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Puerto Rico edges Dominican Republic

Puerto Rico edges Dominican Republic

CAROLINA, P.R. -- With the 2007 Caribbean Series title already clinched for his Dominican Republic squad before he even stepped on the mound against Puerto Rico, Jose Lima could have coasted through the final game of the round-robin content with another successful season with his country.

He didn't. Looking for another chance to show Lima Time has not run out, the animated right-hander threw 122 pitches in 8 1/3 innings but came up on the losing end of Puerto Rico's 1-0 victory in the finale on Wednesday.

In two starts in the Caribbean Series, Lima finished 0-1 with a 2.03 ERA in 13 1/3 innings. He struck out three batters and walked 10. The Dominican Republic earned the title with a 5-1 record. Puerto Rico finished at 4-2.

"It's a great feeling winning it for your country," Dominican Republic shortstop Miguel Tejada said. "We played for each other, and it was great to get it for your country."

Lima rocked the Puerto Rico lineup for eight innings, but his roll came to a screeching halt in the ninth inning. Puerto Rico outfielder Armando Rios walked to lead off the frame, and he advanced to second when Juan Gonzalez lined a single to left field. Lima literally tipped his cap to Rios after issuing the walk, and he did the same to Gonzalez after giving up the base hit.

Lima would not face another hitter, and he was replaced by Arnie Munoz. The Lima show continued a few more minutes. He took off his hat, spun around for the fans on his way to the dugout and received a standing ovation from the Dominican Republic faithful in attendance. Three pitches later, the stadium erupted again, but this time the cheers came from the home team after Javier Valentin drove in Rios for the game-winner. The win snapped a nine-game losing streak for Puerto Rico against the Dominican Republic in Caribbean Series play.

"It was a good victory for us," Puerto Rico's Alex Cora said. "The most important thing for us was to get rid of the negative image of our baseball and end the streak."

The game was over. But for Lima, it could be just the beginning of more baseball.

Pitching for the Aguilas del Cibao in the Dominican Republic Winter League, Lima went 4-3 with 2.78 ERA in 55 innings during 10 games. He struck out 38 batters. During the playoffs, Lima posted a 5-0 record with a 1.54 ERA.

He needed a strong winter. Last season with the Mets, Lima went 0-4 with a 9.87 ERA and spent some time in the Minor Leagues. Those sub-par numbers could be the reason no Major League team has offered him a big-league invite to Spring Training. There are reports he has been offered Minor League-only deals, but the pitcher has turned them down because he wants a Major League invitation. Lima also is considering offers to play in Mexico and Japan.

"I did my job. Put me on the mound and I am going to do my job," Lima said. "I hope somebody calls me before Feb. 20."

But Lima is not the only former Major Leaguer looking for a job. Two other figures in the memorable ninth inning also are seeking employment. In 33 games for Puerto Rico, Gonzalez hit .281 with 18 RBIs and four home runs. In 12 playoff games, he hit .369 with three homers and five RBIs.

There were initial reports of interest in Gonzalez by Major League teams, but the Angels, Tigers and Orioles all have downplayed inquiring about the outfielder. Gonzalez hit .385 with one RBI during the Caribbean Series.

Add Rios to the list of job seekers. Rios hit .545 with four RBIs during the Caribbean Series and .264 with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs in 49 games for Guasave in the Mexican Winter League. He last played in the Major Leagues in 2003 with the White Sox.

Dominican Republic third baseman Tony Batista, named the Most Valuable Player of the Caribbean Series, also is on the market -- again. According to reports in Puerto Rico, San Diego, Milwaukee and St. Louis all have expressed interest in signing the veteran. Playing for the Aguilas, Batista hit .241 with nine home runs and 38 RBIs in 45 games. He hit .233 with one home run and five RBIs in seven games during the playoffs. During the Caribbean Series, Batista hit .259 with three home runs and eight RBIs.

"I'm really happy," Batista said. "God is in control, and I'm waiting on where I go. If I go to the big leagues, Triple-A or to Mexico on back to the Dominican Republic, I am leaving it in God's hands."

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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