ISLA DE MARGARITA, Venezuela -- The semifinal games for the 2014 Caribbean Series are set, and Cuba is not going to be a part of them.
Mexico's Naranjeros de Hermosillo (2-2) will take on the Dominican Republic's Tigres del Licey (2-2) on Thursday night in the first semifinal matchup. The top-seeded Venezuelan team (3-1) will square off against Puerto Rico's Indios de Mayaguez (2-2) on Friday. Cuba, participating in the Caribbean Series for the first time since 1960, was eliminated Wednesday, with the club from Villa Clara exiting the tournament with a 1-3 record.
Expect a big league showdown Thursday.
Orioles pitcher Alfredo Aceves, who tweaked his back earlier this week, is scheduled to start for Mexico and Yunesky Maya, who recently signed a Minor League deal with the Braves, is on tap to pitch for the Dominican Republic. Salvador Robles will replace Aceves if he cannot pitch.
Venezuela's Navegantes del Magallanes are scheduled to send Daryl Thompson to the mound. Puerto Rico will counter with Giancarlo Alvarado.
For decades, the winner of the Caribbean Series was decided by a double round-robin. Last year, a new format extended the double round-robin format an extra day, with a championship game played between the teams with the two best records. This year, each team played each other once, followed by two semifinals and a championship game.
The tournament final is scheduled for Saturday night.
Pineiro hopes solid winter leads to big league invite
ISLA DE MARGARITA, Venezuela -- Veteran starter Joel Pineiro believes he's pitched well enough this winter to earn a Spring Training invitation with a Major League club.
The free-agent right-hander just is not sure if it will happen.
"I was just focused on my game and helping Puerto Rico win," Pineiro said. "What will happen, will happen, but I think I did enough. I'm healthy and ready to compete in the big leagues."
Pineiro gave up seven hits and struck out one over 6 2/3 innings Tuesday in Puerto Rico's 2-1 loss to Cuba. He was charged with two runs, both unearned. He threw 102 pitches.
"They were super aggressive from the first pitch of the game," Pineiro said. "I had to keep the ball down, and I got a lot of ground balls. They were swinging and swinging."
Pineiro has not pitched in the big leagues since 2011 with the Angels. He underwent season-ending right labrum surgery in 2012 with Baltimore and missed all of the 2013 season while recovering. This winter, he went 2-0 with a 3.12 ERA in 26 innings over five outings for Ponce in Puerto Rico. In his 12 Major League seasons, he is 104-93 with a 4.41 ERA in 335 games (263 starts).
Vargas in vintage form for Dominican squad
ISLA DE MARGARITA, Venezuela -- It's been three years since Claudio Vargas pitched in the Major Leagues, but he's not ready to retire yet.
On Wednesday afternoon, the 35-year-old right-hander gave up two hits in six shutout innings in the Dominican Republic's 7-6 victory over Mexico. He struck out six and walked one.
"I used my fastball for the first part of the game and then started throwing more sliders and changeups," Vargas said. "I knew some of [the opposing batters] because I played against them, but really, I just pitched my game."
Vargas went 5-7 with a 5.86 ERA for Toronto's Triple-A team last season. He has pitched for the Expos/Nationals, D-backs, Brewers, Mets and Dodgers over eight big league seasons, going 48-40 with a 4.83 ERA in 217 games.
"I'm going to wait and see where I go from here," Vargas said.