at the end. The one major league prospect was Tomoya Hoshi, who got his fastball up to 95. Myworld did not see a great breaking pitch, but it silenced the Netherland bats for the first three innings. The 7′1″ Loek Van Mil surprised me with his fastball that hit between 95-97. He did not throw one breaking ball retiring the side in order in the ninth with two whiffs.

Hoshi retired the first nine Netherlands hitters he faced, three of them on strikeouts. Gianison Boekhoudt whiffed swinging and missing at a 95 mile per hour fastball.

Lars Hujer was sharp for the Netherlands. His sloppy defense and the team’s sloppy defense allowed the game to be close. Lars was throwing a no hitter when with two outs in the third saw a ground ball hit to first. It looked like Lars would finish three innings without allowing a hit. He dropped the throw from the first baseman allowing Akihiro Yamamoto to reach. Lars exacerbated the issue by throwing to first with Yurendell de Castro having the ball clank off his glove allowing Yamamoto to advance to second. He scored on a Kazunari Ishii single.

The second time the Netherlands faced Hoshi the hitters had more success. Remco Drijer got the inning started with a double down the first base line. Yurendell deCaster ripped a single to right center, the throw too late to get Drijer and deCaster advancing to second on the throw. A walk to Boekhoudt put two runners on for Dwayne Kemp, who sliced a double to the opposite field to score one. Hoshi struck out the final two hitters, Lampe swinging and missing at a 94 mile per hour fastball to keep the deficit to 2-1.

Japan took advantage of more sloppy Netherlands fielding to tie it in the sixth. Akihiro Yamamoto hit a high fly to the opposite field in right. Remco Drijer turned the wrong way, recovered but with the ball tailing away from him it clanked off his glove. Myworld would have given him a two base error but the scorer generously ruled it a double. A bunt single by Kazunari Ishii, when Netherlands second baseman Nick Urbanus was late to the bag put runners on first and third with no out. Lars then threw the ball to third to pick off Yamamoto, but Dwayne Kemp was not at the base and the tying run scored to even it at 2-2. Lars retired the next three hitters to lesson the damage.

A leadoff walk to Boekhoudt in the bottom of the sixth, and two wild pitches, one to get Boekhoudt to second and the other to score him put Netherlands on top 3-2.

The Netherlands did some more booting in the seventh. A single by Mampei Kobayashi brought Taisei Yoshida home when the throw from the leftfielder skipped past the catcher and past the foot of pitcher Berry Van Driel, who tried to use his soccer skills to kick the ball to prevent it from getting past him. He failed to stop the ball from getting past him which could be a testament to his soccer skills. This put runners on second and third with one out, but Van Driel was able to strike out Yamamoto for the second out and retire the third hitter on a pop up to keep the score tied at 3-3.

Netherlands pulled away from the game in the next two innings, taking advantage of a less than stellar deep Japanese bullpen that was working on their fourth pitcher. Two balls hit to the corners, both diving stops that fell short, resulting in two singles for Netherlands and runners on first and second. With one out deCaster hit a slow roller to shortstop, who attempted to turn two, but threw the ball over the head of the second baseman, allowing the Netherlands to break the tie. A Dwayne Kemp single up the middle upped the lead to 5-3. A fifth pitcher, Keisuke Sawada was brought in and struck the last two hitters with the bases loaded and one out to keep the score at 5-3.

Sawada was not so lucky in the eighth. Netherlands scored two more runs, one on a wild pitch and the other after a ball clanked off the left fielders glove to allow Nick Urbanus to score to make it 7-3. That proved too much for Japan to overcome facing Van Mil, who were clearly overmatched with his fastball.

Double header Game Notes: Fans bring in coolers to the game with beverages and sandwiches all wrapped up inside…At the stadium myworld had a frikandahl, a kind of a hot dog to satisfy us through the first game and then the fish sticks or Kleebers between games to get us through the second game. We would recommend the Kleebers…There is smoking allowed inside the stadium, but the fans who do smoke try to go to vacated areas…There is no between innings entertainment. “Sweet Caroline” and “Take me out to the Ballgame” is played with some audience participation. The second game saw the wave used in the later innings and the breaking out in song that you would normally see in a soccer game, with cheering after the song is completed…There is limited shade seating so if you are going to an afternoon game you may have to sit in the sun…The tickets entitle you inside the stadium. There appears to be no reserved seating. You stake your claim to the seat by placing your possessions on it if you plan to leave. Behind the stands they had tented suites that were filled for the second game…They have a small video board, but they need a larger one to make it viable. I hardly looked at it, focusing more on the scoreboard, which posted the player name and his average…It will cost you a half Euro to use the rest room. That is not too bad when you consider you are getting clean restrooms because someone has accountability for keeping it clean…There were a number of kids climbing on the dugouts in an attempt to get the Netherlands players autographs before the second game.

Japan Takes Series with Win over United States

July 18th, 2016

Matt Skoug hit a grand slam homerun in the seventh inning tying the game at 4-4. Japan had beaten up a tired United States pitching staff to take an early 4-0 lead. Ryosuke Tatsumi got the scoring started in the second with a solo shot. Newly signed J.B. Bukauskas pitched the last four plus innings, allowing just one unearned run to keep the United States in the game.

Kairi Shimada ended it in the tenth hitting the ball deep enough to score Takuya Satoh. who had walked to start the inning. Two walks and a hit batsman initiated three of the five runs for Japan.

Japan wins the five game series three games to two. The United States next travels to Cuba to try to elevate themselves above .500

Australia and Netherlands Sit Atop Honkball Week

July 18th, 2016

Myworld arrived in Haarlem today but after getting no sleep we thought it best not to try to sit through a game. We’ll try to catch the afternoon game on Tuesday. The night game between Japan and Netherlands may be a sellout.

The Netherlands thumped Taiwan 8-0 to improve to 2-0. Tom Stuifbergen worked six innings and gave up just one hit, striking out nine. One walk left him facing just two above the minimum. Three different relievers came on to pitch one inning each, the last pitcher Loek Van Mil giving up two of the three total hits collected by Taiwan in the game.

Nick Urbanus slugged a three run homer in the eighth inning to put the game out of reach and Yurendel del Castro added a two run shot in the fourth inning to get the scoring started.

Netherlands goes 2-0 in the tournament while Taiwan drops to 0-2.

Australia also went 2-0 to set up a crucial game on Tuesday night against the host Netherlands. Australia scored three runs in the sixth inning, taking advantage of some sloppy fielding by Japan that allowed two runs to score. Japan outhit Australia 9-4 but could not get many of those hits to cross the plate.

Tatsuhiko Satoh was the top hitter of the game with three hits including a solo homerun, his second of the tournament. Mitch Dening drove in two runs for Australia, the other two runs scoring on errors.

Australia improved their record to 2-0 while Japan dropped to 1-1.

Curacao, who had the bye yesterday is 0-2 in the tournament.

Non-game notes: Staying at a hotel that has a church right next to it. The bells ring every hour which gives the stay a small town atmosphere. Haarlem is a town with twisted cobble streets with lots of bike riders on the bike paths…We also had a stop in Iceland. Did not get an opportunity to stay in Iceland but saw the scenery from the landing. The video states a delicacy in Iceland is ram testicles.

Roark Plunders Pirates

July 17th, 2016

Tanner Roark got an opportunity to complete his shutout. Dusty Baker had him bat in the bottom of the eighth, but a leadoff single and a hit batsman in the top of the ninth ended his day. Blake Treinen got the last three outs to complete the 6-0 shutout, despite loading the bases with no outs after giving up a single to the first hitter he faced. Other than the second and ninth innings Roark did not allow a runner past first, finishing the game allowing five hits.

Gerritt Cole was not so fortunate. The Nationals hit him hard early. A walk to Jayson Werth in the first inning led to one run when Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon singled to score Werth. The inning could have been worse but Bryce made an inadvisable decision of trying to make third on a single to left and was thrown out by five feet. Sean Rodriguez also made a diving catch on a ball hit by Clint Robinson on a deep drive to the warning track in right field.

The Nationals scored again in the second inning on back to back doubles from Stephen Drew and Danny Espinosa. For Drew it would be the first of his three doubles in the game. He was playing for Daniel Murphy who is day to day with a hamstring injury.

Cole retired the Nationals in order in the third but the fourth was his worst inning and his last. Chris Robinson started the carnage with a ground single to left center. Drew hit the second of his three doubles with Robinson stopping at third. With first base open and one out the Pirates chose to intentionally walk Danny Espinosa. This brought up Tanner Roark who worked the count to 2-2 before slapping a grounder towards right field. Josh Harrison made a great play to reach out and snare the grounder, threw to first but fired it right by the first baseman into the Nationals dugout to allow the extra run to score. With the infield in Ben Revere bounced a grounder to short and Espinosa slid past the tag of Eric Fryer to score the third run of the inning. Jayson Werth lined to short and Roark was too far from the bag turning it into a double play lineout. Cole would not come out to pitch the fifth.

The Nationals scored their last run in the fifth when Anthony Rendon lifted a ball into the left field bullpen off Pirate reliever A.J. Schugel.

The Pirates big opportunity to score came in the second inning. Jung-Ho Kang started the inning by drawing a walk after getting behind in the count 0-2. Sean Rodriguez grounded into a double play to erase Kang. Josh Harrison and Jody Mercer went back to back with singles to put runners on first and third. Roark got Eric Fryer to ground to short to end the threat.

Game Notes: Had a couple from Korea sit next to me at the game. We talked a lot about the KBO and they were shocked by how much I knew about Korean baseball. They had come all the way from Korea to watch Kang play….Rain delayed the game for one hour and ten minutes. It created a nice rainbow effect over the stadium…There were 38,861 at the stadium which allowed the Nationals to call it a sell out. Many of those 38,000 were wearing Pirate regalia. I would estimate from where I was sitting that 40 percent were Pirate fans. They did not have much to cheer about for the entire game so it was tough to gauge based on fan participation…Danny Espinosa again played a solid shortstop. The Nationals should have no regrets about Espinosa at short over Ian Desmond. He plays the position much more consistently than Desmond. Ian is probably better suited in the outfield. His shortstop play was riddled with too much inconsistency…Ben Revere continues to struggle with the bat. He struck out his first two times at the plate…My Korean fans are a little disappointed at the results of Jung-Ho Kang. He has stopped hitting after a torrid start. His average has slid down to the .240s. He also seemed to stop running on a hit and run in which Sean Rodriguez was called out on strikes on a 3-2 pitch and the throw to second beat Kang by quite a margin. Instead of trying to avoid the tag he stopped and walked to second to allow himself to be tagged out…The Pirates loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth. They could not score, choosing not to tag up on a fly ball hit by Kang in left field with John Jaso at third.

Texas Two Step, Astros Sign Gurriel and Rangers Sign Bell

July 16th, 2016

In a somewhat surprise move, the Astros are the team signing Cuban superstar third baseman Yulieski Gurriel. The Astros had a hole at third base that was expected to be filled with a promotion of Alex Bregman. That may no longer be the case. Gurriel was added to the 40 man roster and removed from it was promising third baseman Matt Duffy. Gurriel can also play second but that is a position occupied by Jose Altuve.

The reports for the contract are $3.5 million for the partial first year, of which significant time may have to be spent in the minors. Salaries of $14, $12, $10 and $8 million will be for the remaining four years.

The Texas Rangers signed 32 year old Cuban outfielder Alexei Bell to a minor league contract. Alexei Bell first broke the Cuban homerun record a number of years ago which was later broken by Yulieski Gurriel, Yoenis Cespedes, Alfredo Despaigne and Jose Abreu. Now four of the five players are in the United States pursuing major league careers. Bell has not regained the power he showed as a youth, many claiming that a beaning from Yunesky Maya sapped his aggressiveness at the plate.

Gurriel had an amazing .500 batting average and just three strikeouts in 224 at bats in his last Nacional Series season before defecting with his younger brother Lourdes. Lourdes is expected to wait until his 23rd birthday in October before signing, since his bargaining position absent the international bonus cap will no longer be applicable.