D-backs Venezuelan Winter League Roundup

Tigres del Aragua defeated Leones Del Caracas in the seven-game Venezuelan Winter League Finals. Two Diamondbacks players suited up for Aragua, one D-backs pitcher started for Caracas in the deciding game seven, and several enjoyed excellent performances in Venezuela this winter. Inside, we summarize the contributions of five Diamondbacks players.

OF Alexander Romero

In game six of the Venezuelan Winter League Finals, Diamondbacks outfielder Alex Romero went 3-for-5 with a double, three runs scored, and two RBI as Aragua beat Caracas 10-6 to force a decisive seventh game.  He followed that performance with two hits and a run scored in Aragua's game seven victory.

Romero had batted .311 for Tigres del Aragua in the regular season, but as usual with Romero, his secondary average was not high.  He only managed five extra base hits in 182 at-bats, although he did walk once more than he struck out, which led to a nifty .382 on base percentage.  Romero projects to be the Diamondbacks' fifth outfielder in 2009 after batting just .230 in 135 at-bats with the club last year. 

RHP Juan Gutierrez

Gutierrez started for Caracas in game seven and got saddled with the  loss, which dropped him to 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in the VWL postseason.  That mediocre effort came on the heels of an impressive winter, however. Gutierrez led the Venezuelan League with 56 strikeouts and went 5-2 with a 2.56 ERA and .218 batting average against.  The Venezuelan native also tossed a one-hit shutout on December 6th.

This winter's performance was particularly important for Gutierrez, who went 5-11 with a 6.09 ERA and 1.68 WHIP in Tucson last summer.  Many in the organization had high expectations for Gutierrez after he came along with Chad Qualls and Chris Burke in last winter's Jose Valverde trade.  Gutierrez is finally meeting some of those expectations.

LHP Evan MacLane

MacLane recorded just one out for Aragua in that game seven victory, but it was enough to earn him his second hold of the postseason.  During Venezuela's regular season, MacLane went 2-1, averaged more than seven innings per start, and only walked one batter over 22 innings. 

"Winter ball in Venezuela is very competitive," says MacLane.  "That's their big leagues."

He also made nine starts in the Dominican Winter League, going 0-3 with a 4.39 ERA, but also averaging one strikeout per inning pitched, something he hadn't accomplished since Short-Season ball in 2003.  All in all, this winter has brought a continued resurgence for MacLane after his disastrous 2007 campaign.

OF Gerardo Parra

Gerardo Parra gave the Diamondbacks their best performance out of the Latin Winter Leagues.  He paced Venezuela in hits (81) and doubles (20), plus finished runner up with 15 steals.   The 21-year old prospect also finished among the top 10 in the league with a .329 batting average, a .404 on base percentage, 39 runs scored, and 44 RBI.

Parra then batted .394 with three homers in the postseason, although his Aguilas del Zulia could not capitalize on his fine performance and advance to the VWL Finals.  Parra appears on the provisional World Baseball Classic roster for Venezuela, but faces some tough competition for a spot in that outfield.

"It's a source of pride, a source of enjoyment, and a part of his development if he can be on the same field as a Bobby Abreu," said farm director A.J. Hinch.

C Miguel Montero

Montero finished seventh in the VWL with nine home runs in just 176 at-bats, which led to an impressive .494 slugging average.  That's a marked improvement over his 2007 season in Venezuela, in which he managed just one dinger and two doubles in 66 at-bats, good for only a .333 SLG. 

Montero's time in Venezuela has been important not only because he is a native of Caracas, but also because he hasn't received the big league playing time warranted by a prospect of his abilities as he's been stuck behind Chris Snyder.  The Diamondbacks had been mulling a trade of Montero to the Boston Red Sox, but now that Boston has re-signed Jason Varitek and added Josh Bard, that would-be deal is officially dead.  Montero could also relinquish playing time this season to Rule 5 draftee James Skelton, who must remain on the 25-man roster all season in order for the D-backs to retain rights to him.

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