Tag Archive | "Brazil"

Groups Unveiled for the U12 Baseball World Cup


The World Baseball Softball Confederation announced the groups for the upcoming U12 Baseball World Cup to take place in Taiwan later this summer. Twelve teams will compete for the title that the US will defend after winning the 2013 edition of the tournament in Taiwan.

The top four nations will compete in the event with the top two, Japan and the USA, competing in the same group for the first stage.

Group A
1. Cuba (World No. 3)
2. Chinese Taipei (No. 4)
3. South Korea (No. 8)
4. Venezuela (No. 10)
5. Brazil (No. 15)
6. Russia (No. 32)

Group B
1. Japan (No. 1)
2. USA (No. 2; Defending U12 World Champions)
3. Mexico (No. 12)
4. Australia (No. 14)
5. Nicaragua (No. 16)
6. France (No. 27)

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Colombia Wins Gold, Peru Bronze at South American Championships


CUIABÁ, Brazil – No. 46 Peru claimed the bronze medal at the 13th South American Championships by defeating No. 29 Argentina 6-2.

This was a big win for the program and helped avenge an earlier round loss. In the opening round, Argentina defeated Peru 23-2. Argentina was the three-time defending champs of the event.

In the gold medal game, No. 19 Colombia defeated No. 15 Brazil to claim the championship. With the win Colombia earned the last spot in the 2015 Pan-American Games to be held in Toronto later this year.

With a 6-4 win, Colombia finished the tournament with an undefeated 6-0 record.

Photo courtesy IBAF.org

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Brazil Faces Colombia in 13th South American Baseball Championship Final


CUIABÁ, Brazil – Host No. 15 Brazil made it to the final of the 13th South American Baseball Championship and will face off with No. 19 Colombia.

Colombia knocked out Peru in the first semifinal by a score of 16-0. Brazil then took care of Argentina 4-2 to face off with Colombia in the championship.

In the opening round Colombia defeated Brazil. The winner of this final game will secure the final spot to the 2015 Pan-Am Games in Toronto later this year.

Peru and Argentina will face off in the bronze medal game. Argentina won their first meeting 23-2.

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The 13th South American Baseball Championships Open in Brazil


CUIABÁ, Brazil – The 13th South American Baseball Championships kicked off this week in Brazil. Competing are five South American teams with the winner gaining the final open spot for the 2015 Pan-Am Games coming up later this year in Toronto.

Competing for the final spot is No. 15 Brazil, No. 19 Colombia, No. 29 Argentina, No. 46 Peru, and No. 69 Bolivia. A total of fourteen games will crown the champion with the final coming up this weekend on Saturday March 7.

Day 1 of the tournament saw host Brazil down Peru 15-5 and Argentina shutting out Bolivia 21-0. Day 2 saw the two winners on Day 1 facing off in what turned out to be a great game with Brazil downing Argentina 2-1. Colombia also got in the win column with a 15-0 six inning win over Bolivia.

South American Championships

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WBC: China Defeats Brazil, Qualifies for 2017 Classic


China Qualifies for 2017 WBC with Dramatic Comeback

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

China used a late rally to stun baseball darlings Brazil and cement their spot in the 2017 World Baseball Classic (WBC). Brazilian relievers walked in three runs in a disastrous eighth inning that gave China a 5-2 victory.

The game started off promisingly for Brazil as start Oscar Nakaoshi looked impressive in his second Classic start. China’s Tao Bu was almost as consistent, but the blue-and-yellow struck first in the second innings.

Daniel Matsumoto was hit by an errant Bu pitch to start the frame and advanced to second on a wild pitch. China caught an unlucky break when J.C. Múñiz struck a soft liner off Bu’s foot which caromed through the shortstop hole while Matsumoto raced around with the first run. Brazil would put another runner on after a Chinese error, but Bu showed his veteran poise in retiring the third out.

China almost evened the score in the bottom of the frame. The hot-hitting Ray Chang ripped a single to deep left centre to lead off the inning. Fujia Chu dropped down a bunt that confused Nakaoshi and third baseman Leonardo Reginatto and Chu beat out what was meant to be a sacrifice.

Wei Wang advanced Chang to third with a long fly to right, but Nakaoshi turned up the heat on the next two batters, striking both out to end the threat.

After exchanging zeroes in the third, Chang gave China another scoring chance in the fourth. The team’s only professional player laced another safety to almost exactly the same spot, but legged out two bases. Chu tried once more to bunt him over, but struck out. Chang moved to third on a wild pitch, but Nakaoshi sent his sixth man of the day down swinging and got a grounder to escape the jam.

Bu would go one inning longer than his opponent before exiting due to pitch count restrictions. He retired the final eight batters he faced, keeping Brazil off-balance with a mixture of breaking pitches and a high-80s/mid-140s fastball. Bu did not walk a batter and collected two strikeouts, failing to go to a three-ball count on a single batter.

After four complete innings, Nakaoshi gave way to Murilo Gouvea, Brazil’s star reliever. Since the start of the WBC in November, Gouvea had thrown 8 2/3 frames and had given up only one run. The right-hander immediately took control against the Chinese lineup.

Gouvea did not allow a hit between the fifth and seventh innings, using a fastball with late movement to blow away the Chinese lineup, hitting the low-90s on several pitches.

In the top of the seventh, Brazil got an insurance run for Gouvea, who looked as if one run would be an impregnable deficit for China to overcome. Tiago Magalhães and Reinaldo Sato started things off with one-base hits against reliever Qingyuan Meng.

The third batter, Múñiz, laid down a perfect bunt toward the third base side of the mound and raced to first, beating out a late throw to load the bases. Diego França scored Magalhães on a grounder and pinch hitter Pedro Okuda walked to load the bases.

New reliever Jiangang Lu, one-of-two veteran hurlers along with Bu, got two consecutive fly balls to left, the first off Paulo Orlando, Brazil’s most experienced hitter.

China could not take advantage in the bottom of the seventh against Gouvea, who picked up two of his strikeouts and needed only nine pitches to finish the frame. Lu also continued his strong work in the eighth, retiring his third through fifth-straight batters.

With both pitchers sailing through the late innings, it appeared that Brazil, who was favoured in the contest, would claim their first guaranteed spot in a Classic. The tone of the contest, however, suddenly altered in the bottom of the eighth.

After retiring six in-a-row, Gouvea gave up an infield single to Weiqiang Meng, but appeared to have righted the ship against the next batter, getting an easy four-pitch strikeout. Brazil’s hurler quickly lost control of the strike zone, walking .111-hitter Xiao Cui on five pitches and then loading the bases on a four-pitch walk to Xu An.

Manager Barry Larkin had seen enough, and called in his closer Thyago Vieira, who was electric against Panamá in November. The 20-year old right-hander entered to face the heart of the order as he had twice in the qualifier. Vieira started off with two balls and then almost hit Lei Li with the third pitch. The concern on his face was obvious, and Larkin stood staring in disbelief in the dugout and Vieira threw a fourth ball to walk in a run.

Next up was Chang, who was 2-for-3 in the game and had the biggest hit in Chinese baseball history in 2009. Chang ripped a three-run homer and two singles to almost singlehandedly defeat Chinese Taipei, but stepped to the plate needing only to push across a single run with one out.

After having been stranded on third to end the second and fourth frames, Chang took matters into his own hands, lining a third consecutive hit to left centre. Cui and An raced home, and China suddenly had its first lead of the 2013 tournament.

Vieira got Chu to erase Chang on a fielder’s choice and needed only one more out to keep the deficit at three. Instead, he hit Wei Wang to reload the bases.

Larkin dipped into the bullpen again, and Hugo Kanabushi took the hill. The southpaw ran the count full against Zhenhong Lu, who was hitless in the Classic before sending him to first on the base on balls. Li scored China’s fourth run, and Kanabushi completed the catastrophe with a four-pitch walk to Meng.

With the bases still loaded and China now up 5-2 despite only two hits in the inning, Larking inserted Daniel Missaki. Missaki, looking every inch of his 16 years of age, did what the others could not do, running a fastball with late-breaking movement on the edge of the plate for a called strike one. After a ball, he got a second strike with the same pitch and then induced a grounder to final end the inning.

All told, China sent 11 men to the plate and drew five free passes and a hit batsman. The three-run lead was more than enough for Lu, who gave up a hit to Sato in the ninth but erased him on a double play, putting an exclamation point on the victory with a strikeout of pinch hitter Alan Fanhoni.

Lu earned the victory with 2 2/3 frames of scoreless relief, scattering a walk and a hit and whiffing a pair. Gouvea, meanwhile, went 3 1/3 innings and surrendered a single hit, but walked three and gave up three hits. He had three Ks.

Chang had three of the red-and-gold’s six safeties. China walked six times, including two by Cui. Sato and Múñiz both had a brace of hits, though Brazil only managed six against what most believed was the thinnest pitching staff in the tournament. Reginatto’s five-game hitting streak ended, though he led Brazil with a .478 average in the WBC. The blue-and-yellow left six runners on base.

China will await their assignment for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, while Brazil will be relegated to the qualifying rounds. After a sweep through the 2012 qualifiers, Brazil’s record in the WBC is now 3-3, while China is 2-7. Stay tuned for news, reviews, and analysis leading up to the next Classic, including all the coverage of this year’s WBC.

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WBC: Brazil vs China Pitching Match Up


This game might not determine who advances to the second round, but it is a big game for both teams. If form holds, the teams that go winless will have to qualify once again in 2017. That is how Brazil got to the WBC this season, and they would rather not have to do it again.

Brazil

Oscar Nakaoshi will get the nod for Brazil. The left-handed pitcher spent five years in the Brazilian Baseball Federation’s training facility in Ibiuna, Sao Paulo. He moved to Japan at the age of 18 to play for Hakouh University.

In 2012, he was the MVP of the Kanto Region in only his second year of college. In 2013, he will play in the Industrial League for Honda.

He thew four shutout innings against Colombia in the Panama City Qualifier allowing just five hits and two walks.

China

China has not announced who they will start against Brazil.

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WBC: Brazil Loses Another Close One to Cuba


Jiménez, Iglesías Silence Brazil’s Bats in Cuban Victory

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Cuba avoided an early no-hit bid by Brazilian pitcher Andre Rienzo and finally broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning. The top-ranked team in the world would go on to win 5-2, dropping baseball Cinderella Brazil to 0-2 in the World Baseball Classic.

Cuba was supposed to rely on its sluggers to propel them easily out of Pool A and into the second round, but then Brazil was never supposed to be in the World Baseball Classic to begin with. After three consecutive upsets in qualifying and giving No. 3 Japan a good scare in game one of the Classic, many of Brazil’s doubters had begun to take them seriously.

No one, though, could have predicted it would hold one of the world’s best offences hitless for 4 1/3 innings and force Cuba to rely on sacrifice bunts and the hit-and-run to score.

Rienzo got off to a wild start, walking two in the first inning. He gave up a third base on balls in the second, working around a runner on third with only one out to get out the jam.

Cuban ace Ismel Jiménez looked more in command, though he hit a batter in the first inning and got into trouble himself in the second. With one out, Tiago Magalhães stroked a double to left center and J.C. Múñiz followed with a one-base knock. After a strikeout, Múñiz was caught stealing second and Jiménez was out of the predicament.

By this point, Rienzo had settled down, retiring the side in order in the third and fourth. Though Jiménez had his K ball working, Brazil looked like it would threaten in third, as Felipe Burin and qualifier MVP Leonardo Reginatto both rapped singles up the middle. Rienzo buckled down on Daniel Matsumoto, Brazil’s cleanup hitter, and induced a fly out to end the threat.

The out seemed to focus Cuba’s starter, who needed only 11 pitches to get out of the fourth.

The red-and-blue finally solved Rienzo in the fifth. José Fernández, who leads the Cuban National Series in average (.393), worked a walk and took third one out later on a single by the nine-hole hitter, Bárbaro Arruebarruena.

Rienzo was up against the pitch limit, and leadoff hitter Guillermo Heredia would be his last before WBC rules forced him out of the game. The tension built as Heredia worked the count full, and on the decisive pitch, Rienzo induced a ground ball to the right of second that looked ideal for a twin killing.

Instead, Burin, the second baseman, took too long to get to the bag, and Arruebarruena, who had been moving on the hit-and-run play, was safe. Burin could only direct the flip from Márcio Tanaka to first for a single out. Fernández scored on the mental error, giving Cuba the 1-0 lead.

With a second chance in the frame, Alexei Bell greeted reliever Ernesto Noris with a run-scoring single to plate Arruebarruena. After stealing second, Noris generated a fly ball from superstar Yuliesky Gourriel to get out of the inning with the score at 2-0.

Jiménez finally ran out of pitches after two quick outs in the bottom of the fifth, but Freddy Álvarez entered and got the third out.

Barry Larkin called in Gabriel Asakura, a college hurler, to face the 4-5-6 hitters, no doubt hoping to recapture some of the magic from the righty’s appearance in Panamá City when he struck out 5-of-8 batters. Instead, future Cuban Hall-of-Famer Frederich Cepeda ripped a single to left and moved up a base on José Dariel Abreu’s single. Asakura then hit Alfredo Despaigne before he was yanked.

Hugo Kanabushi was the next pitcher out of the ‘pen and gave up a run on a ground ball that erased Abreu. After a single reloaded the bases, Larkin replaced the southpaw with Kesley Kondo. Kondo promptly gave up a two-run single to Arruebarrueno and the Cuba lead grew to five.

Kondo would get the second out, but after walking Bell, Larkin would dip into his bullpen for the fourth time in the inning and bring out Carlos Yoshimura. Yoshimura, who had a standout performance in the 2003 Baseball World Cup, struck out Gourriel, but the damage had been done.

Brazil showed plenty of pluck when they came to bat in the bottom of the sixth. Burin worked a walk and Reginatto tapped a ball to the left side that advanced Burin, but reached safely when Abreu dropped the throw.

With Cuba breathing new life into the blue-and-gold attack, Matsumoto struck for his first hit in the tourney, knocking home Burin on the infield single between first and second. Reginatto showed heads-up baserunning, scampering to third.

Reinaldo Sato stepped in against Álvarez, who promptly stopped the rally with a tailor-made 5-4-3 double play. Reginatto scored on the grounder, but Brazil had palpably lost the momentum. The Cuban hurler got Magalhães to ground out and end the threat.

Yoshimura gave up a single to Cepeda and a double to pinch hitter Yasmany Tomás, but got a strikeout and a ground out to escape the jam.

Múñiz was the first man up in the seventh for Brazil, and ripped a ball down the left field line for what appeared to be a double. After reaching second, new Cuban pitcher Raciel Iglesías threw to the second baseman Fernández, and the umpire singled the out. It was revealed that Múñiz had missed first base on his sprint to second, though replays were inconclusive at best.

The further blow to Brazil’s confidence was obvious, and Iglesías settled down to retire seven of the next eight batters, five on strikeouts. Yoshimura and Thyago Vieira each threw a scoreless inning for Brazil to end the contest in favour of Cuba, 5-2.

Jiménez, who paces the Cuban circuit in wins this season, earned the victory with 4 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out six. He did not walk a batter and scattered four hits. Álvarez earned a hold in his inning and one-third, though he allowed a walk, a hit, and two unearned runs. Iglesías more than earned the save with three scoreless frames, striking out the side in the ninth.

“Jimenez made pitches when he had to,” observed Larkin frankly in the post-game press conference.

Larkin used seven pitchers to evade the Cuban attack, which did have only one extra base hit. Rienzo took the loss despite give up one hit in 4 2/3 innings as he walked four and allowed two runs to score. He whiffed two. Blue-and-gold hurlers walked five and hit two batters.

Matsumoto was the only Brazilian to garner two hits, though he left three men on base. Burin reached base in two plate appearances, while Reginatto extended his WBC hitting streak to five games. Leadoff hitter Paulo Orlando struck out three times.

It is worth noting that Múñiz and Noris were the first Cuban defectors to ever face their homeland in a baseball game. Both played for several years in the National Series before leaving for Brazil.

Arruebarruena, in his first appearance with the national team, stroked two hits and plated a pair, scoring once. Cepeda was the only other Cuban hitter with a hitting brace. The top three hitters in the lineup were 1-for-13 and left nine men on base.

“Once again, it was a very competitive ballgame,” commented Larkin. “They came up with a couple big hits.”

Brazil will face China on Mar. 5 at 8 a.m. GMT. The blue-and-gold must win the game to avoid relegation to the qualifying rounds. A win would ensure that the team will appear in the 2017 WBC. Stay tuned for more news, reviews, and analysis.

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WBC: Cuba vs Brazil Pitching Match Ups


Game 1 of the day from the 2013 World Baseball Classic, or it might be the final game of the day depending on where you are located, features Brazil and Cuba. Brazil is coming off a heartbreaking loss to Japan after leading the game late. So let’s take a look at the starting pitchers for each team.

Brazil

Andre Rienzo was signed by the Chicago White Sox in 2006 and has moved through the system over the years. In 2012, Rienzo spent most of the season with Double-A Brimingham, but was called up to Triple-A Charlotte for the final week of the season. In 2012, he compiled a 7-3 record in 18 games pitching 103.1 innings. He is a strikeout pitcher averaging more than a strikeout per inning at each level in 2012.

Rienzo started the opening game of the Panama City Qualifier against the host team Panama but didn’t factor into Brazil’s 3-2 win.

Cuba

Ismel Jimenez will get the nod for Cuba and is appearing in his second WBC. He is a former infielder and has been a star of the Sancti Spiritus of the Cuban National Series since 2007.

The right-hander posted a 17-5 record for Sancti in 2012 posting an ERA of 2.48 in 185 innings of work.

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WBC: Japan Scores Late to Defeat Brazil


Brazil held the lead and the baseball world’s attention into the 8th inning of their first World Baseball Classic game against Japan. They looked to keep their momentum from their upset of Panama in the qualifier, but they came up a little short in Fukuoka Saturday night.

Brazil got the scoring started in the bottom of the first inning. Lead off hitter Paulo Orlando singled into the hole between first and second base. Japanese second baseman Takashi Toritani ranged deep to his left to stop the ball but his throw, which was late, hit the runner and bounced away allowing Orlando to take second base. That would turn out to be huge. After a fly ball to right field moved him to third base, Orlando scored the first run on a single to left by Leonardo Reginatto.

Brazilian starter Rafael Fernandes struggled with his command early on. He either couldn’t find his release point or the ball was slipping a little but, but he was high way too often to start the game. However, he dodged a few walks to get out of the first two innings unscathed.

Trouble resurfaced in the third though. After a lead off hit by Hayato Sakamoto, Fernandes once again lost his control hitting a batter to put a pair of runners on base for Yoshito Itoi who didn’t waste time tying the game at one with a single to right field. But Fernandes settled down and got out of the inning without any further damage.

Masahiro Tanaka pitched well for Japan. He tossed two innings giving up one unearned run on four hits. He didn’t look bad, but didn’t look overpowering either.

Japan found the scoreboard again in the fourth inning. Brazil reliever Murilo Gouvea walked the second batter of the inning, Ryoji Aikawa who was quickly moved to third base on a sharp single down the left field line by Nobuhiro Matsuda. Then with runners at the corners, Sakamoto hit a sacrifice fly to left field driving in Aikawa to give Japan a 2-1 lead.

Reginatto once again played a big part in a Brazil rally leading off the bottom of the fourth inning with a double. He would later score on a single up the middle by Reinaldo Sato.

The game wouldn’t stay tied long though. In the bottom of the 5th inning, Brazil would take the lead once again. It all started on a perfectly executed bunt single by Orlando. He followed that up with stealing second base, and with two outs Reginatto once again comes up big. This time he doubles in the go ahead run.

Brazil led 3-2 for two innings, and it looked like they might hold on for the huge upset. But it wasn’t to be. In the 8th inning, Japan rallied scoring three runs to take the lead. And that is how it would finish with Japan victorious 5-3.

In that 8th inning rally, Hirokazu Ibata singled in the tying run. Then with the bases loaded, star catcher Shinnosuke Abe pinch hit but was only able to ground out driving in a single run.

Oscar Nakaoshi took the loss for Brazil after looking really good for an inning. He gave up two runs in 1.1 innings of relief.

Tadashi Settsu picked up the win with three innings of relief. He allowed one run on two hits while striking out four. Kazuhisa Makita pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.

Brazil will turn around and play early tomorrow against another powerhouse, Cuba. Japan will play Sunday night against China.

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World Baseball Classic Preview – Team Brazil


Brazil Attempts to Continue Improbable Run

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Fifth in a series of 2013 World Baseball Classic Previews

One of the greatest underdog stories of recent baseball memory came in November 2012 courtesy of Brazil, the fifth largest country in the world. Well known for its skills at football and volleyball, the South American country has only been participating in global baseball tournaments for than 20 years. Brazil stunned the baseball world by sweeping through the toughest bracket in the 2012 World Baseball Classic (WBC) Qualifiers and earning a spot in the 2013 Classic.

Brazilian Baseball History
Baseball was first played in the 1910s by American workers on short-term projects in Brazil, but did not catch on until Japanese workers began immigrating to São Paulo. Many then moved to the coffee plantations in northeast Brazil. It is there and in the richer parts of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro that the game flourishes today. By the 1920s, leagues had formed around the railways that linked the plantations.

Particularly in the north, the game is played by communities with Japanese traditions, and until the last few years had a much stronger connection to Japan.  In fact, Brazil has the largest population of Japanese in any nation other than Japan. São Paulo is behind only Tokyo as the city with the most Japanese residents.

Baseball does not yet have a domestic professional league, but if any nation is ripe for the growth of the sport, it is Brazil, a nation of almost 200 million people.   Despite ranking far behind volleyball and basketball in popularity among team sports, the national confederation claims 30,000 players in the country and a growing international connection.

“We’re playing for honor, for the name on our shirt,” stated former national team pitcher Marcelo Arai, as he gestured to his jersey in an interview with the New York Times.  The veterinary student continued, “We’re not playing for money or fame, because the truth is that we often pay out of our own pockets to be able to play.”

As Arai indicated, facilities for the sport vary widely.  According to a report by the online arm of The Globe, in parts of the country, baseball is played on futebol fields with “bases [made] from cushions”.  On the other hand, Brazil boasts one notable baseball academy in Ibiúna, funded by Japan’s Yakult Swallows.  The Tampa Bay Rays were in talks to build a second complex, but talks fell apart in 2011.  At least half a dozen MLB scouts still attend major domestic tournaments, though.

Major League Baseball International has successfully staged its Elite Camp in 2011 and 2012, which is led by Brazil’s manager for the World Baseball Classic, Hall-of-Famer Barry Larkin.  Elite Camps involve intense instruction by big league players and coaches and have been held on six continents with more than 300 players having signed professional contracts with MLB organisations.

“If there is a kid that has tremendous ability, then maybe we can create the Ronaldo or the Pelé in baseball, an iconic figure that the country gets behind,” Larkin told the online edition of Dawn in arguing that Brazil can generate high-level prospects.

Cuban-imported coaches agree.  “There is an awful lot of talent here,” Juan Yáñez, the pitching coach for the national junior team told the New York Times. “It just needs to be polished.”

This dramatic increase in foreign investment is coupled with an emphasis by the Brazilian government on augmenting their profile in world sport in conjunction with the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.  Foreign coaches have been pouring into the country on federal contracts with the hope of improving the nation’s ranking in top world tournaments.  Despite being dropped from the Olympic programme, baseball still receives attention because of its popularity in Asia and the Americas.

There are currently 14 Brazilian born players in the United States, headlined by Yan Gomes, recently traded by the Toronto Blue Jays to the Cleveland Indians.  That number may not sound noteworthy when compared to the other countries in the WBC, but consider that only 19 athletes trained in Brazil have ever signed professional baseball contracts and the number becomes much more impressive.

Additionally, more than 30 compete in Japanese and Taiwanese leagues, according to Olivio Sawasato, vice president of the baseball federation in Brazil.  Three of those are on top clubs in the NPBL.

The swelling numbers of Brazilian baseball players is important in a country that is still trying to establish the sport at a local level.  Everaldo Marques, an ESPN broadcaster for the Brazil’s weekly Sunday MLB game, reflected to the New York Times on the significance of each player signed to a US contract: “Brazilians like rooting for their fellow countrymen, so once we get a Brazilian playing in Major League Baseball, that will help popularize the sport.”

Gomes became the first Brazilian in the big leagues when he debuted May 17, 2012 for the Blue Jays, but will miss the WBC after being traded to the Cleveland Indians just before the qualifying tournament. Gomes is attempting to crack the Indians’ Opening Day roster and has remained in spring training.

The catcher’s bat and experience behind the plate will be sorely missed. A career .287 hitter with an OPS over .800 in the minors, Gomes earned his first major league hit in his second at bat, and his first four-bagger a day later.  He finished with a .204/.264/.367 line in 43 games, playing four positions.  Gomes totalled four home runs in only 98 at bats.

“Growing up in Brazil you would never think of [playing in the majors],” expressed Gomes after his debut. “Coming out here and having it, it seems like it happened so fast, so I definitely have to take it in. I’m really proud of it. It’s an honour to represent my country.”

Gomes’ career and Brazil’s success in November may be just the catalyst needed for baseball to see a surge of popularity. After Larkin’s men swept the qualifiers, beisebol was a top-100 trending word on Twitter in Brazil, and the preparations for the main draw have elicited some excitement in the country.

“The community of baseball fans in Brazil is still limited but it can develop and it can grow,” Larkin told Terra recently. “It doesn’t happen overnight. I know that traditionally this is the country of soccer, but Brazil is also strong in other sports, such as volley, so the hope is that we can recruit athletes to play our sport in the future.”

Brazil in International Tournaments
Though the country played in four Pan-American Games (PAG) between 1951 and 1983 and sent a team to the Amateur World Series (later renamed the Baseball World Cup) in 1972, it did not truly begin competing with top-level talent until 1995.

That year, Brazil played once more in the PAG, but also in the Intercontinental Cup, a minor world championship, finishing fifth.   It was another seven years before Brazil competed in a global tournament, but has been regular participants since.  The quality of the Brazilian national team has risen in the last decade thanks to an agreement with Cuba that allows Cuban coaches to assist with development of the game in Brazil.

Cuba almost tasted the fruit of their success in the 2003 Baseball World Cup.  Brazil advanced all the way to the quarterfinals in the competition and faced perennial titans Cuba in the round.  The blue-and-gold nearly pulled off what would have been one of the greatest upsets in international baseball history, needing only three outs to secure a 3-2 victory.  Brazil’s bullpen could not hold Cuba, who rallied for a 4-3 win and eventually, the Cup title.  Brazil settled for seventh in 8-3 decision over a weak South Korean side.

The blue-and-gold competed in a number of events over the next five years. The highlight was when Brazil hosted the South American Baseball Championship in 2005, defeating Venezuela to earn the continental title.

Brazil had a lull in international competition from 2009-11.  In 2010, the team did not enter teams in the South American Games or Baseball World Cup Qualifying Round.  Despite this, in 2011 Brazil was rated the eighth-best team by COPABE, the governing body for baseball in the Americas, mostly on the body of work in amateur and youth tournaments.  They also climbed five places up the world rankings to No. 33.

They rose five places in the IBAF ratings in 2012, but no one could have predicted Brazil’s dominant performance in the WBC qualifying round. Brazil did not even field a team for the South American Championship and was expected to bow out quickly in a qualifier that had Panamá, Colómbia, and Nicaragua.

In the opener, Brazil set the theme for the rest of the qualifying tournament. Each game featured a starting pitcher who battled through a few innings, a lineup that took advantage of scoring opportunities, and a youthful bullpen which mowed down vastly more experienced hitters.

Against Panamá in game one, it was Rienzo who started, while Paulo Orlando and Leonardo Reginatto with key hits. Murilo Gouvea (single-A), Kesley Kondo (University of Utah), and Thyago Vieira (rookie league) who disposed of a mostly major league lineup.

Reginatto, who played the last two years in low-A ball, was the hero again in game two. He rapped three of Brazil’s 11 hits, while Oscar Nakaoshi kept Colómbia off the scoreboard through four. Larkin then expertly used his bullpen once more.

Gabriel Asakura, who pitches for California State University at Los Angeles, whiffed five in 2 2/3 innings before Rafael Moreno (17 years old) and Daniel Missaki (16) got the last four batters to seal Brazil’s second victory.

Orlando and Reginatto teamed up again in the final, combining for five hits. Orlando scored what would be the winning run in the third inning on a single by Brazil’s first major leaguer, Yan Gomes. Rafael Fernándes tossed six shutout frames in the start, and Gouvea and Vieira shut down Panamá the rest of the way. Vieira earned his second save by striking out sluggers Carlos Lee and Rubén Rivera with runners on second and third.

Brazil hit .316 with a .746 OPS as a team, scoring only a third of the amount of runs the other three qualifying teams did. All of their offensive numbers were less than Canada, Chinese Taipei, and Spain, but they were second only to Taiwan in most pitching categories. Brazilian hurlers had a 0.67 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP, striking out seven per nine innings.

The Lineup
Larkin himself may be the key to Brazil’s success. The first-time manager pushed exactly the right buttons in Panamá. The Hall-of-Famer looked particularly astute against a loaded Panamanian team with home field advantage in a stadium named after the country’s best player (Rod Carew). The hopes of a nation are firmly pinned on his capable shoulders, and Brazil could pick up an upset with the right calls to the bullpen and platoon partners in the outfield.

With Brazil’s superstar out of the lineup, the veteran core of the blue-and-gold order will have to lead the team. Paulo Orlando will continue to occupy the leadoff spot, while the leadership of Daniel Matsumoto, Reinaldo Sato, and Tiago Magalhães will prove vital to Brazil’s chances.

Orlando was the first Brazilian named to a 40-man roster when the Kansas City Royals added the 27-yeard old in 2012 after a 2011-12 winter ball campaign in Panamá that saw him named the postseason MVP.

Before being acquired by the Royals, Orlando was named the fastest baserunner and best defensive outfielder in the Chicago White Sox system.  A former youth track star, Orlando is a career .270/.319/.403 hitter with 158 stolen bases.   He has been named an All-Star in the Texas Double-A League.

Orlando has played in two tournaments for Brazil, collecting three hits and two steals in 12 at bats during the 2007 Pan Am tourney. He was 4-for-12 with a triple in November.

Matsumoto has a .256/.304/.335 over 11 seasons for the Yakult Swallows of NPB, Japan’s big league circuit.   The veteran mans first base for Brazil.   In 2002, Matsumoto was the leading hitter for Brazil in the Intercontinental Cup and also made the All-Star Team.  He thumped the ball for a .450/.522/.950 line, stole three bases, and had six of Brazil’s 15 RBIs.  He was 3-for-11 in the WBC qualifier.

Sato first donned the blue-and-gold in 1999, playing regularly since then. He was the top hitter on Brazil’s 2003 World Cup squad, recording a . 324/.395/.622 line. Sato replicated the production in the 2008 Olympic Qualifying Tournament, recording a mark of .300/.391/.650. He was 4-for-11 in Panamá City. The second sacker was named best at his position in the industrial leagues in 2010.

Tiago Magalhães has been the most productive player internationally for Brazil.  The outfielder played for five years in the Cincinnati Reds’ minor league system, hitting .227.  Despite his US career, Magalhães is the closest thing that Brazil has to a clutch hitter, as his exploits while wearing the blue-and-gold are almost legendary.

In the 2003 World Cup, Magalhães 8-of-40 (.200), but registered a double and four home runs for a .525 slugging percentage.  He scored eight runs and drove in 10 in seven games.  Two years later, his performance was even more exemplary as he recorded a .414/.500/.621 line, driving in six in eight contests.  Magalhães was 3-for-3 against Bronze Medal-winning Panamá and was named to the All-Star team.

Magalhães did not disappoint in the qualifying tournament for the 2008 Olympics, during which he stroked the ball for a .391/.391/.870 line that included three dingers and six RBIs in five games.  Later that year, he played in the Pan American Games, but was only 1-for-6 in part-time duty, though the single hit was the aforementioned four-bagger in the win over Nicaragua. The veteran did not disappoint in the qualifiers, ripping two doubles in five at bats, driving in one.

If Gomes had most of the spotlight leading into the qualifiers, Reginatto stole most of it from him by the end of the tourney. Reginatto is in his fourth minor league season for Tampa Bay.  He was a New York-Penn League All-Star after hitting .267/.317/.325, which was in line with his career averages. The utility infielder tied New Zealand’s Scott Campbell for best batting average in the qualifying tournaments, lacing a .583/.615/.667 line.

The rest of Brazil’s infield has one thing in common with Reginatto: their youth.  Pedro Okuda, 22, will man shortstop.  Felipe Burin is at the hot corner.  Marcio Tanaka is the only experienced backup, with the other three reserves averaging 20 years of age.

Okuda moved to Japan for secondary school and competed in the prestigious K?shien high school tournament.  Like a number of Brazil’s other players, the middle infielder shows good plate discipline.  Also in the Mariners’ organisation, Okuda has a career on-base percentage of .392 and had a strong 2012.  The middle infielder spent most of the season at second in the Venezuelan Rookie League and stroked a .274/.381/.374 mark in 56 games.

Burin, though a little old for rookie league at 20, has put up solid numbers over 222 minor league games for the Seattle Mariners.  Though he had a disappointing 2012, hitting only .214/.320/.255, Burin shows great plate discipline and has a career on-base percentage of .400, to go with a .303 average and a little pop.  In 2011, he was named the Venezuelan Rookie League Position Player of the Year and accumulated a .350 average over two minor league stops.

With the exception of Gomes, Brazilian team’s lineup should remain mostly static from November.

Paulo Orlando – CF
Leonardo Reginatto – 3B
Reinaldo Sato – DH
Daniel Matsumoto – 1B
J.C. Muñiz – RF
Felipe Burin – 2B
Jean Tome/Tiago Magalhães – LF
Bruno Hirata – C
Pedro Okuda – SS

Brazil’s Pitching Staff
Without a true power source and with a number of inexperienced hitters, Brazil must continue to receive strong pitching.  The nation is traditionally known more for developing pitchers, and will feature a legitimate number one starter in Andre Rienzo.

Rienzo, 24, was signed by the White Sox out of São Paulo in 2007 and has moved steadily through the system.  The right-hander was tabbed to the Carolina League All-Star Team in 2011, a season which saw him throw 116 innings and strike out 118.

In 2012, he spent most of the year in Double-A, starting 18 games across three levels.  All told, Rienzo was 7-3 with a 2.53 ERA, dropping his career mark to 3.30.  He whiffed 9.8 batters per nine innings, equalling his career record.  For his last start of the regular season, the No. 18 prospect for the Pale Hose was promoted to Triple-A, and impressed, tossing 6 2/3 shutout innings, striking out 10 batters.

Rienzo continued his campaign in the prestigious Arizona Fall League (AFL), a circuit known for high batting averages and ERAs to match.  Earning a spot as a starter, he was 1-1 with a 4.74 ERA and, despite struggling with his command, whiffed almost a batter per inning.  Early reports from the AFL tabbed him as the fifth-best prospect, a tremendous honour.

Rienzo can run his fastball into the mid-90s and has a strong curveball and cut fastball.  He is very difficult to take out of the park, having allowed only 16 homers in six seasons.  This will be crucial as he has been given the starting nod against a talented Cuban side ranked No. 1 in the world.

Brazil’s top starter does have three starts in international events, going 0-2 with a 4.26 ERA in the 2008 Americas Baseball Cup.  He was dominant against Nicaragua, giving up two runs in 6 2/3 innings with 8 Ks, but Brazil was no-hit.  All told, Rienzo had 16 Ks in 12 2/3 frames. In the autumn, he struggled through 3 2/3 frames against Panamá, walking five and giving up four hits, though he allowed only two runs, one earned.

The blue-and-gold’s other frontline starter is Rafael Fernándes. The right-hander was drafted by Yakult in 2008 after hitting 94 mph/151 kmh on the radar gun. He has spent most of his career in the minor leagues, and has an 8.31 ERA in 13 innings for the Swallows. Fernándes has been on Brazil’s staff since 2003, though his best performance came against Panamá in November’s championship contest.

Brazil’s best reliever is Murilo Gouvea, also signed by the White Sox and since traded to the Houston Astros.  He has worked mostly out of the bullpen in six seasons, amassing a 4.77 ERA in 330 1/3 innings.

Gouvea’s most recent season at age 24 was his best, as he threw 77 2/3 innings, striking out 87, walking 29 and claiming a 3.71 ERA.  The right-hander will continue to be called on for key outs in the middle and late innings, especially with a career average of 10.3 strikeouts per nine frames.  Gouvea drew raves for his performance at the qualifier, tossing 5 2/3 shutout innings over two appearances, whiffing five to go with a 0.53 WHIP.

Beyond Rienzo, Fernandes, and Gouvea, the pitching staff is full of unknown quantities, though Larkin managed the bullpen with a magic touch.  The average age of the hurlers is only 23, with only one older than 28.  This may well work to Brazil’s advantage, as most of the players for the other three countries in the bracket have at least some familiarity with each other.  Four Brazilian hurlers to watch will be Oscar Nakaoshi, Gabriel Asakura, Rafael Moreno, and Daniel Missaki.

Nakaoshi is one of three college arms on Brazil’s roster.  In 2010, he was MVP of the Kanto Region, a top collegiate honour.  The southpaw set Hakuoh University’s career victory mark at 28, and had ERAs of 1.04 and 1.18 in his second and third years.  He is the third pitcher on the roster, after Fernándes and Hugo Kanabushi, to attend the university. Nakaoshi has a 1.08 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in international competition.

If Gomes was Brazil’s best-ever college hitter (a .440 career mark), Asakura has earned the label for pitchers.  After a solid junior college debut, the right-hander burst onto the collegiate baseball scene with a 7-2, 1.38 campaign for California State University-Los Angeles in 2011.  Asakura followed that with a 7-3 record and a 2.71 ERA.  Between the two seasons, he has 11 complete games, four shutouts, and has whiffed 135 in 141 2/3 frames. The right-hander was almost untouchable in the qualifying round, fanning 5-of-8 hitters.

Moreno turned some heads with his Dominican Rookie League performance in 2012.  Only 17, the righty won his team’s Rookie of the Year Award after compiling a 3.86 ERA in 65 1/3 innings.  Moreno struck out 59 and walked 22, giving up only 56 hits. He appeared once in November, getting two key outs near the end of the title game.

Missaki is 16 years old and the youngest player ever in the World Baseball Classic. Missaki pitches for Pett’s Nippon Blue Jays. They were the 2012 Cup Champions at an invitational tournament at the Ibiúna complex, Missaki was named Best Player and Best Pitcher, but his performance there paled in comparison to the two outs he got against Jolbert Cabrera and Luís Martínez of Panamá, both of whom have MLB experience.

World Baseball Classic Pool A
Brazil, at No. 20 the lowest-ranked team in the 2013 Classic, has been grouped with two of the top three countries in the world. To advance to the second round, they will have to defeat either No. 1 Cuba or No. 3 Japan, while also nabbing a win against No. 18 China.

In earning a draw that includes their baseball parents, their secret weapon has been likely been neutralised. Their Caribbean opponents were clearly mystified by their unique blend of Japanese- and Cuban-style play, and none of them took Brazil seriously. The blue-and-gold no longer have the element of surprise, so it will be up to Larkin to get the most out of his club.

“Our strategy is our strategy, no matter who we play, where we play or when we play,” explained Larkin to Extra Time. “Our philosophy will remain the same, and it is what can make us victorious. The players know that there is an emphasis on doing the little things well to succeed in the game. We are what we are, do what we do, and we have to do well to win.”

Brazil warmed up for the main draw of the WBC with a pair of exhibitions against Japanese clubs. On Feb. 26, they were defeated by the Orix Buffaloes, 9-2. Two days later, the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks topped them 2-0.

Reginatto had a hit in each game, though he struck out three times. Orlando rapped a double, but Brazilian pitchers walked 18 in 16 frames and allowed seven stolen bases, exposing the void left by Gomes. Gouvea and Asakura both hurled two shutout innings apiece.

After their success in Panamá City and training against NPB teams, they will continue their trial by fire against Japan in the opening game of Pool A. Fernándes will oppose Masahiro Tanaka of Japan’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. Tanaka is two years’ his junior, but has already won Eiji Sawamura Award in 2011 as the Japanese pitcher of the year.

First pitch is at 10 a.m. GMT on Mar. 2 in the Tokyo Dome. It is only the second time Brazil has ever played Japan, with the other contest resulting in an 8-2 victory for Japan in the 2003 World Cup.

The road does not get any easier, as the blue-and-gold will test Cuba on Mar. 4 at 2:30 a.m. GMT. Brazil first played their fellow COPABE (Confederaciòn Panamericana de Béisbol, the governing body of baseball in the Americas) members in 1951 at the Pan American Games, and have lost all 12 of their contests since then. Rienzo will start for Brazil.

The final matchup in the pool may turn out to be the most important for Brazil. If the world rankings and past history are indicative, the game promises to be evenly contested. Separated by only two places on the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) charts, the two nations have split their two previous fixtures, with Brazil winning a 4-0 decision in the 2003 World Cup and China avenging itself 2-1 in the 2005 edition.

While Larkin will certainly expect his men to play for wins against the heavyweights in his group, it is almost certain that the loser of the Brazil-China game will be relegated to the qualifying round of the 2017 tournament. A guaranteed position would do much for the growth of baseball in either country. The two nations will tangle at 8 a.m. GMT on Mar. 5.

For a more extensive look at the Brazilian side, check out the full preview at Extra Innings: Baseball Around the World. Stay tuned for more news, previews, and recaps of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Posted in Latin America, TournamentsComments (0)

WBC: Japan vs Brazil Pitching Match Up


Pool A of the 2013 World Baseball Classic kicks off today with Japan playing host to the young and upstart Team Brazil.

The game is just a short time away, so let’s take a look at the starting pitchers for each team.

Japan

Masahiro Tanaka will take the hill for Japan. Tanaka pitches for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPB). He was drafted in the first round in 2006 by Rakuten and quickly made a name for himself winning the 2007 Pacific League Rookie of the Year Award. He led the league in ERA in 2011 (1.27)  posting the first sub 1.30 ERA since 1970 when he won 19 games, also leading the league. That year he won the Eiji Sawamura Award, which is given to the top pitcher in the NPB each year.

This past season he led the Pacific League in strikeouts (169) and was second in ERA (1.87). He is a five-time All-Star and a two-time Gold Glove winner.

He has international experience pitching in both the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. In the 2009 Classic he pitched in four games out of the bullpen. This time around he heads into the Classic as one of the top starters on the two-time defending champion team.

Brazil

Brazil will start Rafael Fernandes who was the winner in the final game of the Panama City Qualifier defeating Panama to advance. Fernandes tossed six shutout innings in that start to earn the win and help Brazil move on.

The young right-hander studied at the Brazilian Baseball Federation’s training center in Ibiuna, Sao Paulo from 2002-2005. He moved to Japan to play at Hakuoh University in 2006 and would later sign with the second division team of the Yakult Swallows in 2009.

He has made 10 appearances for the Central League’s Yakult Swallows of the NPB over the past two seasons pitching just 13 innings.

Posted in Tournaments, NewsComments (0)

Brazil: UCENS Starts Path to Baseball


The UCENS has started the Caminho de Beisebol or Path to Baseball in Brazil.

The UCENS is a Japanese-Brazilian culture and sports association. It will be introducing the sport to students aged 12-18 in 80 schools as well as 21 universities.

The goal of the program is to start three different tournaments ranging from beginners to college students.

The program could use your help as well. Baseball equipment is needed and you can find more information on there website at UCENS.com.br (the site is in Portuguese).

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Posted in Latin AmericaComments (0)

Brazil: Outfielder Paulo Orlando Might Start Season in Triple A


OMAHA – Only two players from Brazil have made it to the Triple A level in baseball. A third might start the season there this year.

Paulo Orlando, an outfielder from Sao Paulo, was optioned to AAA Omaha recently. It looks as though Orlando might start the season with the Storm Chasers if either Gregor Blanco or Jarrod Dyson start the year with the Kansas City Royals.

Orlando spent last season in AA with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals where he hit .305 with 13 home runs, 65 RBI, and 25 stolen bases. This is his 6th year in the minor leagues having spent his first three with the Chicago White Sox organization before being traded late in 2008.

The previous two Brazilian players to reach AAA were Jo Matumoto with Syracuse in 2008 and Jose Pett with Syracuse and Calgary in 1996/1997. Both were pitchers.

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Posted in Latin America, MinorsComments (0)

Brazil: MLB to host Elite Camp


Major League Baseball in Brazil
January 26, 2011

It was confirmed in January that instructors from Major League Baseball International will be teaching practical and theoretical courses on February 21st through the 24th in Ibiúna, and on February 25 in Sao Paulo. There will be about 10 to 12 instructors and more MLBI Directors present for this great event. They will probably be accompanied by MLB scouts from various teams. MLBI calls the event “One Week Elite Camp in Brazil” and it has been planned for almost two years.

The CBBS is required to select 50 of the best athletes in Brazil between the ages 15 to 17 and potential, as this clinic will be of the highest technical  level. Two of the best athletes in this age group from Argentina, Peru and Ecuador will also be participating. On February 25, 2011, at the Municipal Stadium of Bom Retiro a “Media Showcase Day” will be held. Where MLBI intends to unveil to the Brazilian press and international baseball and thereby demonstrating the potential of Brazilian and other South American athletes. The purpose of these MLBI clinics is to develop and discover new talent for
the Big Leagues as they have athletes from all over the world.

Lists of Athletes and Coaches selected to participate in “One Week Elite Camp in Brazil”, sponsored by MLBI

• Elias Sosa – Pitching Coach
He played in MLB from 1972 to 1983 with San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Diego

• Barry Larkin – Infield Coach
He played in MLB from 1986 to 2004 with Cincinnati

• Bob Didier – Catchers Coach
He played in MLB from 1969 to 1974 with Atlanta, Detroit and Boston

• Bruce Hurst – Pitching Coach
He played in MLB from 1980 to 1994 with Boston and San Diego.

• Wally Joyner – Batting Coach
He played in MLB from 1986 to 2001 with California, Kansas City, San Diego and Atlanta.

Forty-nine athletes and ten coaches were selected who will have the opportunity to closely monitor the clinics taught by former athletes of MLB. There will be no cost for the selected participants, and all those listed will receive an MLBI uniform. We recommend that the athletes invited attend the Training Center before the event so they can get in shape. Athletes and coaches listed should confirm their attendance before January 31th (Monday), because the waiting list is too big. Those not confirmed until the said date shall be automatically replaced.

Athletes:
1- Vinicius Kondo
2- Felipe Dias
3- Rafael Moreno
4- Thiago Taira
5- José Luis Ribeiro
6- Leonardo Oliveira
7- Erick Yaginuma
8- Marcelo Matsumoto
9- Wesley Almeida
10- Daniel Missaki
11- Vitor Takakura
12- Guilherme Domingues
13- Anderson Osawa
14- Pedro Nakashima
15- Jardel Cordeiro
16- Lucas Tadokoro
17- Bruno Teramoto
18- Marcelo Koga
19- Julio Nakayama
20- Luiz Gohara
21- Lucas S. de Souza
22- Rodrigo Okamoto
23- Felipe Talos
24- Felipe Lot Martins
25- Felipe Niwa
26- Gabriel Ferrucci
27- Guilherme Takahashi
28- Welisson Kagueyama
29- Luciano Takayama
30- Gustavo Rodrigues
31- Lucas Rojo
32- Felipe Morishita
33- Renan Ishihara
34- Vinicius Sewaybricker
35- Luis Gustavo Paz
36- Rodrigo Takahashi
37- Mateus Vakuda
38- Lucas Miyazima
39- Vitor Gomes Martins
40- Vitor Ito
41- Felipe Mizukosi
42- Yugo Kawai
43- Yan Sanchez
44- Felipe Shidomi
45- Henrique Kuroki
46- Fernando Koga
47- Caic Nonoyama
48- Leonardo Munhoz
49- Willian Queiroz

Coaches:
1- Claudio Matumoto
2- Fumio Miyamoto
3- José Thiago Caldeira
4- Marcos Guimarães
5- Mario Kaneki
6- Mitsuyoshi Sato
7- Paulo Nakashima
8- Roberto Ono Nery
9- Satiro Watanabe
10- Silvio Domen

Jose Jerez is a BaseballdeWorld correspondent

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Posted in Latin America, NewsComments (1)


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