El Emergente

El Emergente

Venezuela manager Eddie Perez aims to make mentor Bobby Cox proud

Ignacio Serrano 
CARACAS,
Venezuela — Eddie Perez received an unexpected phone call last Friday. He’d
just woken up when he saw a familiar number pop up on his phone screen. It was
Bobby Cox.
The
legendary Atlanta Braves manager reached out to his former pupil to join the
celebration that had begun the previous night after Perez’s team, Tigres de
Aragua, had been crowned champions of the Venezuelan Winter League and would
represent Venezuela in the Caribbean Series.
Cox managed
Pérez in the majors, when the latter was Hall of Famer Greg Maddux’s personal
catcher. Now the disciple is trying to put into practice what he learned from
the master.
“Bobby is
one of the greatest,» said Pérez, who has served on the Braves’ coaching
staff since 2007. “He had an extraordinary way of managing the group and
keeping us motivated.”


Pérez makes
no secret of the fact that he wants to follow in the footsteps of his mentor
and manage in the majors. This winter, he returned to his native country to
manage Tigres de Aragua. Last Thursday, Perez won his first league title when
the Tigres defeated the favorites, Navegantes del Magallanes, in the final. The
win earned them the right to participate in the Caribbean Series, the annual tournament
that also includes the Winter League champions from the Dominican Republic,
Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba and begins Monday at Quisqueya Stadium in Santo
Domingo.
Pérez hopes
to continue his good run on Dominican turf.
Tigres lost
some key players after winning the title against Magallanes. The Caribbean
Confederation ruled that the last-minute reinforcements from Mexico and the
Dominican Republic could only represent their home countries and are therefore
no longer on Venezuela’s roster. Also missing are major leaguers Eduardo
Escobar, Edgar Ibarra, Jorge Rondon and Alberto Callaspo, who helped defeat
Navegantes in six games.
Callaspo
has not been ruled out. The third baseman misplaced his passport and other
personal documents during the final. But if he is able to resolve this issue in
time, he will join Venezuela in Santo Domingo.
“We have a
great team,” said Pérez. “And we have chosen very strong reinforcements.”
The Tigres
have brought in some high-level reinforcements, including Félix Pérez and
Adonis García, who will add power and contact hitting. Garcia, the Braves’
third baseman, let Pérez know last week that he wished to make the trip.
«He
wants to play against his brother [José Adolis García], who is part of the team
from Cuba,» Perez said. José Adolis García will be one of the outfielders
for Ciego de Ávila, which will represent the largest island in the Antilles.
Veteran
Oscar Salazar, José Alberto Martínez, last year’s Triple-A International League
batting champion, and Alex Romero, the batting champion in the recently
concluded Venezuelan season, complete an overhauled lineup that appears to have
the strength, discipline and contact to contend for another title.
“We’ll
continue working, this time for the whole of Venezuela,» said Romero,
shortly after news broke of his inclusion on the roster.
Pérez has
five starters, although only three can be sure of their place in the rotation:
Freddy García, Austin Bibens-Dirkx and Marcus Walden. Whoever misses out,
between the Dominican Alexis Candelario and Omar Bencomo Jr., will be used as a
long reliever.
They form a
consistent quintet. Bibens-Dirkx and Walden were Aragua’s best starters during
the postseason. Candelario and Bencomo were among the ERA leaders during the
regular season. And García is a baseball legend in this country.
He is also
on his farewell tour of professional baseball. At 39, García has pitched more
innings and won more games in the major leagues than any of his countrymen.
The
right-hander, who already has announced his retirement, is the only Venezuelan
to win a decisive World Series game and is now about to make his debut in the
Caribbean classic.
Pérez has
called on Garcia for the Tigres’ first game, against Puerto Rico, on Monday at
2 p.m. ET.
The
majority of the dominant relievers who led Tigres to the title will not be
involved. But management has moved to bring in seven reinforcements, and Pérez
now has four experienced lefties in the bullpen, and can still count on the
major leaguer Ronald Belisario as closer.
On paper
the squad that Aragua brings to the Dominican Republic appears to be a
competitive one, but it still needs to prove it on the field and hope for that
stroke of luck that was missing in the previous two editions, where the
Venezuelan representative ran the table in the qualifying stage, only to be
knocked out in the semifinals.
«We
are now representing Venezuela, and our goal is to win the series,» Pérez
said. He wants to have more stories to tell the next time he receives a call
from his mentor.
Tigres de Aragua
Manager: Eddie
Pérez.
Starters: RHP Freddy García, RHP Austin Bibens, RHP
Alexis Candelario, RHP Marcus Walden, RHP Omar Bencomo Jr.
Relievers: RHP Ronald Belisario, LHP Wilfredo Ledezma, LHP
Pedro Hernández, RHP Renee Cortez, LHP Gumercindo Gonzalez, LHP José Mijares,
RHP Arcenio León, RHP Jesús Sánchez, RHP José Flores, RHP Osmer Morales.
Catchers: Sandy
León, Guillermo Quiroz.
Infielders: 3B
Adonis García, SS Hernán Pérez, SS Juniel Querecuto, IF Luis Ugueto, 1B Oscar
Salazar, IF Alex Núñez.
Outfielders: Félix
Pérez, Dariel Álvarez, Alex Romero, José Alberto Martínez, Teodoro Martínez.
Publicado en ESPN.com,
el lunes 2 de febrero de 2016. Aquí el original.

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