World notes: Brazil picking up baseball
Though in soccer's shadow, sport producing prospects
PITTSBURGH -- The World continues to grow from a baseball standpoint.The World Team for Sunday's All-Star Futures Game included outfielder Anderson Gomes, a Brazilian Class A outfielder from the Chicago White Sox organization. He is the first Brazilian to play in the Futures Game. "We don't have much baseball in Brazil," Gomes said. "Everybody plays soccer in Brazil. I played soccer, but I ran fast, so a guy asked me to play baseball. I was, like, 8 years old." Gomes eventually signed with a Japanese team at the age of 15 as a pitcher, but he blew out his arm and needed Tommy John elbow surgery, so he was switched to the outfield because of his speed. The White Sox signed him this spring, and he's hitting .255 in 63 games and 231 at-bats, with six home runs, 25 RBIs and five stolen bases. Venezuela is still the dominant baseball country in South America. Colombia had some success with shortstops Edgar Renteria and Orlando Cabrera, but its baseball program has slipped. Brazil's program is just in the embryonic stage, especially when compared to its world-renowned soccer reputation. But the Phillies signed three players there last year and the White Sox have another Brazilian outfielder, Paulo Orlando, who is the fastest player in their Minor League system. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen used him in a couple of Major League exhibition games this spring. "We don't have a lot," Gomes said. "We're starting to get better, but in Brazil, soccer is still too big." Greek-Canadian in America: World catcher George Kotteras is from Canada, went to college in Oklahoma and played for Greece in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. But he had the Maple Leaf on his jersey for Sunday's Futures Game. "Greece is my heritage, but Canada is my country," Kotteras said. "Obviously, representing Canada is a little bit special. "It's a little different from the Olympics. In Athens, the Opening Ceremonies were unbelievable, a tremendous experience. But this is a huge deal as well. It's going to be exciting." Meanwhile, across the sea: The Major League Baseball Australian Academy is under way at the Palm Meadows Radisson Resort on Queensland's Gold Coast. There are 65 players from Australia and Oceania undergoing eight weeks of training. Hall of Famer Rod Carew is on the coaching staff, along with former Australian Major Leaguers David Nilsson, Graeme Lloyd and Luke Prokopec. Also, the First European Baseball Series is taking place between Italy and the Netherlands. The series, which began on Friday and runs through Wednesday, consists of two three-game sets, one in each country. Briefly: One scout picked outfielder Carlos Gonzalez from the Diamondbacks organization as the World player most likely to be in the Major League All-Star Game within five years. ... Cubs pitcher Jae Kuk Ryu was scratched from the World team because of an ankle injury. ... There are 11 countries represented on the World team. The Dominican Republic and Venezuela have six players each, followed by Mexico (three) and Canada and Taiwan with two. Australia, Brazil, Cuba, Curacao, Panama and South Korea have one each.
Watching Joaquin: Texas Rangers infield prospect Joaquin Arias says that he'll be paying close attention when shortstop Michael Young enters the All-Star Game on Tuesday.
That should not come as a surprise. Arias has been admiring Young since March.
"In Spring Training, Young helped me a lot," Arias said. "He was always giving me advice and showing me what to do. He's a really nice guy, a great player."
Arias, who was acquired from the Yankees as part of the deal that sent Alex Rodriguez to New York, is hitting .270 in 65 Minor League games this season, primarily at Triple-A Oklahoma. The speedy shortstop has five doubles, seven triples and 18 stolen bases.He is pleased with his progress so far, but he knows that it might not be enough to crack the big-league lineup. In addition to Young at shortstop, the Rangers have used rookie Ian Kinsler and veteran Mark DeRosa at second base.
"It's a situation that's really difficult," Arias said. "There are good players on the big-league team, but I'm not going to get discouraged. I'm the type of person who believes that if I don't make it with Texas, I'll make it with another organization. I know the potential I have."
Arias recently injured his left ankle, and he doesn't expect to play until Friday. He will rejoin his Oklahoma teammates on Monday morning.
"I'm fine," he said. "It's sore right now, but I will be better in a few days."
Young Yunel: The Braves made infield prospect Yunel Escobar stop whistling during games, but his play on the field cannot be silenced.
Escobar, who defected from Cuba and was drafted by Atlanta in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, is hitting .285 with two home runs and 29 RBIs for Double-A Mississippi.
"I am happy with where I am right now," Escobar said. "I can get better."
He has already come a long way.
Just over a year ago, the shortstop escaped Cuba in a boat and established residency in Miami. He says that he's still adapting to living in the United States and playing the American style of baseball -- which means no whistling at players during games. It was annoying other players.
"Baseball Latino is very aggressive, very animated," Escobar said. "It's different here. The emotion is different, but I am getting used to it."