Arias, Blanco look to return to majors

Joaquin Arias, famous for being the "player to be named later" in the deal that sent Alex Rodriguez from the Texas Rangers to the New York Yankees in 2004, is tearing up the Dominican League, batting .370 with 29 RBIs for the Aguilas Cibaeñas and hopes to turn that performance into a chance to compete for a roster spot somewhere in spring training.

AriasAriasArias spent all of 2011 in Triple-A Omaha in the Kansas City Royals organization where he batted .232 and was granted free agency in November. The Royals had picked him off waivers from the New York Mets in November 2010.

While playing a competent second base for Aguilas, the 27-year-old Arias is also fourth in the league in stolen bases and is tied for league lead in triples with Chicago White Sox prospect Alejandro de Aza, who is playing locally with the Toros del Este.

Meanwhile, free agent pitcher Miguel Batista is trying on a new role with the Aguilas since joining the team a week ago. Batista is sharing closer duties with Boston Red Sox pitcher Tony Peña Jr.

Hamilton wants to be the next Pujols

St. Louis Cardinals prospect Mark Hamilton might be playing himself into contention for a roster spot with the big club by having a productive winter for the Hermosillo Naranjeros in the Mexican Pacific League.

Hamilton, a 6-4 left-handed hitting first baseman, hit .345 at Triple-A Memphis in 2011 and is following up with a .340 winter with 20 RBIs in 77 at-bats in the second half of the regular season.

With the departure of Albert Pujols, the Cardinals need to make decisions for first base in 2012 and might look to fill the roster spot from within. Hamilton was the Cardinals’ second-round draft pick in 2006.

Salazar wants back in the Show

Released by the Marlins last June, Oscar Salazar is determined to make it back to the majors and is putting together a stellar winter season with the La Guaira Tiburones to prove he can return to the same form which saw him hit .302 with the Baltimore Orioles and San Diego Padres in 2009.

Through 48 games, Salazar has 35 RBIs, seven home runs and is batting .260 and has been key in the clutch to help the Tiburones to the top of the standings.

Salazar has teamed up with outfielder Gregor Blanco, who last month signed with the San Francisco Giants, and Hector Sanchez, also a product of the Giants farm, for a combined 99 RBIs in 48 games.

Aviles making an impact

Boston Red Sox infielder Mike Aviles, who is trying his luck playing right field for the Ponce Leones, is making a quick impact since joining the team this week.

Aviles drove in four and hit two home runs, helping the Leones beat the Mayaguez Indios 5-3 in 14 innings in only his second game. Through his first five games, Aviles is hitting .265. Prior to joining the Leones, Aviles, who played five games in the outfield for the Red Sox, had said he wanted to improve his skills to perhaps compete for the Red Sox right field job in spring training.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee Brewers prospect Martin Maldonado is batting .338 through 25 games with Mayaguez with three home runs and 11 RBIs.