X's re-sign lefty Salazar; get new catcher - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

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X's re-sign lefty Salazar; get new catcher

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The X's have re-signed starting pitcher Richard Salazar who was 8-7 last season. The X's have re-signed starting pitcher Richard Salazar who was 8-7 last season.

With less than two months before players report for spring training, the Sioux City Explorers' 2013 roster is beginning to take shape. The X's have announced the return of starting pitcher, Richard Salazar, as well as newly signed catcher, Alberto Espinosa. The X's now have 10 players under 2013 contracts, six pitchers and four position players.

The 2013 season will mark Salazar's 12th season of professional baseball and his third in Sioux City. Last year with the X's, the Caracas, Venezuela native started 20 games, posting an 8-7 record with a 4.08 earned run average. In 139.0 innings pitched, the left-hander allowed 63 earned runs, while striking out 87 batters and allowing only 32 free passes. He led the 2012 squad in strikeouts and was second in wins and earned run average.

Salazar recently appeared for Team Spain in the World Baseball Classic. He was eligible to pitch for Spain, as his wife lived there for 11 years. In a relief appearance versus Puerto Rico, the 31-year-old pitched five scoreless innings, giving up only two hits against a team filled with current Major League players Alex Rios, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina, Angel Pagan and Irving Falu.

Over five seasons in the American Association, Salazar has accumulated a 35-25 record, appearing mainly as a starter. In 544 innings pitched, he has posted a 3.90 earned run average, striking out 371 batters and walking only 164. He has pitched four complete games, while also tallying three saves over the five seasons. His career numbers place him in the top ten in strikeouts, wins and innings pitched, among other pitchers in the American Association.

Prior to his years in independent baseball, Salazar was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 13th round of the 2001 MLB Amateur Draft. He was in the Orioles organization for six years, working his way up to the Norfolk Tide, the Triple-A affiliate of Baltimore. During those years, the lefty saw most of his action out of the bullpen, pitching in 216 games. He posted a 17-14 record, with a strong 3.75 earned run average in 358 innings pitched.

"I am excited for the return of our veteran starter (Salazar). He brings leadership to the pitching staff with his years of experience," commented Stan Cliburn, the X's Field Manager. "And with his new battery mate, Espinosa, our pitching staff will be strong."

Alberto Espinosa comes to Sioux City from Grand Prairie to complete a trade that sent pitcher Griffin Bailey to the Airhogs prior to the 2012 season. The 26-year-old split the 2012 season with three teams in the American Association (Amarillo, Lincoln and Grand Prairie). Combined, he appeared in 82 games, hitting .250 and tallying 78 hits, 21 doubles, 8 home runs and driving in 41 runs.  In 2011, Espinosa shared time between the El Paso Diablos and Kansas City T-Bones. In 63 games, the Miami, FL native posted a .308 batting average with 68 hits, 18 doubles and 9 home runs.

Defensively, Espinosa has been primarily used as a catcher and first baseman; however, has the capabilities to play outfield and third base. Over his four seasons as a catcher, the right hander has thrown out 21% of base runners.

The 2013 season will mark Espinosa's fifth season in professional baseball. He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 15th round of the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft out of Broward Community College in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He spent two years in the Royals system before starting his trek in the American Association in 2011.

The Sioux City Explorers will kick off their 21st season on Saturday, May 4th when players report for Spring Training. The 2013 Home Opener will be Thursday, May 16th versus the Sioux Falls Pheasants.

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