ISLA DE MARGARITA, Venezuela -- Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina stepped onto the field at Stadium Nueva Esparta on Sunday night and was immediately swarmed by hundreds of media members behind home plate. Fans in attendance began to yell his name.
It's exactly the type of reaction Molina was hoping to receive.
"If being here as a big leaguer helps the youth because they see me on the field and they think they can do it, that's good," Molina said. "They see me as an example. We are here to support baseball, and it doesn't matter if you play in big leagues or the little leagues, I am here to show support for you."
Officially, the Puerto Rican catcher is in Venezuela as a special guest of former Major Leaguer Tony Alvarez, who is now the country's Minister of Sport.
"I'm here not just for Venezuela, but for all the Latinos participating in this event," Molina said. "This tournament helps players -- the fan support helps and the media coverage helps. I played a lot of years in the Winter Leagues and Caribbean Series and this helped me a lot, because I had the opportunity to play with a lot of good players at a young age."
Cardinals pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Jupiter, Fla., on Feb. 12 and their first workout is slated for Feb. 13.
"I just want to get better than last year and do my best," Molina said. "Those have always been my expectations."
Aceves brothers make Series a family affair
ISLA DE MARGARITA, Venezuela -- The Aceves brothers have turned the 2014 Caribbean Series into a family affair.
Newly signed Baltimore pitcher Alfredo Aceves and his older brother Jonathan Aceves, the starting catcher for Mexico's Naranjeros de Hermosillo, teamed up on Saturday night to shut down Cuba's offense in a 9-4 victory in the first game of the Caribbean Series.
On Sunday afternoon, the brothers put on a different type of show for media and fans before Mexico's 6-3 victory against Puerto Rico's Indios de Mayaguez.
"I'm really grateful for the opportunity to be here," Alfredo said. "We played together with Culiacan one time. The dude is my brother and I respect him a lot. We faced each other in the past and that was fun, too."
Alfredo was asked which brother usually wins the matchup between the two.
"We're the same," Jonathan blurted out from the behind the group of reporters. "We're equal."
Alfredo responded with a laugh.
"Equals? Equals," Alfredo said. "Yes, we are equals. That's right, the same. The same guy. Funny. But really, there's no difference in pitching to a big league catcher or to my brother. The level is the only thing that changes. The Caribbean Series level is different than the big leagues."
Aceves, who agreed to Minor League deal with Baltimore on Jan. 16, said he expects to arrive in Florida for Spring Training on Feb. 12.
"If they ask me, I'll say I want to be a starter," Aceves said. "I am a starter, but it's their decision and I'll do whatever they say. But I'm a starter."
For his career, Aceves is 30-14 with a 3.69 ERA while pitching mostly as a reliever over six Major League seasons with the Yankees and Red Sox. He has struggled since posting a 2.93 ERA in 114 games in his first four seasons.
What's more, Aceves didn't appear in the big leagues after July 9, when he was sent to Triple-A Pawtucket by Boston and outrighted off the 40-man roster. He was also slowed by an oblique strain.
Aceves was asked if he felt any pressure entering Spring Training.
"Pressure? I don't have anything to lose," he said.
Perez eyes Majors deal as he reps Mexico in Series
ISLA DE MARGARITA, Venezuela -- Oliver Perez is looking for a job.
But on Sunday afternoon, he was just looking for three outs.
The left-handed pitcher struggled in his first appearance of the Caribbean Series, giving up three runs in the ninth inning of Mexico's 6-3 victory over Puerto Rico.
Perez, who is a free agent, said he is looking for the right deal before he commits.
"There are teams that are interested, but there's nothing finalized and I can't really speak on that," Perez said. "I'm here to help lift the level of baseball in Mexico and win the Caribbean Series. It's an honor to be here."
Perez went 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA in 9 1/3 innings during eight games for Culiacan in Mexico. He went 3-3 with a 3.74 ERA in 61 games for the Mariners last season.