If I was a teacher instead of merely a baseball guy wandering around beautiful Newport, RI for a few days, I would give Jose Lima an A+, Alberto Castillo a solid A and Hideki Irabu a B. All three have been making significant baseball news impacting the Independent world.
Lima and Irabu pitched for Long Beach, CA in the Golden League on back-to-back nights, hoping to once again attract major league attention, while Castillo got a call to the big time for the Baltimore Orioles for a second year in a row.
Lima, listed at 36 years of age, has taken the Independent Baseball route before to get back to the majors where he has an 89-102 career record. He was with Newark, NJ of the Atlantic League six years and two days ago when Kansas City purchased the right-hander's contract. He worked magic the rest of '03 and in '04, going a combined 21-8 for the Royals and Los Angeles Dodgers, and he even spun a five-hit complete game win for the Dodgers in the 2004 National League Division Series.
The dazzle faded, and Lima has not been in the majors since 2006 (Mets). But the way he has pitched in three starts for the Armada scouts have to be taking notice. He worked eight innings twice, then threw the Golden League's first shutout of the season Thursday, blanking the Colombian imports who wear Yuma (AZ) Scorpions uniforms, 8-0. He has a stingy 1.44 ERA for 25 innings. Lima now is ticketed for the Armada's home opener at Blair Field next Friday night.
Irabu, who turned 40 May 15 and has not pitched anywhere professionally since '04, made his first appearance for Long Beach Friday night, and picked up a 6-5 win over Yuma. He went the first five innings, a more than decent feat for a pitcher not in the majors since 2002, allowing six hits and two earned runs (four overall) while walking two and striking out five. Nearly a dozen Japanese media members were on hand to cover the event.
Irabu was a big deal when he debuted with the New York Yankees in 1997. Could it happen again?
Castillo, a native Cuban who finally got to the majors for the first time last season and turns 34 on July 5, has returned to Baltimore's bullpen. He has worked a lot in Independent Baseball (Schaumburg, IL., Northern League, in 1999-2000, Newark in 2002-03, the Atlantic League's traveling Road Warriors in '06-07 and Camden, NJ two seasons ago). The southpaw won his only decision and posted a creditable 3.81 earned run average in 28 games for the Orioles last season. He had been pitching for Triple-A Norfolk, VA this season.
TWO DUGOUTS ON SAME SIDE
Since I mentioned being in Newport, I had to pay another visit to quaint Cardines Field. Not only is rightfield well under 300 feet from home plate, but where else will one find both dugouts on the first base side of a stadium. Cardines is home to, among others, the Newport Gulls of the New England Collegiate Baseball League.