It's always tough to know what to make of winter ball. But one pitcher in the Venezuelan league who has generated surprising buzz is 29-year-old reliever Travis Hughes, whom the Red Sox allowed to become a six-year free agent after a season as their Triple-A closer in Pawtucket. Hughes has kicked around the minor leagues for 10 years, without ever having any big league success. But he had a 1.91 ERA for Pawtucket, and opponents are hitting just .132 off him this winter.
One scout returning from Venezuela even described him as "overpowering at times." But an executive of another club wasn't sold. "He knows how to pitch, but he's got very average stuff across the board," the exec said. "To me, he's an 11th or 12th pitcher on a staff."
Meanwhile, a hitter in Venezuela who has popped a few eyeballs is Jody Gerut, who is trying to prove he's over his knee issues. Well, here's a good way to prove that: bat .390, with a .488 on-base percentage. Which what Gerut is doing. "He's raking," said the same scout. "He should wind up in somebody's camp."
And here's one more magical name from the past who is doing some twirling in Venezuela -- the long-lost Ariel Prieto (a man with one big league win over the last decade -- and that was seven years ago).
"He's claiming he's only 38 years old," said one baseball man who spent time in Venezuela. "But he looks like a 10-year veteran -- except I mean a 10-year veteran coach."
OK, these aren't really box score lines. But they're straight off the stat sheets in the Venezuelan Winter League:
Hideo Nomo (yep, he's back): 0-2, 8.22 ERA, 7 2/3 IP, 12 H, 9 R, 7 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HBP, 1 WP.
Mets farmhand Lino Urdaneta: 0-1, 11.25 ERA, 8 IP, 18 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HBP.
Former Indians prospect Albert Vargas: 0-0, 16.62 ERA, 4 IP, 13 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2 WP.
One scout's review of Nomo's work: "Ugly. ... Awful. ... He's done."
Well, we really did it this time.
In the last edition of Rumblings, in honor of the possibility of Miguel Cabrera and Orlando Cabrera playing on the left side of the same infield, we tossed a fun little question out there to you loyal readers:
We asked if you remembered other left sides of any infield occupied by guys with the same last name.
Our inbox may never be the same.
We got hundreds of replies -- and read over 200 of them. Here are your answers:
To the more than 100 readers who told us about the 27 games in which Billy Ripken played third base while some other guy named Ripken played short, we say thanks.
To the dozen readers who recalled that the 1902-04 A's featured the unrelated Monte and Lave Cross playing side-by-side, we say congratulations.
But to those of you who came up with four other left siders, we say: You folks amaze us constantly. Here are those duos:
The relentlessly inventive Eric Lee submitted Felipe and Luis Lopez, of the 2005 Reds. They started exactly two games together.
Then there were Jack Wilson and Enrique Wilson, who started precisely one game on the left side for the 2001 Pirates, according to that dogged Eric Lee. And loyal reader Daniel Green reminded us that those two occasionally played in the same infield as the thoroughly unrelated Craig Wilson.
Loyal reader Jack Renna came up with one more brother act: Bill Gleason and Jack Gleason, for the 1882 St. Louis Browns.
And who among us will ever forget that classic Tampa Bay game on April 14, 2002, when the Rays started Jason Smith at short and Bobby Smith at third? OK, everybody except loyal reader Steve Katso forgot it. But we're proud of him for unearthing it. And we thank all of you for participating.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His new book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," has been published by Triumph Books and is now available in bookstores.