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Puerto Rico sheds 'ugly duckling' status

Puerto Rico sheds 'ugly duckling' status

MARGARITA ISLAND, Venezuela -- Puerto Rico is no longer the ugly duckling of the Caribbean Series.

On Sunday afternoon, the club from Mayaguez topped Mexico, 8-2, in its double round-robin finale at Estadio Nueva Esparta to finish with a 4-2 record. If Venezuela (1-4) defeats the Dominican Republic's Escogido squad (4-1) in the series finale on Sunday night, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic will play a tie-breaker for the title on Monday at 10 a.m. ET.

A Dominican Republic victory would clinch the title for the nation.

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Puerto Rico manager Max Oliveras already considers his club a winner.

"I think we were able to clean up the image of Puerto Rico at this tournament," Oliveras said. "We haven't won this tournament since 2000, and the last time we had four wins was a few years ago. We've always been the ugly ducks here."

Puerto Rico, which went 2-4 in the Caribbean Series last year, did not participate in 2008 because of problems with the league. Puerto Rico had a 4-2 record in 2007 but struggled in the three previous years, going 3-15 from 2004 to 2006.

"When we lost our first two games here, I reminded the team that we had to be on a mission," Oliveras said. "Puerto Rico has had a hard time, and it's more than wins and losses for us."

His message hit home. Toronto Minor Leaguer Angel Sanchez scored twice, and Edwards Guzman -- who spent the past three seasons in Mexico -- and Baltimore farmhand Miguel Abreu each scored a run.

Former Major Leaguer Armando Rios and Luis Figueroa, who last played in the big leagues with Toronto in 2006, chipped in with a run scored each.

"We lost two games, and everybody thought we would give up, but I knew we could do it," Blue Jays first baseman/designated hitter Randy Ruiz said. "It's been a roller-coaster experience for me personally, but it's been a good one. I had a couple of at-bats when I failed, but I'm not going to give up, and I'm going to Spring Training looking for a job."

Ruiz hit .364 with one home run and four RBIs in the tournament.

As for Mexico, outfielder Chris Roberson might have to get used to wearing a Mexican League jersey. The former Arizona Minor Leaguer went 2-for-5 in the loss and is still looking for a job.

Roberson said that his playing time was interrupted last season when the D-backs sent Eric Byrnes and Chris Young to Triple-A Reno and it affected his rhythm at the plate. He hoped for a late-season call to the big leagues, but Arizona went with Trent Oeltjen instead.

Roberson hit .261 with seven home runs and 59 RBIs at Reno last year but believes that he can play better. The switch-hitter stole 30 bases and was caught just eight times.

"As a whole, I liked the Diamondbacks," Roberson said. "They treated me pretty good. I know [manager] A.J. Hinch, and he was busy last year. I'm still waiting on a call, and if I don't get one, I'll try to get a job in Mexico. I still have to make some money this summer."

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

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