HERMOSILLO, Mexico -- The 2013 version of the Caribbean Series guarantees drama, because for the first time since the tournament was revived in 1970, an actual championship game will take place.
Previously, the Caribbean Series was played strictly in double round-robin format, giving the crown to the club that finished with the best record after six days. That has led to some anti-climactic finales at the four-nation tourney.
Like last year, when the Leones del Escogido -- which returns as the Dominican Republic representative -- clinched the title on the second-to-last day after winning its first four games, then lost the last two games, which didn't matter.
This year, a new format has extended the Series an extra day, with a championship game pinning the teams with the two best records taking place on Thursday.
"It's perfect," said Escogido infielder Miguel Tejada, who signed a Minor League deal with the Royals this offseason. "I like the competition, and I think [the new format] is good for every country."
Hanley will primarily DH during Caribbean Series
HERMOSILLO, Mexico -- If Dodgers infielder Hanley Ramirez is going to get some preseason reps at shortstop, it probably won't come during the Caribbean Series.
Miguel Tejada is expected to start the majority of the seven-day tournament at shortstop for the defending-champion Leones del Escogido, with the 37-year-old Julio Lugo a suitable backup.
That, coupled with the presence of third basemen Fernando Tatis and Luis Jimenez, means Ramirez will mostly serve as the designated hitter -- as he did while going 0-for-2 with two walks in Friday's 7-2 win over Venezuela's Navegantes de Magallanes.
"It wouldn't surprise me if he didn't play any games [at shortstop]," Dominican Republic general manager Moises Alou said in Spanish. "Maybe he'll play one or two, but we have Miguel; we have a lot of depth there. And in a tournament like this, you want to please everybody in addition to winning. I feel like with us, rotating guys and sitting a guy one day, I don't think it hurts the team."
The Dodgers have indicated throughout the offseason that they're committed to Ramirez as their shortstop, with Minor League journeyman Luis Cruz looking like the starting third baseman after a solid showing down the stretch in 2012.
But Ramirez may not get much time at the position before Opening Day. Plans to play shortstop in winter ball were scrapped due to a minor shoulder injury that relegated him to DH duties. And his decision to play in the World Baseball Classic for his home country -- which has shortstops Jose Reyes and Erick Aybar on the roster, plus third baseman Adrian Beltre -- could have him out of Dodgers camp from late February to mid-March.
Alou stressed Ramirez's shoulder is perfectly fine. "Otherwise," he said, "he wouldn't be playing here."
"He didn't play shortstop in the Winter League, so I feel like he prefers to DH [in the Caribbean Series]," Alou said. "But it wouldn't surprise me to see him there one or two games."
Rodney confident he'll get extension from Rays
HERMOSILLO, Mexico -- Fernando Rodney, currently pitching for the Dominican Republic's Leones del Escogido at the Caribbean Series, continues to express confidence that he'll eventually garner an extension from the Rays.
"It's in plans already," Rodney said in Spanish on Friday, a few minutes before taking the field against Venezuela's Navegantes de Magallanes at Sonora Stadium. "We've talked a few times, and I expect it to get finalized this month."
The 35-year-old right-hander was at the center of much confusion earlier this week, when he told the Dominican publication El Dia that he was closing in on a two-year deal that would cover 2014-15.
"Everything is ready," Rodney was quoted as saying by the publication on Wednesday. But the Rays said those talks have not taken place, and Rodney's recently hired agent, Dan Lozano, told the Tampa Bay Times his client was misquoted by El Dia.
The veteran closer didn't go as far as saying there was an agreement in place with the Rays on Friday, but he expressed confidence that one would get done and in no way dismissed the existence of discussions.
"We're still in the planning stages, still negotiating," Rodney said. "You know, these negotiations take time because you have to weigh all your options."
Asked if he was confident a deal would get finalized, Rodney said: "Of course."
Rodney compiled a 4.42 ERA with the Tigers and Angels from 2007-11, but bounced back in a big way in 2012 with Tampa Bay. He notched a career-high 48 saves, posted a 0.60 ERA and struck out 76 batters in 74 2/3 innings, finishing fifth in American League Cy Young Award voting and earning the AL's Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Rodney will make $2.5 million in 2013, his final season before free agency.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.