Nunez sharpening skills in winter ball

Veteran Nunez sharpening skills in winter ball

After eight seasons with the Pirates and one with the Cardinals, 2006 marked Abraham Nunez's first campaign as a member of the Phillies. The Dominican infielder started the year as a bench player, but David Bell's trade to the Brewers in July elevated Nunez to the role of starting third baseman for the final two months of the season.

While the Phillies' recent signing of Wes Helms may send Nunez back to the bench, he still figures to be a prominent player for Philadelphia in 2007. The 30-year-old veteran is currently preparing for the upcoming season by playing in the Dominican Winter League as a member of the Leones del Escogido. Nunez has appeared in 23 games for the Leones, collecting 19 hits and 10 walks en route to a .268 average and a .391 on-base percentage.

Nunez is just one of many players in the Phillies organization playing professional baseball in the month of December. Here's an update on Philadelphia farmhands currently honing their skills in the Dominican Winter, Mexican Pacific and Venezuelan Winter Leagues.

Dominican Winter League

Eude Brito, LHP -- Brito is 2-0 with a microscopic 0.96 ERA over 18 2/3 innings with the Azucareros del Este. Opponents are hitting just .172 against him.

Fabio Castro, LHP -- Castro, pitching for the Gigantes del Cibao, is 1-2 with a 1.86 ERA over nine appearances, spanning 29 innings. He has struck out 31 while walking 20.

Julio De La Cruz, RHP -- Pitching for the Gigantes del Cibao, De La Cruz is 1-1 with a 7.04 ERA over seven relief appearances.

Carlos Ruiz, C -- Ruiz, who may be the Phils' starting backstop next season, has appeared in 12 games for the Tigres del Licey. He is batting .317 (13-for-41) with five doubles, a home run and eight RBIs.

Alfredo Simon, RHP -- One of the Phillies' three acquisitions in the Rule 5 Draft, Simon has been lights out for the Gigantes del Cibao. The 25-year-old is 2-1 with an 0.64 ERA over 28 1/3 innings.

Juan Sosa, 2B -- Sosa, a 31-year-old infielder, has been one of the Gigantes del Cibao's best hitters. He is batting .323 with three home runs and 19 RBIs in 130 at-bats.

Jim Ed Warden -- Another Rule 5 Draft acquisition, Warden has made 15 appearances for the Aguilas Cibaenas. He has allowed five runs -- four earned -- over 8 2/3 innings.

Mexican Pacific League

Nick Mattioni, RHP -- Mattioni is 3-1 with a 5.04 ERA over five starts, the last of which came on Dec. 10. The Naranjeros de Hermosillo right-hander has walked 14 over 25 innings while striking out nine.

Chris Roberson, OF -- Roberson, the starting center fielder for Naranjeros de Hermosillo, is in the midst of a 13-game hitting streak, during which time he has raised his average 38 points to .275. The 27-year-old has bashed three home runs over his last 21 at-bats.

Venezuelan Winter League

Joseph Bisenius -- After hurling 7 1/3 scoreless innings over his first eight appearances with the Navegantes del Magallanes, Bisenius was hit hard Tuesday en route to his first loss of the season. The 24-year-old right-hander surrendered four runs while retiring just one batter.

Ryan Cameron, RHP -- Cameron has appeared in 10 games for the Navegantes del Magallanes, and he is 0-1 with a 4.00 ERA over 18 innings. His last appearance came Dec. 9.

Jeremy Cummings, RHP -- Cummings lasted just two innings in his start last Saturday, allowing five runs -- one earned -- on six hits and three walks. The Aguilas del Zulia right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.44 ERA on the season.

Josh Kroeger, OF -- Kroeger, an outfielder with Aguilas del Zulia, has not appeared in a game since Dec. 8. The Iowa native is batting .248 on the season, with three homers and 18 RBIs over 125 at-bats.

Carlos Leon, 2B -- Leon, a 27-year-old second baseman with Aguilas del Zulia, has hit safely in his last five games. This modest streak has raised his average 39 points to .239 (22-for-92) on the season.

Tim McClaskey, RHP -- McClaskey started for the Navegantes del Magallanes on Saturday and took the loss, allowing five runs on nine hits over four frames. The 30-year-old is 4-2 with a 3.88 ERA over 51 innings.

Moises Melendez, LHP -- Melendez has made 10 appearances for the Aguilas del Zulia, five as a starter and five in relief. He has taken the loss in each of his last three outings and is 3-3 with a 4.60 ERA overall.

Jesus Merchan, SS -- Merchan has been primarily used as a defensive replacement, as evidenced by the fact that he only has 62 at-bats over 33 games. The 25-year-old shortstop has collected five hits in his last 11 at-bats, however, and is batting .306 on the season.

Carlos Monasterios, RHP -- The 20-year-old made his league debut with the Pastora de los Llanos on Saturday. He allowed two runs on two hits while retiring two batters.

Jim Rushford, RF -- The 32-year-old veteran, who played briefly in the Major Leagues in 2002, made his Venezuelan debut Dec. 1 as a member of the Pastora de los Llanos. He is batting .296 (8-for-27) over his first 10 games, and his solo home run last Saturday was his first RBI of the season.

Danny Sandoval, 2B -- Sandoval, a member of the Pastora de los Llanos, appeared in five games this week and went 4-for-18 with two RBIs. He is hitting .243 (45-for-185) on the season.

John Stephens, RHP -- The 27-year-old made his debut with the Cardenales de Lara on Dec. 14. While he hurled a scoreless inning in that outing, the native of Australia didn't fare as well three days later. Last Saturday, Stephens allowed three runs on three hits over 1 2/3 innings and took the loss.

Benjamin Hill is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.