Castilla helps Mexico walk off with win
RBI single in 10th beats Venezuela in Caribbean Series
MARGARITA ISLAND, Venezuela -- Vinny Castilla's list of retirement activities includes golf, family vacations and game-winning hits in the Caribbean Series.
On Friday, the former Major League star and current member of the Colorado Rockies front office drove home Heber Gomez with a single to left field in the bottom of the 10th inning to propel Mexico to a 3-2 victory against Venezuela in the Caribbean Series at Estadio Nueva Esparta.
With the victory, Mexico improves to 2-2 in the tournament and Venezuela falls to 1-3. The Dominican Republic leads the pack with a 3-1 record. Puerto Rico is also 2-2.
"That is why he is Vinicio Castilla," Mexico manager Homar Rojas said. "He's been a good hitter for a long time. Nobody is surprised when he does something like that."
Castilla is full of surprises. He ceremoniously retired from Winter League play at the Caribbean Series in Puerto Rico in 2007 before returning this year.
"I retired, but I came back," Castilla, 42, said. "I still feel good and I can play a little bit."
Castilla could always "play a little bit." During his run with Atlanta, Colorado, Tampa Bay, Houston, Washington and San Diego, Castilla proved to be the most productive offensive Major League player in his country's history, posting a .276 batting average, with 1,105 RBIs and 320 home runs. He retired from Major League Baseball as a player in 2006 and a few months later, from Winter League ball after 20 years of play.
Castilla is playing in his sixth Caribbean Series.
"He has tons of experience and knows how to hit," said Venezuela manager Dave Hudgens, who works in the front office for Cleveland. "It was 11:30 p.m. and the end of the game, I was hoping he was tired. I was hoping it was past his bed time but it wasn't."
Venezuela had its chances.
Padres farmhand Oscar Salazar drove home Erold Andrus, the brother of Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, in the third inning to give Venezuela a 2-0 lead. Michael Ryan, who spent four seasons with the Twins from 2002-05, hit a solo home run in the second inning to give Venezuela a 1-0 lead.
Ryan, 31, who has a non-roster invitation with the Angels for Spring Training, hit .300 with 14 home runs and 66 RBIs for Florida's Triple-A club in New Orleans. In 14 seasons in the Minors, Ryan has a .271 batting average in 1,389 games.
Castilla had help. Mexico right fielder Karim Garcia, who spent parts of 10 seasons with the Dodgers, D-backs, Tigers, Orioles, Indians and Yankees starting in 1995, went 2-for-4 with a game-tying home run in the sixth. He last played in the Major Leagues with the Orioles in 2004. Garcia has spent the past few seasons playing in Monterrey, Mexico and in Korea.
Garcia's teammate, Chris Roberson, who spent last year with Arizona's Triple-A Reno club, went 1-for-4 with a run scored.
As for Salazar, he saw action at four different positions in the infield in addition to left field and designated hitter in the big leagues in 2009. Should he make the team out of Spring Training, it will be as a right-handed bat off the bench.
"It doesn't matter how old you are, every time you win a game for your country it's special," Castilla said. "I'm glad I can help my country."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.