By Gabriel Fidler (Follow on Twitter @gabrielfidler)
MARYVILLE, Tenn. – It was expected that the Panamá City qualifying round for the 2013 World Baseball Classic would be the most competitive and exciting of the four pools. No one could have possibly predicted that Brazil, an unusual mixture of young players and globe-trotting veterans, would dispatch with the rest of the MLB-experienced bracket. A dramatic three-game sweep secured Barry Larkin’s squad the final place in the third WBC.
Brazil allowed only two earned runs in 27 innings, with an youthful bullpen that shut down the powerful bats of Panamá and Colómbia. Panamá, expected to triumph in their home stadium, took a surprise loss in their matchup with Brazil, but sent Nicaragua and then Colómbia packing before the blue-and-gold shocked them again.
All four of the teams scored runs any way they could, putting together rallies by stringing together walks, singles, and sacrifices. Panamá alone had eight sacrifices in four games, as all four bullpens were called on liberally and regularly got results. The teams hit .273 and reached base about 35 per cent of the time, but combined to slug only .360. Brazil’s Leonardo Reginatto was the top hitter at .583.
Brazil’s pitching staff allowed only 20 hits on the way to a 0.67 ERA. Minor league relievers Murilo Gouvea and Thyago Vieira breezed by major league hitters in clutch situations, with neither allowing a run.
Panamá’s pitchers were almost as impressive, walking only four in 35 innings with a 2.83 ERA. Ramiro Mendoza was called on in all but one game, and his 8 2/3 scoreless frames led a Panamanian bullpen that had a 2.44 ERA. Colómbia (5.88 ERA) and Nicaragua (6.75) both had their lack of pitching depth exposed, but each had at least strong performance on the mound.
Brazil’s top hitter and reliever are worthy choices as MVP and Best Pitcher, but the rest of the awards and All-Tournament Team are distributed among the other three teams. The accolades are unofficial and compiled for Mister Baseball by Extra Innings’ writer Gabriel Fidler.
MVP: Leonardo Reginatto (Brazil). Reginatto, a low-level minor league in the Tampa Bay Rays’ system, took the world by storm from Panamá City. Brazil’s third baseman stroked seven hits in 12 at bats, striking out only once. He scored three runs and drove in two, one of which was the first run Brazil scored in the tournament. Reginatto also crossed home with the winning run in game one. (Honourable mention: Ramiro Mendoza)
Best Pitcher: Murilo Gouvea (Brazil). Gouvea came on in relief for Brazil in both games against Panamá and totalled 5 2/3 scoreless frames, allowing only three baserunners. He struck out five and walked just one, earning two holds. Major league hitters were only 2-for-13 against him and struck out four times. (Honourable mention: Ramiro Mendoza)
Best Fielder: Rubén Tejada (Panamá). Tejada was flawless at shortstop, handling more chances than any non-first baseman in the qualifier. He had nine putouts and 15 assists with no errors. In the title match, he started one double play and turned a second in handling eight chances. (Honourable mention: Isaías Velásquez)
Best Runner: None. While the four Latin Amerian countries played an exciting brand of baseball, the tournament did not have a standout runner. Isaías Velásquez had the most noteworthy wheels, but was thrown out at the plate twice in four games, including in the third inning of the championship game. Panamá’s leftfielder ignored a stop sign at third and was caught in a rundown with the heart of the order due up.
C –Yan Gomes (Brazil). Gomes, Brazil’s first major leaguer, was expected to lead an offence of mostly unknown players. The utility player was solid as the blue-and-gold’s starting catcher, and delivered two huge RBIs. The first was in Brazil’s second game, as Gomes stroked a two-out single to score the tying run. No hit in the tournament was bigger than his in the championship game, when Gomes laced a one-base hit to plate the game’s only run.
1B – Reynaldo Rodríguez (Colómbia). Despite the presence of MLB All-Star Carlos Lee, Rodríguez was easily the best first baseman in the tourney. He collected four hits in three games, two as Colómbia’s leadoff hitter. Rodríguez also delivered a two-run double against Panamá in game three. The Red Sox minor leaguer also distinguished himself in the field, handling 29 chances flawlessly.
2B – Dónovan Solano (Colómbia). Solano was a sparkplug for the Colombian offence, reaching base almost 50 per cent of the time and striking out only once. In the team’s first game, Solano drove in two runs on a booming triple to right field, coming round to score on a throwing error. While playing mostly at the keystone sack, Solano did not commit an error in 13 chances.
SS – Rubén Tejada (Panamá). Tejada, who took over the starting shortstop for the New York Mets at only 22, was one of the most electric players in the group. In a lineup loaded with major league talent, Tejada starred at the plate and in the field. He participated in four double plays, flashing impressive range and good glovework. Tejada ripped three doubles against Nicaragua in an elimination game, a WBC record, and reached base twice in Panamá’s 1-0 loss to Brazil.
3B – Leonardo Reginatto (Brazil). Reginatto was a breakout star in Brazil’s lineup, tying New Zealand’s Scott Campbell for highest batting average among WBC players with more than seven at bats. He was perfect in the field, recording five outs and assisting on seven others.
LF – J.C. Múñiz (Brazil). Brazil rotated four outfielders between left field and right, and Múñiz distinguished himself as a useful all-around player. In the first game of the qualifier, Múñiz drove in the winning run on a single. He followed that up with a two-double day against Colómbia and fielded without a miscue in both corner positions.
CF – Steve Brown (Colómbia). Brown commanded Colómbia’s outfield defence, displaying excellent range into the gaps in snagging seven fly outs. He recorded an outfield assist after Panamá’s Carlos Ruiz attempted to stretch a single into a double. Brown was no slouch at the plate, drilling a two-run homer and a RBI-single against Nicaragua.
RF – Concepción Rodríguez (Panamá). With the news that 39-year old veteran Rubén Rivera wanted to play centerfield in one final tournament for Panamá, manager Roberto Kelly opted to flank him with youth and agility. Rodríguez teamed with Isaías Velásquez to provide outstanding defence at the outfield corners. Rodríguez reached base in all four plate appearances versus Nicaragua and scored two runs versus Colómbia.
|Cheslor Cuthbert (Nicaragua)||3B||2||8||2||4||1||0||1||1||8||0||1||0||0||.500||1.000||.500||1.500|
|Tiago Magalhaes (Brazil)||LF||3||5||1||2||2||0||0||1||4||0||2||0||0||.333||.800||.400||1.133|
|Paulo Orlando (Brazil)||CF||3||12||3||4||0||1||0||0||6||0||1||0||0||.385||.500||.333||.885|
|Everth Cabrera (Nicaragua)||SS||2||9||1||3||0||0||0||0||3||1||0||0||1||.400||.333||.333||.733|
|Carlos Ruiz (Panamá)||C||4||13||0||4||0||0||0||2||4||3||2||0||0||.444||.308||.308||.752|
|Isaias Velasquez (Panamá)||LF||4||14||4||4||0||1||0||3||6||4||2||1||0||.444||.429||.286||.873|
|Giovanny Urshela (Colómbia)||3B||3||12||2||3||1||0||1||3||7||0||2||0||0||.250||.583||.250||.833|
All-Tournament Pitching Staff:
Right-Handed Pitcher – Ramiro Mendoza (Panamá). Mendoza showed the poise of a 10-year big league career as manager Roberto Kelly’s top choice out of the bullpen. Using a heavy sinker, Mendoza induced a number of key groundball outs, including a double play with Brazil threatening in the title match. The 40-year old led all WBCQ pitchers in innings.
Left-Handed Pitcher – Oscar Nakaoshi (Brazil). Nakaoshi earned the start against Colómbia in Brazil’s second game. Faced with a lineup stacked with veteran right-handed hitters, Nakaoshi worked his way around jams in each of his four frames, but did not allow a run. He struck out four and did not give up a hit to Colómbia’s most experienced batters, Édgar Rentería and Jolbert Cabrera.
Relief Pitcher – Murilo Gouvea (Brazil): In a tournament that featured several impressive relief efforts, none meant more than Gouvea’s work against Panamá. In the first game in the qualifier, Gouvea entered in the fifth inning after the hosts had threatened in each of the first four frames. The right-hander proceeded to set down the next seven batters in-a-row, including strikeouts of Carlos Ruiz and Rubén Tejada. The results were similar in the championship, with another six sent down one by one and two more punch outs.
|Gabriel Asakura (Brazil)||0||0||0.00||1||0||0||2.2||1||0||0||0||1||0||5||0.37||1||0|
|Rafael Fernandes (Brazil)||1||0||0.00||1||1||0||6.0||2||0||0||0||0||1||2||0.50||0||0|
|Ivan Julio (Colómbia)||0||0||0.00||1||0||0||2.2||3||0||0||0||0||0||1||1.13||0||0|
|Thyago Vieira (Brazil)||0||0||0.00||2||0||2||1.2||1||0||0||0||0||1||3||1.20||0||2|
|Manuel Corpas (Panamá)||0||0||1.69||3||0||0||5.1||4||1||1||0||1||1||0||0.94||1||2|
|Angel Cuan (Panamá)||0||1||1.80||2||1||0||5.0||8||1||1||0||0||1||6||1.80||0||0|
|Sugar Ray Marimon (Colómbia)||1||0||1.80||1||1||0||5.0||4||1||1||1||1||0||4||0.80||0||0|
|Gustavo Martinez (Nicaragua)||0||0||3.38||1||0||0||2.2||3||1||1||1||0||0||4||1.13||0||0|