Detroit Tigers in winter leagues: How Rony Garcia has performed in three postseason starts

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers right-hander Rony Garcia has guided Estrellas de Oriente to wins in his three starts in the Dominican Winter League postseason.

The 18-game round-robin phase determines which two teams will meet in the best-of-nine championship series. There are four teams in the hunt: Gigantes del Cibao (9-4), Estrellas de Oriente (7-6), Aguilas Cibaenas (5-8) and Tigers del Licey (5-8).

Each team has five games left in the round robin.

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In three playoff games, Garcia boasts a 0.69 ERA with six walks and 10 strikeouts in 13 innings. The 24-year-old also made one start in the regular season, delivering two scoreless innings in his first game back from a season-ending left knee injury in June at Comerica Park.

Oriente defeated Gigantes del Cibao, 8-1, on Dec. 30 in Garcia’s first playoff start. He pitched four scoreless innings, allowed one hit and recorded two walks and four strikeouts, also throwing 36 of 56 pitches for strikes. He struck out Carlos Paulino, Jose Siri, Henry Urrutia and Marcell Ozuna.

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On Jan. 5, Garcia picked up his first win in an 8-3 victory over Aguilas Cibaenas. The righty posted five scoreless innings on two hits, three walks and two strikeouts. This time, 43 of his 74 pitches went for strikes. He fanned Jimmy Paredes in the second inning and Juan Lagares in the fourth.

Garcia’s third postseason start came Monday against Tigers del Licey and included a 24-minute rain delay in the middle of the second inning.

In the first inning, Garcia retired the first two batters — ex-Tigers Sergio Alcantara and Nomar Mazara — but allowed the next four  to reach safely. Peter O’Brien drove in one run with an infield single. The ball deflected off Garcia’s body, but he stayed in the game.

Garcia gave up one run on five hits and one walk in four innings, striking out four batters and throwing 39 of 60 pitches for strikes. He punched out Alcantara, Mazara, Emilio Bonifacio and Kyle Martin.

Estrellas de Oriente scored two runs in the second and six runs in the fourth on the way to an 11-3 win. Garcia was supposed to pitch against 16-year MLB veteran Ervin Santana, but Tigers del Licey scratched Santana with flu-like symptoms.

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 logged a 3.20 ERA in four starts for Triple-A Toledo in 2021.

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Victor Reyes chasing championship

In the Venezuelan Winter League, five teams are in a round-robin competition. Each squad plays 16 games, with the top two teams advancing to the best-of-seven championship series.

Outfielder Victor Reyes is playing for Caribes de Anzoategui, hitting .293 (12-for-41) with five doubles, two triples, one home run, seven RBIs, four walks and eight strikeouts in 10 games in the postseason.

His team has an 8-4 record and is in first place with four contests remaining. The standings: Caribes de Anzoategui (8-4), Cardenales de Lara (7-5), Navegantes del Magallanes (7-5), Tigres de Aragua (5-7), Leones del Caracas (3-9).

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In Reyes’ first three playoff games, he went 7-for-12 (.583) with six extra-base hits. The 27-year-old went 3-for-25 (.120) with one extra-base hit in his next six games. He escaped his slump Tuesday, going 2-for-4 with one double and one strikeout in a 5-2 victory against Cardenales de Lara.

On Sunday, Reyes made a diving catch in right field in a 12-3 loss to Navegantes del Magallanes.

The next day, Caribes de Anzoategui earned a 4-3 win over Cardenales de Lara in extra innings. Reyes finished 1-for-6 with one strikeout. The switch-hitter singled to center field off left-hander Yapson Gomez in the top of the 13th inning and scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch with two outs.

Reyes also 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.

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.

A right groin strain sent Reyes to the injured list Sept. 26 and ended his season.

Joe Jimenez may return to Puerto Rico

Before the Puerto Rican Winter League began its postseason, right-handed reliever Joe Jimenez left his team, Gigantes de Carolina, and traveled to his home in Florida, not far from the Tigers’ spring training complex in Lakeland.

“I decided to come back because I wanted to work out and do stuff over here to get ready because we don’t know when we’re going to start again,” Jimenez, who turns 27 later this month, said Friday. “I just want to be here and get ready for everything.”

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But if Gigantes de Carolina advances to the championship series, Jimenez will consider returning to Puerto Rico. He tossed 6⅔ scoreless innings with zero walks, 10 strikeouts and five saves in six games during the league’s regular season.

“I talked to the team and told them I would probably go back,” Jimenez said. “They’re playing in the playoffs right now. If they make it to the finals. I have to talk to my fiancée and my agent, just to see what’s good for me.”

Gigantes de Carolina trails Indios de Mayaguez, 3-1, in the best-of-seven series in the semifinals.

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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