Detroit Tigers in winter leagues: Rony Garcia, Victor Reyes reach championship series

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers outfielder Victor Reyes is four wins from becoming a champion for Caribes de Anzoategui in the Venezuelan Winter League.

His team faces Navegantes del Magallanes in the best-of-seven championship series, which begins Tuesday. If seven games are needed, the series will conclude Jan. 25.

To get here, five teams played 16 games in the round-robin semifinals. The results: Caribes (10-6), Navegantes (10-6), Cardenales de Lara (9-7), Leones del Caracas (6-10) and Tigres de Aragua (5-11).

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Reyes, 27, played 13 of the 16 games in the round robin, hitting .264 (14-for-53) with five doubles, two triples, one home run, seven RBIs, five walks and nine strikeouts. The switch-hitter produced a .333 on-base percentage and .491 slugging percentage.

He sent three doubles down the right-field line, one to right field and one to left-center. Both of his triples were hit down the left-field line. His only playoff homer — Dec. 27 against Navegantes — traveled over the right-field wall.

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Along with Reyes in right field, the starting lineup for Caribes de Anzoategui features center fielder Rafael Ortega (MLB in 2012, 2016, 2018-19, 2021), third baseman Niuman Romero (MLB from 2009-10), first baseman Willians Astudillo (MLB from 2018-21), second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera (MLB from 2007-21) and catcher Tomas Telis (MLB from 2014-18).

Reyes’ best postseason performance came Dec. 30, when he went 4-for-4 with three doubles, one triple and one walk in an 8-6 win over Leones del Caracas. He recorded two hits across 12 at-bats in his final three games of the round robin, from Thursday through Saturday.

In the Venezuelan Winter League regular season, Reyes hit .295 (13-for-44) with two doubles, one triple, four home runs, 18 RBIs, seven walks and six strikeouts in 12 games.

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.

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Combining Venezuela’s regular season and postseason, Reyes has a .278 batting average (27-for-97) with seven doubles, three triples, five homers, 25 RBIs, 12 walks and 15 strikeouts in 25 games for Caribes de Anzoategui.

Now, Reyes seeks his first championship.

Rony Garcia to start Game 4

Right-hander Rony Garcia boasted a 0.69 ERA in his first three postseason starts for Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican Winter League.

Facing Aguilas Cibaenas on Saturday, the 24-year-old allowed four runs on four hits and two walks across 1⅓ innings. He struck out former UCLA standout Eric Filia to begin a perfect first inning but gave up four runs in the second frame.

Oriente scored its runs in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings for an 11-4 victory despite Garcia’s struggles.

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In four playoff games, Garcia has a 3.14 ERA with eight walks and 11 strikeouts in 14⅔ innings. He 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.

Like Reyes, Garcia could win a championship.

Estrellas de Oriente advanced past the 16-game round-robin phase and into the best-of-seven final series. The results from the semifinals: Oriente (10-6), Gigantes del Cibao (10-6), Tigers del Licey (7-9), Aguilas Cibaenas (5-11).

The championship series between Oriente and Cibao began Monday night. If seven games are required, the series will conclude Jan. 24. Garcia is scheduled to start Friday for Game 4. He is facing the best offense in the Dominican Winter League.

Gigantes del Cibao has catcher Webster Rivas (San Diego Padres), first baseman Henry Urrutia (MLB in 2013, 2015), shortstop Hanser Alberto (MLB from 2015-16, 2018-21), third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez (MLB from 2019-21), left fielder Marcell Ozuna (Atlanta Braves), center fielder Jose Siri (Houston Astros) and designated hitter Juan Francisco (MLB from 2009-14), among other current and former big leagues.

Garcia last pitched against Gigantes del Cibao on Dec. 30, making his first playoff appearance. He posted four scoreless innings with two walks and four strikeouts.

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 across parts of two MLB seasons. He logged a 3.20 ERA in four starts for Triple-A Toledo in 2021.

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

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