For the first time in nine years, Venezuela will receive the Caribbean Series, which will begin on Thursday and end on February 10. The unprecedented group of eight teams will compete in two stadiums in Greater Caracas: the new Estadio de la Rinconada and the Estadio Jorge Luis García Carneiro de La Guaira.
With the debut of Curaçao in the tournament and the return of Cuba to accompany the champions of Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Mexico (Pacific), Puerto Rico, Colombia and Panama, there will be two matches per day in each stadium, heading to the rounds semifinal and final.
“The important thing about this return to Venezuela is that number 1, Venezuela was one of the founders of what is known today as the Caribbean Series,” said the president of the Caribbean Professional Baseball Confederation, the Dominican Juan Francisco Puello Herrera.
Indeed, before the resumption of the event in 1970 with the “Second Stage” after an absence from the event from 1961 to 1969, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico rotated the venues of the then four-team tournament for more than four decades, before expansion to five clubs in 2015 and eventually eight this year. Now, nine years after the 2014 edition on Isla Margarita, Venezuela receives the event again, with a representation of the local champions, the Leones del Caracas.
“It has been a great satisfaction for all come back to Venezuelabecause of the fans that are there, which is a very vehement fan base”, commented Puello Herrera.
This year’s tournament will have a regular round “all against all” of seven dates, with two daily matches in each stadium. After concluding the regular phase, the first four in the positions will go to a semifinal round, followed by the grand final on the last date. There will also be a match for third place between the two teams that lose in the semifinal round.
Next, the eight teams that will represent their respective countries in the 65th Caribbean Series:
VENEZUELA: Lions of Caracas
After giving the first gold home run to end a series finale in the history of the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League, Harold Castro will not accompany the Lions in the Caribbean Series. However, there will be many well-known names on the roster, including those belonging to Caracas itself and reinforcements from other clubs. Some are pitchers Jhoulys Chacín, JC Ramírez and Guillermo Moscoso, as well as veteran catcher Wilson Ramos and infielders Orlando Arcia and Hernán Pérez.
With their win over the Sharks in the final series, the Lions add 21 crowns in the LVBP, the most in the history of said circuit. Caracas has won two Caribbean Series titles, the most recent being on Venezuelan soil during the Maracay-Valencia edition in 2006.
FACT: This will be the ninth Caribbean Series held in Caracas. In the first eight, Venezuelan teams have won only once, 1970—the first year of the event’s “Second Stage” after the aforementioned absence from the event for most of the 1960s.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Tigres del Licey
After defeating the Estrellas Orientales in the final in the DR and incidentally becoming the most winning franchise in the history of the Dominican League with 23 crowns, Licey arrives in Caracas as the top winner of the Caribbean Series with 10, in addition to representing the country with the most crowns, 21. Manager José Offerman will have a deep starting rotation that includes right-hander César Valdez and left-handed Raúl Valdés.
The Tigers’ offense will be led by Mel Rojas Jr., Robinson Cano and the team captain, Emilio Bonifacio. After hitting just .150/.183/.190 in 104 plate appearances in the 2022 MLB season, Canó hit .300/.326/.325 in 10 games with the All-Stars in the Dominican Republic, helping the club to reach the grand final against Licey, a team that he now integrates as a reinforcement. In fact, this is the third consecutive Caribbean Series for Canó, who hit .368 for the Águilas Cibaeñas in Mazatlán 2021 and .417 last year in Santo Domingo for the Gigantes del Cibao.
FACT: El Licey has won three Caribbean Series in Venezuela, in 1973, 1977 and 1994. The first of those titles was under the tutelage of Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda.
PUERTO RICO: Indians of Mayagüez
The arrival at the end of the regular season of veteran manager and local baseball legend, Mako Oliveras, propelled the Indians to the postseason, where they ultimately defeated the Carolina Giants to claim his 19th championship In Puerto Rico. In addition to the team’s pillar for years, Emmanuel Rivera, regular-season MVP Edwin Díaz (the Mets’ shortstop, not the closer), Vimael Manchín and Jesmuel Valentín have been added as reinforcements to a club that lost to this Clásico. Caribbean catcher Roberto Pérez and right-hander Dereck Rodríguez.
FACT: Oliveras, 76, will go for his third Caribbean Series title as manager, after winning both in Hermosillo 1993 and Santo Domingo 2000 with the Santurce Cangrejeros.
MEXICO: Los Mochis cane growers
After winning their first Mexican Pacific League title in 20 years, the Cañeros will play in Venezuela with a total of 18 reinforcements, since only 10 of its members who helped defeat the Algodoneros de Guasave in the final of said circuit will continue with the club in the Caribbean Classic.
Among those from Los Mochis who will continue is a well-known name in the Major Leagues: Cuban Yasmany Tomás, who played parts of four seasons with the Diamondbacks after signing with said club in 2014. In the 2022-23 regular season in the Pacific League, Tomás hit .328/.383/.510 (.893 OPS) with 17 doubles, 10 home runs and 57 RBIs in 66 games, winning the MVP award.
FACT: Los Cañeros will seek their first Caribbean Series title in three attempts and the tenth for Mexican teams in general.
The 2022-23 season was the first season of the Cuban Baseball Elite League, in which teams from the traditional National Series were combined. Agricultores, made up of personnel from the Granma and Las Tunas squads of the National Series, defeated Portuarios in a final series that went to a maximum of seven games last month.
This year also marks the return to the Caribbean Series for Cuba, which had not participated in the tournament since 2018. After not being part of the event in its Second Stage, Cuba was included as a “guest country” starting in 2014 and had representations in five consecutive editions, winning the one in 2015 in Puerto Rico with Pinar del Río.
FACT: In addition to their 2015 title, Cuban teams won seven of 12 Caribbean Series held in the “First Stage” of the event between 1949 and 1960.
PANAMA: Federales of Chiquirí
Although this will be the second participation of Federales in the Caribbean Series—it was the team designated by ProBeis de Panama in 2021 after the 2020-21 season was canceled due to COVID-19—the team just won its first local championship, sweeping Atlánticos in their final best-of-five series.
Catcher Iván Herrera, the Cardinals’ No. 7 prospect on the MLB Pipeline list, heads a roster that includes former major league pitchers Severino González and Davis Romero.
FACT: After substituting Venezuela as host at the last minute in 2019, Panama returned to the Caribbean Series for the first time since the First Stage of the event and staged a surprise of greater proportions, crowning champion with its representative team, Toros de Herrera.
COLOMBIA: Monteria Cowboys
The Vaqueros will try to build on the momentum from last year’s Caribbean Series created by the Caimanes de Barranqilla, who led Colombia to the first tournament title in that country’s history.
Although the club will not bring power hitter Reynaldo Rodríguez to Caracas, it did add Jordan Díaz, the A’s No. 9 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s list. Another reinforcement is Dilson Herrera, a constant figure in Colombian baseball after being a top prospect for the Mets a few years ago and playing parts of four seasons in the Major Leagues.
FACT: After the Vaqueros and Caimanes went a combined 0-10 record in the first two Caribbean Classics for Colombia in 2020 and 2021, the second club produced one of the biggest upsets in the event’s history last year in Santo Domingo , where they defeated the Gigantes del Cibao in the grand final—a squad led by the Colombian Luis “Pipe” Urueta himself.
Curaçao’s debut in the Caribbean Series will include household names such as Jurickson Profar, Jonathan Schoop and Andrelton Simmons. In addition, there will be Wladimir Balentien, who 10 years ago set a record in Japanese baseball with 60 home runs in one season.
FACT: Coming off a 20-year drought without winning a championship, Wildcats KJ74 have won two straight titles on Curacao.
“The enthusiasm is high, because the idea with this is that we can have a Caribbean Series from time to time in other Major League stadiums,” said Puello Herrera about 2024. “In this case, we are for everything high”.
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Eight teams, two stadiums. Caribbean series in style