Notes: Concepcion joins Caribbean Hall

Notes: Concepcion joins Caribbean Hall

VALENCIA, Venezuela -- Davey Concepcion, a vital cog in Cincinnati's Big Red Machine when it ruled baseball in the 1970s, joined his old teammate and buddy Tony Perez in the Caribbean Series Hall of Fame on Wednesday in a ceremony in his hometown of Maracay.

With friends and admirers rising to offer an emotional tribute, Concepcion thanked those who helped pave the way for a great 19-year Major League career and talked about what a great honor it was to be enshrined along with such legends as Willie Mays, Minnie Minoso, Rod Carew, Manny Mota and Perez.

Among those in attendance was Concepcion's former teammate in Cincinnati, pitcher Mario Soto, who runs the players' union in the Dominican Republic.

"Davey was a great player on all those Big Red Machine teams, a great shortstop who hit in the clutch," Soto said. "What people forget is that when those big guys left, he was the third hitter in the league -- and still was a terrific player."

Soto believes Concepcion belongs in another Hall of Fame with Perez -- the one found in Cooperstown, N.Y.

"Tony finally made it, and of course Davey wants to be in Cooperstown," Soto said. "I think he deserves it, when you look at his career. Maybe he'll get a chance later on [through the Veterans Committee]."

One of Concepcion's childhood friends, Jose Auzola, recalled sharing banana sandwiches with Davey when they were hungry kids in Maracay.

"When he was 17," said Auzola, an outfielder on youth teams with Concepcion, "a scout named Napoleon Reyes told Davey he was too skinny to make it. He told him to go eat more arepas and plantains and beans.

"After that, another scout, Wilfredo Calvino, signed Davey for $3,500 for the Reds. Calvino was the manager of the Tigres [of Aragua] -- the team Davey played many years for here in Maracay."

Inducted along with Concepcion into the Caribbean Hall of Fame were former Major League infielder Jerry White, who played for Mexico, Venezuela and Puerto Rico in three Series; three-time Cuban Series star Pedro Formental and Celerino Sanchez, who represented Mexico four times.

The first of six Venezuelans inducted into the Caribbean Hall of Fame, Tony Armas, also attended the ceremony, along with another Venezuelan legend and Hall of Famer, Luis "Camaleon" Garcia.

"Davey was a tremendous player and is a tremendous person," said Armas, who played in nine Caribbean Series. "In 1988, he was signed by the Angels to play his 20th season. I was on that team and hoped to be his teammate, but it didn't work out.

"This couldn't happen to a better guy."

Cintron centered: Diamondbacks infielder Alex Cintron has something to prove and he's using the 2006 Caribbean Series to do it.

"I want to be a full-time player again," he said. "I want the chance to show I can do it."

Playing for Caguas in the Winter Leagues in Puerto Rico, Cintron hit .322 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 26 games. During the playoffs, he hit .105 (2-for-19) in five games. He is the designated hitter for Carolina this week.

"I didn't play so well in the playoffs, but I had a good winter overall. I'm ready to play and I'm looking forward to Spring Training. I'm not sure what is going to happen, though."

The Diamondbacks plan on using Craig Counsell at shortstop and Orlando Hudson at second base. Utility player Damion Easley is also on the roster, as well as Andy Green. Cintron does not know how much playing time he will get in Arizona -- if he stays in Arizona.

He was told the White Sox, Rangers and Mets were interested in acquiring him via trade.

"I hear they want to trade me and others tell me they want to keep me on the bench," Cintron said. "Maybe they want to use some young players. I don't know, but I don't feel like I'm in their plans. All I can do is have a good year and earn playing time."

Cintron hit .273 with 48 RBIs and eight home runs in 330 at-bats for the Diamondbacks in 2005.

"I didn't play bad for them last year," Cintron said. "Overall, we have to get better offensively, we have to get better. Look at our division. Everybody is getting hitters and can hit the ball out of the ballpark. Even the Dodgers signed Rafael Furcal and Nomar [Garciaparra] to hit. We need that."

Expanding series: Caribbean Confederation commissioner Juan Francisco Puello Herrera is not opposed to adding new teams to the annual Caribbean Series tournament -- if the teams are worthy.

Nicaragua, Panama and Colombia have expressed interest in playing in the Caribbean Series.

"We will not do anything that will compromise the level of play in the Caribbean Series," Herrera said. "Others want to get in, but the level has to be very high in the leagues. We are not going to bring the series down. We are moving up."

Among the additions to the Caribbean Series this year is a new anthem, written and composed by Herrera.

Changing Cabrera: Baltimore starter Daniel Cabrera spent the past few months in the Dominican Republic Winter Leagues working on his changeup with the hopes it can make him a well-rounded pitcher in 2006.

Look for more changeups when he takes the mound for Licey in the Caribbean Series this week.

"It is coming and I'm getting better with it," Cabrera said. "It's better than last year, so that's good. I know I need another pitch to be more effective. I can't just throw a fastball all the time."

Cabrera did not pitch in the Dominican League playoffs but went 0-2 with a 5.87 ERA in 15 1/3 innings. He struck out 17, but walked 11.

"I'm getting more experience every time I pitch," Cabrera said. "I'm young. I have a lot to learn."

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for Lyle Spencer contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.