Gentle reader: forgive the absence of your trusted scribe. I believe the bitter New York winter muted my pen and stilled my thought processes for a bit. As the calendar has turned to March, and Spring and Opening Day are just weeks away, we return to our regularly-scheduled blog.
I’ve often said that Venezuela could fill an All-Star roster all by its lonesome. It’s a shame the World Baseball Classic isn’t taken a bit more seriously by everyone involved; I think the criollos have as much talent as anyone. That being said, this week I’ll present my VZ All-Star team. We begin with the pitchers:
Félix Hernandez, Seattle. By any measure, King Félix has been one of baseball’s best for the past five or six seasons, and has a Cy Young (and a massive contract) to prove it. A workhorse averaging 200 innings for 10 seasons, Seattle was careful with the King last season: he didn’t complete any games, yet finished with a 2.14 ERA to lead the league for the second time. Turns 29 in April.
Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland. The big righty from Barquisimeto finally came into his own at the end of 2014, when he owned the American League. A couple of years off Tomás Juan surgery–he missed all of 2012–CC and Cy Young winner Cory Kluber could really be a one-two punch for the Tribe. Bounced back from an early-season bullpen demotion to an amazing August-September run which included a shutout and a 1.30 ERA in ten starts; he ended at 2.55 ERA. Electric stuff: 140 K’s in 134 frames.
Henderson Alvarez, Miami. A righty from Valencia like The King, Henderson broke out last season at age 24 with 3 shutouts, a 2.65 ERA and 12 wins for a not-great Marlins team. He made the NL All-Star team and walked 33 batters in 187 innings.
Aníbal Sánchez, Detroit. The lean right-hander from Maracay, land of los Tigres, had a breakthrough season with the Tigers of Detroit in 2013: 14-8 with a league-leading 2.57 ERA. Injuries knocked Aníbal off his game last campaign; he just turned 31 so it will be interesting to see how he rebounds. He and fellow Aragua man Miguel Cabrera are roughly the same age and from the same town; maybe that synergy will work for Detroit this season.
Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee. A lot of people thought Frankie was on his way down. At age 32, he stepped into a void in the Brew-pen and only saved 44 games, finishing a league-high 66. Don’t call it a comeback! Frankie was awarded with a new $13 million one-year deal with the Cerveceros.
Honorable mention: Martín Pérez, Texas. Johan Santana, Toronto. Both Pérez, the Miracle Man of Guanare, and THE FIRST VENEZUELAN TO WIN THE CY YOUNG(TM), “El Gocho” Santana, are lefties coming back from tough injuries.
Pérez had a wonderful second half in 2013 and started 2014 like a house on fire; he only pitched in 8 games, but 2 were shutouts. Then it became very plain that something was wrong; hola, Tomás Juan. But Martin turns 24 in April and hopefully will make a complete comeback. He’s already a millionaire.
Santana hasn’t pitched in a MLB game since 2012; a comeback with Baltimore last season was aborted by a torn achilles tendon; he had already sort of recovered from shoulder surgery. In this off-season, he trained with Magallanes of Valencia; his return was hailed across the country. Unfortunately, it was a game delayed for hours by rain, and when he finally appeared, after already warming up twice, the big man from Tovar threw just two innings. The Blue Jays have given him a minor-league contract to see how he does in April; many fans of the big zurdo are hoping for a last hurrah. He turns 36 next week–Cumpleaños feliz, Gocho.