Notes: Pirates take root in Dominican
Pittsburgh building facility to develop international prospects
SANTIAGO, Dominican Republic -- Perched on his seat behind home plate at Estadio Cibao, Rene Gayo's outlook on the country he's visiting this week is more than optimistic.
It's borderline giddy.
As the director of Latin American scouting for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gayo will head the organization's new baseball academy/complex currently under construction near the Dominican Republic capital of Santo Domingo. The state-of-the-art facility is expected to open next year and house the organization's international prospects.
"We are going to have our own place and that's huge for us," Gayo said. "Now we can get a guy closer to being parallel to American players without having to wait for them to develop stateside. There are a lot of factors that keep a Dominican player from being up to speed and all on the same level with others. [The Pirates new complex] helps with that."
Located in El Toro, the Pittsburgh complex will span 43 acres, and feature multiple baseball fields, dining areas, housing and classrooms. All 30 teams scout or have operations in the Dominican Republic but now only the Brewers do not own or are building a complex of their own. The Los Angeles Dodgers built the first modern baseball academy/facility in the Dominican Republic in 1987 to start the trend.
"It's not just some crazy idea or the flavor of the month type of thing with everybody getting a new building," Gayo said. "We in Major League Baseball are not crazy, we have been doing this a long time and we're only going to invest money in a situation that will help you."
Gayo spent 10 years in Latin American baseball operations with the Cleveland Indians before joining the Pirates in 2004. Among the many players signed from Latin America under Gayo's watch while with Cleveland were Jhonny Peralta, Fausto Carmona and Rafael Perez.
"The Pittsburgh Pirates have a great history in Latin America and we are pioneers here," Gayo said. "We were leaders and it went away. Now we have to bring that back."
Reggie's routine: Mexico outfielder Reggie Taylor estimates he has played more than 200 games during the past calendar year and if all goes according to plan, he'll play in another 162 contests before the end of 2008.
Taylor signed a Minor League contract with Atlanta in November and is aiming for a starting spot at Triple-A Richmond. It would be a promotion considering the 30-year-old has not been in the Major Leagues since playing in 11 games with the Devil Rays in 2005. He has played a total of 260 big league games with Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay in parts of five seasons starting in 2000. He was released from Spring Training camp by Detroit in 2006 and by Washington before the start of the 2007 season.
"It's been a long haul and I wonder if I ever get back and if I'll ever get the opportunity again," Taylor said. "Now that I'm ready and healthy, I'm waiting on another shot. What I've learned is that it's about being in the right place at the right time. Who gives you the opportunity and what teams need."
Taylor spent most of last year in Mexico with teams from Tabasco and Culiacan. He also played outfield for the Independent League Long Island Ducks. He said major shoulder surgery in 2005 slowed his progress but he is now completely healthy.
He said it: "I'm disappointed, the people from the Caribbean Confederation are disappointed and I think the fans are as well. There is such a rivalry between the Dominican and Puerto Rico that these games would have been fun to watch. Their absence is felt." -- Lou Melendez, Major League Baseball's vice president of international baseball operations, on the absence of Puerto Rico in this year's Caribbean Series. Puerto Rico did not have Winter League play this year because of economic reasons.
More Moreno: Venezuelan pitcher Orber Moreno will get at least one more chance to earn his way to the Major Leagues. The middle reliever signed a Minor League contract with Detroit in January and is heading to Spring Training this month.
Moreno went 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 33 appearances with the Mets in 2004, his last stint in the Major Leagues. He also made big league appearances with the Royals in 1999 and Mets in 2003. Moreno has been plagued with arm injuries throughout his career and did not pitch last season.
"When you have a good arm and you have a good slider, you have a chance," Tigres de Aragua manager Buddy Bailey said. "You hope for him but you never know how much the body is going to come back to maximum strength."
In the three Caribbean Series appearances for Tigres de Aragua in Santiago, Moreno has allowed three runs on five hits, including a home run, in three innings.
"People that haven't played sports don't understand what it's like to be hurt and not be able to compete when your whole life your body has been everything to you," Bailey said. "All of sudden your body can't perform so when you get that chance again it's very special. I know it's special to Orber."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.