The Tijuana Toros started up their 2017 Liga Mexicana de Beisbol season on Friday, March 31, against Vaqueros de la Union Laguna at the Estadio Gasmart in Tijuana.
The Toros had a strong 2016 season, reaching the final but losing to Pericos de Puebla. The border city side is expected to do well again this year, with a strong roster consisting of many ex-major league players.
Here are the 10 former MLB players that form part of the 2017 Tijuana Toros’ roster. Viva Los Toros!
Hector Ambriz is 32 years old and is a relief pitcher. He is currently on the disabled list but will likely feature with Tijuana at some point this year. The Orange, California native had a few cups of coffee in the majors with three different teams. Ambriz pitched in 96 games in MLB with the Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, and San Diego Padres. He was not successful in those 96 games, posting a 5.35 ERA with a 1.679 WHIP. His stint with the Padres was very brief in 2014, pitching two innings in one game, giving up a run and striking out one batter. When the 6-foot-2 pitcher does get healthy he will be a valuable player to the team, having posted a 1.41 ERA in 64 innings out of the pen last year for the Toros.
Gonzalez had an extensive and quite successful MLB career, most notably playing with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves. The Texan played with the Pirates from 2003-2006 and had some of his best years in Pittsburgh, posting a 2.37 ERA with 28 saves. His best year for the Buccos was easily 2006, where he posted a 2.17 ERA with 24 saves. Gonzalez was then traded to the Atlanta Braves in a deal that brought Adam LaRoche to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Michael had some nice seasons in Atlanta as well, his best being in 2009 where he posted a 2.42 ERA with 10 saves and a career-high 90 strikeouts. After his stint with the Braves, Gonzalez never settled anywhere else, going through four different teams until he had his last MLB season in 2013 with the Milwaukee Brewers. 2016 was not great for Gonzalez with the Tijuana Toros, having posted a 5.89 ERA in 38 games. Gonzalez will look to bounce back this season. He is 38 years old and will offer his knowledge and experience to the younger pitchers on the team.
Ramirez is one of the more intriguing players on the Tijuana Toros. The 37-year-old had an eight-year MLB career, pitching as both a starter and reliever, and he even coached with the Atlanta Braves in 2014. Ramirez pitched from 2003-2009 with the Braves, Royals, Mariners, Angels, and White Sox, but was not that successful, posting a career 40-35 record with a 4.65 ERA in 169 games. Ramirez does offer a lot of experience to this team and will be the starting pitcher in the second game this season for the border city side.
The opening day starter for the Tijuana Toros against the Vaqueros on Friday was Alex Sanabia. The 28-year-old is a San Diego native and attended Castle Park High School in Chula Vista. Sanabia had some stints in the majors with the Marlins in 2010, 2011, and 2013. The right-hander was not all that successful, finishing with an 8-10 record and a 4.15 ERA in 28 games in MLB. Sanabia did have one career start at Petco Park, going four and a third innings and allowing four runs on nine hits. The former Castle Park High School student had a solid 2016 season with Tijuana, going 7-4 with a 3.96 ERA. Sanabia will gain a lot of confidence being the opening day starter for the Toros, and will look to have a solid season in the Mexican league.
Laird had an extensive 13-year MLB career, playing with five different teams, most notably with the Texas Rangers and the Detroit Tigers. Laird was more of a backup catcher during his career, his best year coming in 2006 with the Texas Rangers. Laird finished 2006 with an impressive .296 BA with seven home runs. The California native finished his MLB career with a .243 BA and 38 home runs. Now at 37 years old, Laird will look to share his experience and knowledge of the game with the Tijuana Toros.
Jorge Cantu 1B
Cantu is probably the most successful former big-leaguer on the Tijuana Toros. The Mexican infielder played eight years in MLB, having some solid seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays and the Florida Marlins. Cantu’s best years in MLB came in 2005 and 2008. In 2005 with Tampa Bay, Cantu hit .286 with 28 home runs and 117 RBI. In 2008 with the Marlins, Cantu hit .277 with 29 home runs. 2009 was also a solid year for the Mexican player, posting a .289 BA with 16 home runs and 100 RBI. Jorge Cantu also had a brief stint with the San Diego Padres in 2011, which wasn’t impressive, as he batted under the Mendoza line in 57 games. The Texas-born infielder has been playing in the Mexican league since 2013, his best year being in 2015, when he hit .351 with 25 home runs and 100 RBI. Cantu has the potential to be one of the best players in the Mexican league this year and should be interesting to watch throughout the season in Tijuana.
Alex Liddi 3B
Alex Liddi has had an interesting career, getting some playing time with the Seattle Mariners from 2011-2013, participating in the 2017 WBC, and now playing in the Mexican league. The Italian infielder did not have overwhelming success in MLB, batting .208 with six home runs in 61 games with the Mariners. In the 2017 WBC with Team Italy, Liddi had a solid campaign, batting .250 with two home runs and four RBI in four games. In 2016, Liddi’s first year in the Mexican league, he had a successful season, posting a .281/.349/.538 slash line with 23 home runs and 91 RBI. The Italian third baseman should be one of the best players for the Tijuana Toros this season, providing tremendous offensive potential.
Quintanilla had a nine-year MLB career playing from 2005 to 2014, mostly with the Colorado Rockies and New York Mets. The El Paso, Texas native was never a full-time starter, his most games played in a season being 95 in 2013 with the Mets. He was also not known much for his offense, not providing much with the bat, but was known more for his defensive work. Quintanilla does offer good leadership on this team at 35 years old, and will most likely feature in the Toros’ lineup on a consistent basis.
Oscar Robles 3B
The Tijuana native had a brief stint in the major leagues with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. While his stint with the Padres was dreadful, only batting .231 in 24 games, his rookie year with the Dodgers was quite good. In 2005 with Los Angeles, Robles batted .272 with five home runs in 110 games. Robles’ MLB career was not great, and since 2009 he has been playing in the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol. The infielder has been with his hometown Tijuana Toros since 2015, and has been quite successful with the team and in the league. Robles has posted a batting average of over .300 in the Mexican league in six out of his eight seasons in the league. 2016 was a down year for the former Friar, only batting .272, but he did have a nice OBP at .360. Robles will be an interesting player to watch for the Tijuana Toros, especially with his ties to San Diego, having played on the Padres and having attended Montgomery High School in the South Bay.
Corey Brown OF
Corey Brown only played in 39 games in MLB between the Washington Nationals and Boston Red Sox from 2011-2014. He was not very successful in this period of time, batting .171 with two home runs and four RBI. This will be Brown’s first year in the Mexican league after spending 2016 with the Oklahoma City Dodgers. The American outfielder was solid in the PCL, posting a .249 BA with 23 home runs and 70 RBI. Brown will look to impress this season with the Tijuana Toros and carry over the numbers he posted with OKC last year.
Francisco, 26, Chula Vista/Tijuana. I have been a Padres fan all my life, did most of the series previews and recaps in the Padres’ 2016 season for EVT. Now I focus more on the local soccer scene. Tijuana Xolos, San Diego Loyal, San Diego Wave.