Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz

Catcher Eddy Rodriguez (pictured), who made an instant name for himself when he homered in his first major league at-bat for San Diego back in 2012 (Johnny Cueto was the pitcher), is the latest American Association player to be invited to a major league spring training camp.

The 30-year-old native Floridian, the everyday catcher at El Paso in ’09 and Sioux Falls the next season, will be back in camp with the New York Yankees, who gave him mentoring duties in addition to playing for their top two farm clubs last season. Rodriguez had a strong showing for a non-roster invitee last spring, playing in 13 Yankees games, going 4-for-14 with two doubles and a .412 on-base percentage.

WBC Qualifier and Taiwan Next for Young Hurler Who Learned How to Grind It Out in American Association

Ryan Searle learned a great lesson while pitching for the Grand Prairie Air Hogs two seasons ago, and it is paying off for the native Australian even though at 26 he is still striving for the promised land of the major leagues where all he can show so far are three spring training appearances with the Chicago Cubs in 2012 and 2014.

The sturdy-looking righthander already has spent a season in Japan and set an Australian League record with 17 saves and posted an 0.40 earned run average this winter while helping the Brisbane Bandits to the postseason championship.  Now he has been rewarded with a 2016 contract to be a starting pitcher for the Lamigo Monkeys in Taiwan. Oh, yes, he hopes to help Australia win the World Baseball Classic qualifier his homeland hosts this week.

Searle pitched in the Cubs system from 2008 until early in the ’14 season, reaching Triple-A briefly before the National League team released him.

That was when Searle signed with Grand Prairie and got his professional career back on track.

“Independent baseball was a challenge,” he told the Sunshine Coast Daily in Australia recently. “But it makes you grow up and become mentally tougher because you’ve got to grind through it every day and stay focused on the main goal (of reaching the major leagues). I’ve never given up hope.”

Searle has built quite a path of success since battling his way to a 5-9, 4.39 record in 20 starts when the Air Hogs were 20 games under .500 in that ’14 season.

Hankerd’s Bat Helps Mexico to Caribbean Title

Former American Association power boy Cyle Hankerd seems to have found at least a part-time home in Mexico, and the corner infielder added to his resume by helping the Mexican team sweep through its six games to the Caribbean Series championship.

Hankerd, who turned 31 in January, played in every game, hitting .294 (5-for-17) with six runs, a homer and four runs batted in, following up on a 31-homer 2015 season that he split between Southern Maryland in the Atlantic League and the Triple-A Mexican League.

The 6-foot-3 right-handed hitter hit 10 homers and drove in 74 runs in a mere 70 games for Amarillo in 2011.  He also was with Amarillo briefly the next season.

Righthander Omar Bencomo, who split time between Laredo and Wichita last season before the Minnesota Twins purchased his contract, started one game in the Caribbean Series for runner-up Venezuela, allowing three runs in 3.2 innings and taking a loss.

Previously the chief spokesman for Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003.  He is a frequent contributor to this site as well as writing his own blog,


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