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Final Countdown To Caribbean Series; Boxer Cotto To Fight Again

By Gabrielle Paese

January 31, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

The Mayaguez Indios prevailed in six games over the Caguas Criollos during the Puerto Rico Winter League final series, which wrapped up earlier this week.

Now Caguas gets a chance at revenge as the Criollos fine-tune their lineup to replace Venezuela in the Caribbean Series, which gets under way Sunday at Carolina’s Roberto Clemente Walker Stadium.

Venezuela canceled out of the Caribbean Series last month, forced to shut down its league mid-season due to political problems in that country. Puerto Rico will fill in the vacancy with two teams, the winners and the runners-up of the winter league finals. Mexico will be represented by Los Mochis while Los Aguilas Cibaenas earned the right to represent the Dominican league.

Both Caguas and Mayaguez added reinforcement players to their teams this week as did the Mexicans and Dominicans. Los Mochis, like the Mayaguez Indios, added 10 players, the maximum allowed by the Caribbean Baseball Confederation. In the cases of both teams, mostly pitchers were added.

Mayaguez added seven pitchers, including the ageless Luis "Mambo" De Leon, who says he’s 46 and will be appearing in his 14th Caribbean Series, a new record. Mayaguez also added Carolina right-handers Dicky Gonzalez, Josue Matos and Jose Santiago, Santurce’s J.C. Romero and Ponce’s Hector Mercado and Francisco Cabrera.

The Indios added three position players – Ponce infielders Carlos Rivera and Luis Lopez and Carolina slugger Cesar Crespo. Crespo will be filling in for import Willie Harris, Mayaguez’s power hitter in the middle of the order, who opted not to stay with the team for the February classic.

Rivera, one of the best defensive first baseman in the league, has been hitting solidly this winter. He hit eight home runs for Ponce and was a league leader with 36 RBI.

Mayaguez’s power comes from final series MVP Tony Valentin. Valentin hit four home runs in the six championship series games, two of them game winners. The last time he played in the Caribbean Series two years ago as a reinforcement, he helped the Santurce Crabbers win the title with the key home run in extra innings.

Caguas made fewer changes to its lineup, partly because its boasts native pitching talent and partly because Mayaguez got first picks on the available reinforcement players. The team’s top three starting pitchers, all with major league experience, will stay on for the Series. They are Jaime Navarro, Omar Olivares and Angel "Chimilon" Miranda. The team is also adding Ponce starter Giancarlo Alvarado, who went 4-1 with a 3.05 ERA this season with the Lions.

The Dominican Republics Aguilas de Cibao look the most potent on paper. The team is expected to include the reigning AL MVP Miguel Tejada as well as fellow major leaguers Raul Mondesi, Rafael Furcal, Neifi Perez, David Ortiz, Bartolo Colon and Octavio Dotel. This is the Aguilas’ 17th Dominican League title, which they won earlier this week by defeating Escogido, the team Santurce manager Mako Oliveras took over for the finals.

Mexico’s winter league champions, Los Caneros de Los Mochis, who won their first league title in 19 years, added the limit of 10 reinforcement players.

Six are pitchers, including Pablo Joel Ochoa and Francisco Campos, of Mazatlan, Oscar Villarreal and Alejandro Romero of Mexicali. Also joining the team will be reliever Luis Ignacio Ayala, of Culiacan and Hermosillo rookie Edgar Gonzalez, who was the league’s top pitcher this season.

Position players added include Miguel Ojeda at catcher and slugger Heber Gomez, the league’s batting champion. Both played the season with Los Venados. Trent Hubbard and Anton French, both of whom played this past season with the Dominican League will shore up the outfield.

The Caribbean Series’ official website is

Miguel Cotto ready to face Mexico’s Cesar Bazan

Billed as t he second fight on the Night of Fury card Saturday night at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Caguas’ young Miguel Cotto (13-0, 9 KO) faces his biggest challenge yet when he goes against Mexico’s Cesar Bazan (39-5-1, 27 KO) in the first 12-rounder of Cotto’s short career.

Top Rank’s highly touted prospect, Cotto has been sparring with taller fighters in preparation for Bazan, who is 5-11 to Cotto’s 5-7. Sparring partner and former 2000 Olympic team mate Ruben Fuchu made the trip to Las Vegas this week with Cotto for the final preparations. The WBC has Cotto ranked 12th while Bazan is 14th.

Cotto was one of the Puerto Rico’s hardest working boxers in 2002, fighting seven times. In all, he’s knocked out eight of his last nine opponents. He last fought in his hometown of Caguas in December, with a KO victory over Mexico’s Ubaldo Hernandez.

Bazan scored a fourth-round TKO over Joshua Smith in his last fight two months ago in Las Vegas.

Cotto beat Smith in 2002, the same year he scored victories over Sammy Sparkman, Juan Angel Macias, Justin Juuko, Carlos Ramirez, John Brown and Hernandez.

Gabrielle Paese is the Assistant Sports Editor at the San Juan Star. She is the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at

Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.

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