Former Major League Baseball slugger Jose Canseco will appear in the Texas Winter League this weekend.
Canseco, 48, was the American League rookie of the year in 1986 and the AL’s MVP in 1988. During his 17-year career, he twice led the AL in home runs, was a six-time all-star and won four Silver Slugger awards.
Canseco is expected to play in all six games this weekend, and pitch in one. Though he was an outfielder in the major leagues, Canseco has pitched in 15 professional baseball games, most recently 11 for the Yuma Scorpions in 2011.
The TWL will conclude its regular season this weekend before beginning a two-day postseason Feb. 26. The TWL features two doubleheaders starting at 11 a.m. daily, except Mondays, at Harlingen Field.
WhiteWings close in on regular-season crown
The Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings took a major step in clinching the regular-season Texas Winter League title with a 9-3 victory over the Edinburg Roadrunners on Thursday afternoon.
Trent Evins pitched six efficient innings and the league’s leading hitter, Cody Bishop, hit his first home run of the season to propel the WhiteWings (8-4-2).
WhiteWings catcher Cody Brooks drove in his league-leading 15th and 16th runs in the top of the first inning with a bases-loaded double off lefthander Takeshi Shioga (0-2) to highlight a three-run first inning.
After the Roadrunners (7-7) scored two runs in the first on a two-run single to left from Vince Coleman Jr., Bishop's solo home run the bounced off the top of the 20-foot wall in right center field at Harlingen Field.
Shioga struggled with his control for the next two innings, allowing two runs to score when he walked two batters and threw three wild pitches during the third inning and three more during the fourth after walking three batters, hitting another and throwing two more wild pitches after allowing Bishop to double with one out.
Evins (4-0), meanwhile, was as accurate as Shioga was wild. He did not walk or hit a batter in six innings pitched, allowing two earned runs, scattering six hits and striking out three.
Evins did not allow a hit after Coleman’s first-inning single and retired 12 of 13 hitters until Jimmy Williams reached on an infield hit with two outs in the fifth.
The WhiteWings can clinch the regular-season title with a victory over the McAllen Thunder on Friday behind Harlingen South product Danny Gidora and a tie between the Roadrunners and Brownsville Stars.
After the game, the Roadrunners sent their hottest hitter, 18-year-old right fielder Ginjiro Fujiwara, to the Thunder for future considerations. Fujiwara has 14 hits in his last 24 at bats.
During the first two games of the TWL season, the McAllen Thunder scored nine and 10 runs in their final chances to propel them to victories.
They found a little more of that magic Thursday when the Thunder (4-8-2) overcame an 11-3 sixth-inning deficit to tie the Brownsville Stars (6-6-2) at 12 in the second game.
The Thunder batted around twice in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings to score six and three runs in the respective frames off Stars relievers Anthony Abbato and Chris Treibt.
Hiroki Itakura highlighted the innings with two-out, 2-run singles to left field, the second of which tied the game off Treibt.
The comeback overshadowed the individual feats of center fielder Austin Fraker, who stole second, third and home in the seventh to score the Stars’ final run. He drove in three runs on three hits.
The fact the game was a slugfest was something of a surprise. The starting pitching matchup featured Steve Nikonchik, perhaps the most dominant pitcher of the TWL, and fellow right-hander Justin Klipp, who had beaten the Stars 3-2 in his previous start.
But the Stars jumped on the former Cal State-Fullerton product for six runs on five hits in the first despite the fact that manager Chris Paterson hit his weaker hitters at the top of his order in an attempt for them to see better pitches to hit.
The strategy worked when third-place hitter Sean Gaughan raised his average above .200 with a run-scoring single to left to drive in David Sweeting with the game’s first run. Four batters later, Justin Juneau hit a three-run triple to right field to make the score 4-0, and Keigo Miyagi and Austin Fraker followed with run scoring hits.
But after Nikonchik held the Thunder to three hitless innings, the Stars seemed to be lazy with their 6-0 lead. Juneau was late in covering the base on a ground ball hit by Itakura back to the mound, resulting in a throwing error by Nikonchik.
After stealing second, Itakura scored on Derrick Pyles’ single to left, and Pyles scored on Albert Carpen’s double to the same location. Carpen then scored when Dave Angle’s throw to try to catch Carpen stealing third went off third baseman Miyagi’s glove and into left field.
The Stars rebounded by scoring five more times off Klipp during the next two innings, with Fraker driving in two more runs on a two-out single in the fifth and Alex Foltz and Angle driving in runs on back-to-back doubles during a 3-run sixth. Klipp allowed 11 runs, 10 earned, in 5 1/3 innings.
Yet the Stars’ bullpen could not hold the lead. Abbato allowed six runs, five earned, on four hits, two walks, and two hit batsmen in 2/3 of an inning.
Todd Alls’ two-run double to left made the score 11-5. Itakura’s hit cut the Stars’ lead to four runs. A bases-loaded walk and error by first baseman Cole Stephens, who came into the game that inning to spell outfielder Alex Foltz, allowed two more runs to score before Daiki Komori was thrown out trying to score from second on Stephens’ error.
The Stars continued to self-destruct during the final inning, however. After Alls led off with a single, .150-hitting Anthony Hinderman, who came on to catch after Jeff Allen reinjured himself, was hit by Treibt with a two-strike pitch.
Then Juneau, who had moved to right field, misplayed a fly ball hit by newcomer Bunyu Madea into a single to load the bases. Masaki Iwagami’s ground ball to shortstop drove in Alls and wasn’t turned into a double play, and he stole second to move into scoring position for Itakura’s game-tying hit after Masanari Kato struck out.
The tie ended a six-game losing streak by the Thunder.
The WhiteWings will play the Thunder at 11 a.m. Friday. The Stars and Roadrunners will play at 2 p.m. Canseco is expected to play in both games.
Vipers to lead on depth against Legends
HIDALGO - One of the luxuries the Rio Grande Valley Vipers have is depth. And it will be a plus tonight when the Vipers begin the second half of the season with a back-to-back home series against the Texas Legends at State Farm Arena.
The Vipers' roster has several notable changes since the last time they played. Vernon Macklin, a 6-foot-10 center, left the team last week and is now playing in the Philippines. Macklin, second-year pro who played 23 games for the Detroit Pistons last season, averaged 14.6 points and 5.6 rebounds in 22 games for the Vipers. During his past seven games, Macklin averaged 20.1 points. His sudden departure was unexpected.
"In the five years I've been in the league, a big center that's playing that well and is 98 percent sure of getting called up, that did surprise me," Vipers coach Nick Nurse said. "But, again, sometimes those overseas deals are just too much immediate money to turn down. He took the deal."
Macklin's departure could open the way for 7-0 center Hassan Whiteside, who has seen very little playing time since being acquired via trade from Sioux Falls. Whiteside is averaging 4.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 7.8 minutes in 15 games for the Vipers.
In addition, Houston Rockets assignees Greg Smith and Terrence Jones, who were both with the Vipers in the last game (a 101-99 loss on Feb. 13 at Texas) are back with the big club. Nurse is expecting an assignment from the Rockets for tonight, but couldn't confirm Thursday afternoon because it was not official.
Guards Terrel Harris and Scott Machado are out. Harris hasn't played since Feb. 2 because of a groin injury. He could return next week. Machado is out for a month after cracking a bone in his fibula. Houston Rockets assignee Royce White twisted his ankle earlier this week, but returned to practice Thursday.
"The guys that were out on the floor this week gave a spirited effort," Nurse said. "We got a lot of work done, primarily on the defensive end of the ball, which is always good. We are still battered up a little. Our numbers are down, but it was still a good week."
The Vipers (20-11) own the second-best record in the NBA Development League and lead the Central Division by 1/2 game over Sioux Falls (20-12).
David Hinojosa covers the Rio Grande Valley Vipers for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4442 or via email at email@example.com.