Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Brazilians In The Major Leagues

Brazilians and Baseball seem to make strange bedfellows. When one thinks of Brazilians and sports you would think about Futbol, Basketball, Mixed Martial Arts and even Rodeo. Baseball doesn't even seem to come up in the conversation. But it seems that there has been some inroads which have translated in two major leaguers.

Cleveland first baseman-catcher
Yan Gomes. (Rich Pilling/Getty Images)
The first Brazilian born major leaguer is the catcher for the Cleveland Indians Yan Gomes. Gomes was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 10th round of the 2009 draft playing out of the University of Tennessee. After making his way through the Blue Jays minor league system, Gomes made history on May 17, 2012. Against the Yankees, Gomes got his first hit for a Brazilian born player on the day of his debut.

Gomes was born on July 19, 1987 in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. After his family moved to the United States, Gomes went to High School in Miami and was originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 39th round of the 2008 Major League Baseball but decided to not sign. As I stated above he eventually was drafted in 2009 with the Blue Jays in the 2009 draft.

In his only season with the Blue Jays:

Yan Gomes
63200 .264  .367 .204.631

On November 3, 2012 , Gomes was traded with Mike Aviles to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Esmil Rogers. Gomes has seen limited duty this season backing up Carlos Santana. So far this season:

Yan Gomes
82920 .314  .510 .283.824

Up to today's date, Gomes was the only Brazilian born major leaguer until Andre Rienzo made his debut for the Chicago White Sox against Gomes' Cleveland Indians marking the first time that two (the only two) players born in Brazil faced each other on a Major League field. Rienzo is the first Brazilian-born pitcher in the Major Leagues. 

Rienzo was born on June 5, 1988 in São Paulo, Brazil. Similar to Gomes, Rienzo's family emigrated to the United States. Rienzo would sign as an undrafted free agent with the Chicago White Sox in 2009 and started in the minors. Rienzo would find himself in some controversy when he failed a drug test in 2012, testing positive for metabolites of Stanozolol which is a performance-enhancing drug. While Rienzo stated that he he unknowingly ingested the PED via a supplement that he bought in Brazil, he decided to take responsibility and served his 50-game suspension. He came back and kept working hard. His hard work would be duly rewarded.

It was announced yesterday that Chicago starter Jake Peavy would not be able to make his start in Tuesday night's game against the Indians and that Rienzo would be brought up. In his debut against the Indians, Rienzo became the first White Sox rookie since Jack McDowell in 1987 to throw seven innings in his major league debut without allowing an earned run. In total Rienzo gave up five hits giving up three unearned runs with six strikeouts and three walks in the no-decision. How did Rienzo do against his countryman Gomes?

Gomes had the upperhand against Rienzo by getting a single in the third inning and a bases loaded walk in the fifth. Rienzo would end up striking out Gomes in the seventh. 

With the impressive showing of the Barry Larkin managed Team Brazil in the 2013 World Baseball Classic with three competitive games against Pool A teams Japan, Cuba and China it seems that the future is bright. I believe that the next Brazilian major leaguer might be Tampa Bay Single-A prospect Leonardo Reginatto who seemed to me to shine in the three games that he played in the WBC. Also impressive for Brazil was Rafael Fernandes who plays in the Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPB) for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. 

We'll have to see how that plays out. Either way its good to see the sport continually grow in markets and countries where the sport is not the main sport. 

Sisco Kid

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