DE JANERIO (AP) - Last season's key additions of pitchers
Smokey Joe Wood, Nolan Ryan, Allen Watson and Andy Pettitte
were not quite enough to propel the Rio
de Janerio Capybaras to a Roehm title. The Rio squad finished
four games behind division winners Long
Beach, and fans were left hoping the season would go on
for two more weeks. It was not to be.
off-season brought some uncertainty. With several players
in the latter stages of their careers, fans and management
were concerned with who would retire and what the starting
rotation would look like opening day, 2014.
forward to April. The Capybaras survived the off-season without
having lost any of the key components of their roster. It
seems the veterans are hungry for one more run. Boasting the
oldest active roster in recent history, the Capys hope that
experience translates into wins, and ultimately, a shot at
their fifth Weaver Crown.
a position by position breakdown of how they plan on doing
With Wood, Leonard, Ryan, Watson and Pettitte being your top
5 starters, can you really go wrong? With the exception of
Nolan Ryan, all have won 20+ games at some point in their
careers. Not too shabby indeed. The bullpen will be anchored
by closer Alex Panchio, with Aaron Sele and Bill Perry sharing
middle relief roles. Perhaps a weakness, the long relief role
will be shared by Willard Alexander and Vern Martinez, but
with the aforementioned starting 5, just how many innings
are they going to see?
The trio of Jason Kendall, Mike Lieberthal and free agent
signing Sandy Martinez are expected to share catching duties.
All are stellar defensively, and it seems the starter on any
given night may be determined by who is holding the hottest
bat. Kendall, who won Rookie of the Year honours way back
in 1997 as a member of the Capys, brings a rare attribute
to the catcher position - he can steal a few bases.
Base: This slot remains a question mark. With the loss
of Isaac Wyndorff to free agency, the Capybaras find themselves
without a natural 1st baseman. Aging Ryan Klesko has been
asked to be the full-time DH and it seems manager "Big
Cheese" is hoping recently acquired 3B Sadahura Oh can
make the switch and play the other side of the infield. Oh
has the rare combination of power and speed. The knock against
him is that he is a bit of a free swinger. However, given
Rio's potent lineup, it is hopefull pitchers will not be able
to pitch around him. Mel Ott has played 1st before and another
new acquisition, Butch Huskey may be asked to fill the role
Base: This slot is Carney Stillwell's to lose. Rio has
hoped he would become their next leadoff hitter. Entering
his 3rd year in the league, he has not lived up to expections.
Solid defensively and with good speed, he needs to bring his
strikeouts down and on-base percentage up to truly realize
Base: With Alfredo Hernandez expected to handle the lion's
share of work at the hot corner, Rio is very solid here. Hernandez
had a great season last year and more of the same is expected
this year. Sadahura Oh is more than a capable backup should
Hernandez go down due to injury.
Cary Chien is one of the slickest fielding shortstops in the
league, not only that, his bat has seen consistent improvement
every season. A natural, entering his sixth season in the
league at the age of 26, the Capys expect big things from
their young shortstop.
Perennial All-Star Gabby Brumley anchors a solid outfield.
His range is exceptional, his bat deadly, his baserunning
superb - he is the complete package. Rounding out the outfield
will be Ruben Rivera and Pedro Valdes in left field, while
Mel Ott is expected to patrol right field. Yamil Benitez is
the 5th outfielder on this team, and brings a great glove
and good speed to the basepaths.
there you have it, your 2014 Rio de Janerio Capybaras. Fans
in Rio are chanting "Let's Play Ball!" in anticipation.
Will it be enough to win what is arguably the toughest division
in the league? Do these guys have enough gas left in their
tanks? Will Nolan Ryan get the elusive 20 wins? How will bitter
rivals Havana and Long
Beach fare? How about Vancouver,
an up and comer that looks to have a solid team as well? Stick
around baseball fans, looks like another wild ride in the