Notes: Rangers look for Winter League
Puerto Rican league's close leaves Texas scrambling
BALTIMORE -- Winter ball in Puerto Rico was a big part of Ramon Vazquez's preparation and he's among those who aren't happy that the island has disbanded its league after 69 years."For me it stinks," Vazquez said. "I always liked to play and keep myself in shape and I would always be ready for Spring Training. I don't know what I'm going to do." The Puerto Rico Winter League announced last week that it was disbanding because of financial problems and the Rangers have been trying to be aggressive in getting some of their younger players in the other leagues. The Rangers have a number of American players they are hoping will play winter ball somewhere in the Caribbean. That includes Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who the Rangers would like to see catching somewhere this winter. They are also hoping to find spots for pitchers John Rheinecker, Matt Harrison and Josh Rupe, third baseman Travis Metcalf and outfielders David Murphy and Jason Botts. "We're working hard with the other leagues to get our priority players placed," assistant general manager Thad Levine said. The Rangers were once huge in Puerto Rico. Outfielders Juan Gonzalez and Ruben Sierra, catcher Ivan Rodriguez and pitcher Jose Guzman were just some of the players they signed down there. But the Rangers may have contributed to the demise of the Puerto Rico Winter League. They played the first regular season game there when they opened the 2001 season in San Juan against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Montreal Expos then used Puerto Rico to play 22 home games in 2003 and again in 2004, and Vazquez said that may have hurt rather than helped baseball on the island. "I think so," Vazquez said. "Once you watch a Major League Baseball game you get kind of spoiled. Then you see the Winter Ball and the competition goes down." Vazquez said he played almost every year but some of the biggest stars stopped playing in the mid-to-late '90's, and that also hurt. "The last time all the big names played was in 1994," Vazquez said. "That's the year we won the Caribbean Series and all the guys played. The lineup was unbelievable. After that the guys stopped showing up. I think that's why the Dominican is so good. Those guys always play." Otsuka waits on Andrews: Akinori Otsuka said he'll wait to hear from Dr. James Andrews before he knows if he'll pitch again this season. Otsuka, who has been sidelined since the beginning of August, is scheduled to fly to Alabama on Wednesday to be examined by the noted orthopedist. He has already been examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum and Keith Meister but seeks a third opinion because the inflammation in his right elbow/forearm area is not getting better. "I want to know what it is," Otsuka said. "I want to see if he says the same thing the other guys do. The last two guys -- Meister and Yocum -- said, 'You need to rest.' But I couldn't rest. I was trying to pitch so almost every day I would try to throw on the side. If he says not to throw and get ready for next season, I'm going to rest. But I hope ... I want to pitch this year." Lineup matters: Gerald Laird, with left-hander Erik Bedard on the mound for the Orioles, batted in the No. 2 hole for the first time in his career on Tuesday. Brad Wilkerson had been batting in the No. 2 spot against lefties lately but manager Ron Washington decided to shake things up. "You look at what I've got, there's nothing more I can do," Washington said. "I put Gerald in there because he can do some of the things that we have to do against this guy." Wilkerson did not start in left. Instead Washington put Jason Botts in left so Sammy Sosa could DH. Botts has started 14 games at DH and three in left field since he was called up. His future is primarily as a designated hitter but Washington said he'll need to be able to play the outfield at least occasionally. "[Botts is] too young to be designated as a DH," Washington said. "It takes someone strong mentally to totally DH. He's trying to have success at the Major League level, and every now and then I need to find him time in the field." He said it: "When I first came to Baltimore I had expected to perform at the level I always performed. But I only had 14 home runs. It was a horrible year. I was hurt most of the time and I had never been that way before. That was a mess." -- Sosa, on his one year with the Baltimore Orioles in 2005 Monday's Minor Stars: Gold: Michael Main earned his first victory of the season in Class A Spokane's 6-1 victory. He went five innings, allowing one run on three hits with a walk and nine strikeouts. Silver: Kevin Mahar, Nate Gold and Chris Stewart all hit home runs in a 6-2 victory over New Orleans. Gold has six home runs in August. Bronze: Taylor Teagarden went 2-for-4 in Frisco's 7-5 loss to Wichita and is now hitting .384 in August. Briefly: Because of the rainout and a doubleheader on Wednesday, the Rangers will need to bring a reliever out of the bullpen to start on Saturday against the Seattle Mariners. Washington said it will either be Jamey Wright or Mike Wood but it depends on how they both get used in the next few days. ... C.J. Wilson seems to have the closer's job but Washington said there were a couple of times in Minnesota that Joaquin Benoit would have been used in those situations if the Rangers had been in the lead. Washington still refuses to anoint Wilson as the closer. Up next: Left-handers Kason Gabbard and John Rheinecker pitch for the Rangers against the Baltimore Orioles in a doubleheader at 4:05 p.m. CT on Wednesday at Camden Yards. Right-hander Daniel Cabrera and left-hander Garrett Olson will pitch for the Orioles.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.