By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
The 2023 Caribbean Series starts on Thursday, and for the first time in the history of the tournament, eight teams will appear in the historic event, including Curacao, who will be playing for the first time, and Cuba, returning for the first time since 2019.
Venezuela is set to mark the 65th Caribbean Series by opening up a new ballpark, Estadio De La Rinconada, in Caracas. La Rinconada will be sharing the event with Estadio Forum La Guaira. This is the first time Venezuela has hosted the Caribbean Series since 2014, when Margarita Island hosted the event at Estadio Nueva Esparta.
Venezuela is looking to get the monkey off their backs this Caribbean Series with host representative Leones Del Caracas opening Estadio De La Rinconada. But they haven’t won a Caribbean Series title since 2009, when Tigres de Aragua won in Mexicali, Mexico. Puerto Rico has also not won the Caribbean Series since 2018 when Criollos de Caguas took the title in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the Liga Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente champion, Indios de Mayaguez, will look to capture its first Caribbean Series title since 1992, winning in Hermosillo.
Indios de Mayaguez manager Maiko Oliveras has won the Caribbean Series eight times in his career for Puerto Rico and was inducted into the Salon de la Fama del Beisbol Professional Puertoriqueno in 2022. Olivaras took over the Indios team prior to the middle of the season and has fought very hard to get to this position, guiding his team through seven games of the Liga Beisbol Profesional Clemente championship series against Gigantes de Carolina.
Puerto Rico will have to stretch their pitching during the Caribbean Series. itchers such as Danny Wirchansky, Leroy Cruz and Fernando Cabrera will have to hit their spots consistently to keep up with the offenses of Venezuela and Caribbean Series-favorite Dominican Republic if they want to have a chance of making the semifinals. The offense of Puerto Rico will be in solid, with players such as Emmanuel Rivera, Jeremy Rivera and Danny Ortiz who are suiting up for Indios in the Caribbean Series. Puerto Rico’s first game will be on Thursday against Colombia at Estadio Forum La Guaira at 3:00 p.m.
Tigres del Licey out of the Dominican Republic will play in a record-setting 19th Caribbean Series. The Tigres are the New York Yankees of Caribbean baseball – all together, the franchise has won 33 championships, 10 Caribbean Series titles and 23 championship titles in Liga de Beisbol Profesional de la Republica Dominicana. Tigres has not won the Caribbean Series since the 2008 event, when they finished with the best record at 5-1 during the opening round.
Tigres del Licey manager Jose Offerman will have his work cut out for him during the Caribbean Series. Key pitching will have to show up for the Dominican Republic for Licey to end their Caribbean Series drought. Pitchers such as Ceasar Valdez, Raul Valdes, and Esmil Rogers will have to pitch consistently to stop the offense against all the tough teams remaining in the Caribbean. The offense of Licey will have plenty of pop in their lineup with the likes of Robinson Cano, Henry Urrutia, Mel Rojas Jr. and Junior Lake who will be suiting up for the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic will open up against Mexico the first day of the Caribbean Series at Estadio De La Rinconada on Thursday at noon on ESPN Deportes.
Liga ARCO Mexicana del Pacifico champions Caneros del Los Mochis will appear in the third Caribbean Series in their franchise’s history. Los Mochis has not been to a Caribbean Series since 2003 and will look to capture their first title ever in the tournament. Mexico will look to win its first Caribbean Series since Naranjeros de Hermosillo won the tournament in 2014, the last time the Caribbean Series was in Venezuela.
Caneros de Los Mochis manager Jose Moreno has helped the club reach its third Caribbean Series by beating Algodoneros De Guasave in the Liga ARCO Mexicana del Pacifico championship sSeries in six games. Mexico will have a durable offense this Caribbean Series, as 2022 Caribbean Series MVP Reynaldo Rodriguez was one of the eye-opening reinforcements when picked up by Los Mochis on Monday afternoon, replacing Yasmany Tomas on the roster. The offense for Mexico, with the likes of Rodolfo Amador and Roberto Valenzuela, will have to come alive against the tough pitching of the Dominican Republic and host nation Venezuela. Mexico’s pitcher, including Luis Marquez, Matt Pobereyko, and Rafael Cordova, will be the key reinforcement players that will have to eat up innings during the tournament.
Host nation and Liga Venezolana de Beisbol Profesional champions Leones Del Caracas, under manager Jose Alguacil, have a psychological weight to carry during the event on their home soil. Leones entered the field of the Caribbean Series with Harold Castro’s series-ending home run in the bottom of the eleventh inning during game six of the championship series on Monday night to beat arch rival Tiburones De La Guaira. Castro will not join the Leones during the Caribbean Series, instead heading to the United States to prepare for Spring Training with the Colorado Rockies.
Venezuela added a solid group of reinforcements for the Caribbean Series when Danry Vazquez, Ali Castillo and Hernan Perez were picked up prior to Thursday. Pitching was added to the roster as well, with Leones adding starting pitchers Erik Leal and Yapson Gomez. Notable players that stayed with the team for the series include infielder Orlando Arcia and starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin, who will bring a veteran presence to the Leones clubhouse. Venezuela will openfthe Caribbean Series on Thursday at Estadio De La Rinconada at 8:30 p.m. against Panama.
All Caribbean Series games will be streamed on ESPN Deportes from February 2-10.