In past years we’ve focused on Detroit as the Mecca of Venezuelan ballplayers in MLB: established stars like Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Anibal Sanchez prowl Comerica Park. However, this year the Phillies are giving the Tigers a run for the money–at least in the debutant category.
Odubel Herrera came smoking out of La Guaira this winter, winning the Rookie of the Year and MVP for the Tiburones. Odubel turned 23 in December, and has gained a regular spot in the Citizens Bank Park outfield. He went 2-for-4 last night to raise his average to .275. Switch-hitting Freddy Galvis (age 25) of the Zulia Eagles is now the regular shortstop after the Jimmy Rollins era came to an end, and as of Tuesday was tattooing NL pitching to the tune of .327. Andrés Eloy Blanco (the veteran of the bunch at 31), named for Venezuela’s national poet, is making occasional appearances in the infield and as a pinch-hitter, as poets are wont to do–he’s played 14 games and batted .214 for a struggling Phillies team.
César Hernández of Valencia rounds out the youthful VZ infield corps in the City of Hermano-y Love. César turns 25 next week and has played in 28 games thus far at second base, batting .255 in a limited role.
Big righty Caraqueño Jeanmar Gómez (6’3″, 220 lbs, 27 years old) came east from Pittsburgh and is trying to earn more time in the bullpen with mixed results: he has a 4.74 ERA thus far. Elvis has entered the building in Philly and it’s not Elvis Andrus, but Elvis Araujo, a lanky lefty reliever. A Caribbean Series All Star in 2014, Elvis was just called up to the parent club. The 23-year-old Maracucho stands at 6’6″ and 215 pounds and hasn’t surrendered a run in four appearances.
You could look out “up the middle” of the Phillies lineup any day this season and see a pitcher, shortstop, second baseman, and centerfielder from Venezuela. The only guy missing in the picture is the catcher, and that’s Panama’s Carlos Ruiz. Let’s see if a grueling summer in the Philly heat makes these hothouse flowers blossom.