Detroit Tigers in winter leagues: Gregory Soto wins Dominican Republic championship

Detroit Free Press

Evan Petzold
 
| Detroit Free Press

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Detroit Tigers left-handed reliever Gregory Soto is a champion in the Dominican Republic.

To hoist the trophy, his team had to get through two other Tigers pitchers from Gigantes del Cibao: right-hander Jose Cisnero and lefty Miguel Del Pozo. The series went to Game 7 on Monday, and Águilas Cibaeñas secured a 7-4 victory.

Last week: Isaac Paredes gets a second chance in Mexico

Controlling a five-run lead, 7-2, Águilas Cibaeñas sent Soto to the mound for the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings. Although he walked Abiatal Avelino, he struck out Jose Siri on three pitches and got Ronald Guzman to ground into a double play. In the eighth, he allowed a home run to Kelvin Gutierrez but escaped without further damage.

Soto allowed one run on one hit and two walks in two innings, tossing two strikeouts.

It marked the team’s first Dominican Winter League title since the 2017-18 season. Águilas Cibaeñas has 22 championships, dating back to 1952. Outfielder Juan Lagares — an eight-year MLB veteran — earned series MVP.

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Del Pozo, who the Tigers signed to a minor-league deal earlier this month, allowed the demise of Gigantes del Cibao. Right-hander Wily Peralta got the first out but allowed a Luis Juarez home run and walked Francisco Pena. That’s when Del Pozo entered, trailing 3-2 with one out in the seventh inning.

His second pitch was driven by Johan Camargo for a double, and an ensuing intentional walk to Juan Carlos Perez loaded the bases. Jonathan Villar, the next batter, drove in two runs with a double, and Ramon Torres gave Águilas Cibaeñas another run with a single for a 6-2 lead. 

Without recording an out, Del Pozo was removed. The left-hander gave up two earned runs on three hits and one walk. Cisnero pitched the top of the ninth for Gigantes del Cibao, firing a scoreless inning with one strikeout.

Offseason numbers

Soto, 25, completed his winter league assignment with 11 games. He pitched five innings in the regular season (3.60 ERA), three in the semifinals (3.00 ERA) and four in the finals (2.25 ERA). He combined for 10 strikeouts and six walks.

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Cisnero had a 5.40 ERA in four regular-season games (3⅓ innings). In the playoffs, he was nearly perfect — without any hits but one walk — in four games and four innings. The 31-year-old totaled four strikeouts and four walks.

When the Tigers signed Del Pozo on Jan. 7, he was dominant through the regular season and semifinals, pitching 10⅓ scoreless innings. However, the 28-year-old gave up four runs in two innings across three relief appearances in the championship series. Altogether, Del Pozo logged 17 strikeouts and five walks.

Paredes nears championship series

The reinforcement draft in the Mexican Pacific Winter League sent third baseman Isaac Paredes from Venados de Mazatlán, his main club, to Naranjeros de Hermosillo for the remainder of the playoffs.

Paredes, 21, is gearing up for Game 6 of the semifinals, scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday. His team has a 3-2 lead over Sultanes de Monterrey. If Paredes wins, he will face either Tomateros de Culiacán (3-2) or Yaquis de Obregón (2-3) in the championship series.

In the first-round, where Paredes was eliminated with Mazatlán, he was 5-for-22 (.227) with four RBIs, three walks and one strikeout. But for Hermosillo, his hometown team, he resembles his regular-season form: 7-for-19 (.368) with one home run, three RBIs, two walks and zero strikeouts in the semifinals. He is riding a five-game hitting streak.

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Paredes was the Mexican league’s batting champion in the regular season, hitting .379 with four home runs and 26 RBIs in 42 games.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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