Detroit Tigers in winter leagues: Rony Garcia shines in big start; Victor Reyes recovers

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers right-handed pitcher Rony Garcia is back to full health after a season-ending left knee injury in June. He made his second start last Thursday, and first in the postseason, for Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican Winter League.

Garcia was restricted in his pitch count but fired four scoreless innings in an 8-0 win over Gigantes del Cibao. He allowed one hit and two walks with four strikeouts. The 24-year-old threw 36 of 56 pitches for strikes and punched out Carlos Paulino, Jose Siri, Henry Urrutia and Marcell Ozuna.

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His next scheduled start is Wednesday against Aguilas Cibaenas in the eighth game of a round-robin competition to determine the championship series matchup. The four remaining teams — Oriente, Cibao, Cibaenas and Tigres del Licey — each play 18 games in the round robin. The championship is a best-of-nine series.

Estrellas de Oriente has a 2-4 record.

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The only hit Garcia allowed in last Thursday’s outing was a one-out double to Jordany Valdespin, an MLB player from 2012-15, in the second inning. Garcia’s pair of walks occurred in the first inning. Striking out Siri and Ozuna were noteworthy accomplishments.

Siri, 26, hit .304 with four home runs in 21 games for the Houston Astros in his MLB debut season in 2021. Ozuna, 31, led the National League in 2020 with 18 homers and 56 RBIs, to go with his .338 batting average for the Atlanta Braves.

Ozuna played only 48 games last season due to a domestic dispute with his wife in May. He faced misdemeanor charges of family violence batter and simple assault and entered a diversion program. In late November, MLB applied a 20-game suspension, retroactive to Sept. 10. Ozuna can return to the Braves for spring training and 2022 Opening Day.

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Garcia’s next opponent, Aguilas Cibaenas, has utility player Danny Santana (MLB from 2014-21), outfielder Melky Cabrera (MLB from 2005-19), center fielder Juan Lagares (MLB from 2013-21), outfielder Jimmy Paredes (MLB from 2011-16), first baseman Derek Dietrich (MLB from 2013-20), infielder Rony Rodriguez (MLB for Tigers from 2018-19) and second baseman Cristhian Adames (MLB from 2014-19).

A 2019 Rule 5 draft pick, Garcia has a career 7.30 ERA with 11 walks and 16 strikeouts over 24⅔ innings in 17 games (two starts) for the Tigers in parts of two MLB seasons. He posted a 3.20 ERA with 10 walks and 24 strikeouts in 19⅔ innings (four starts) for Triple-A Toledo in 2021.

Victor Reyes deals with injury

Outfielder Victor Reyes missed two games — last Tuesday and Wednesday — for Caribes de Anzoategui in the Venezuelan Winter League with a shoulder injury.

The 27-year-old returned as the designated hitter Thursday and went 4-for-4 with three doubles, one triple, one RBI and one walk in his team’s 8-6 victory over Leones del Caracas in the postseason. He finished 2-for-4 with one double, one RBI and one strikeout in Monday’s 6-3 loss to Tigres de Aragua.

Reyes, whose team has a 3-2 record, is hitting .583 (7-for-12) with four doubles, one triple, one home run, four RBIs, one walk and one strikeout in three playoff games.

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Reyes hit .295 (13-for-44) with two doubles, one triple, four home runs, 18 RBIs, seven walks and six strikeouts in 12 games during Venezuela’s regular season. He made 10 starts in right field, one start in center and one start in left.

In Thursday’s four-hit performance, the switch-hitting Reyes recorded one walk and one double against 31-year-old right-hander Yoimer Camacho, one triple off 25-year-old righty Jose Mujica (MLB in 2020), one double off 25-year-old righty Jesus Zambrano and one double off 29-year-old righty Silvino Brancho (MLB from 2015-20).

For the Tigers in 2021, Reyes hit .258 with 10 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 22 RBIs, eight walks and 55 strikeouts in 76 games. He had a .325 batting average with four homers in his final 49 games. He went to the injured list Sept. 26 with a right groin strain to end his season.

Joe Jimenez exits before playoffs

On Dec. 30, Gigantes de Carolina became the fourth and final team to make the Puerto Rican Winter League postseason, which begins this Friday. But right-handed reliever Joe Jimenez will not continue and instead prepare for spring training. He pitched 6⅔ scoreless innings with zero walks, 10 strikeouts and five saves in six games during the regular season.

The 26-year-old picked up his fifth save in last Tuesday’s 4-2 win against Cangrejeros de Santurce. He entered with two outs in the eighth inning and struck out David Vidal, then pitched a perfect ninth with a strikeout of Jan Hernandez.

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Jimenez posted a 5.96 ERA last season with 35 walks and 57 strikeouts in 45⅓ innings over 52 games out of the Tigers’ bullpen. He isn’t a lock to make the Opening Day roster but will boost his chances if his strike-throwing in Puerto Rico carries over to spring training.

Also in Puerto Rico: Right-handed reliever Nivaldo Rodriguez is pitching for Criollos de Caguas, also slated to make the playoffs. The 24-year-old has a 2.57 ERA with five walks and 19 strikeouts across 14 innings in four games (three starts). The Tigers claimed Rodriguez off waivers from the Astros in August 2021. He is expected to open 2022 in Toledo.

Isaac Paredes finishes up in Mexico

After the Mexican Pacific Winter League regular season, infielder Isaac Paredes switched teams — from Venados de Mazatlan (eliminated) to Naranjeros de Hermosillo — as part of the reinforcement draft ahead of the postseason’s first round.

Facing Sultanes de Monterrey, Hermosillo lost Sunday in Game 7 of the series and was eliminated from the playoffs. Paredes went 2-for-4 with one double in the 5-0 defeat. The 22-year-old was not available for selection in the second reinforcement draft, so his offseason assignment is complete.

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Paredes hit .282 (40-for-142) with six doubles, four home runs, 23 RBIs, 37 walks and 20 strikeouts in 42 games for Venados de Mazatlan in the regular season. He then hit .393 (11-for-28) with one double, five RBIs, four walks and two strikeouts for Naranjeros de Hermosillo in seven playoff games.

In 2021, Paredes played 23 games for the Tigers and 72 games for Toledo. He hit .208 in the majors with one home run, five RBIs, 10 walks and 11 strikeouts. For the Mud Hens, he hit .265 with 11 homers, 42 RBIs, 56 walks and 47 strikeouts.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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