International baseball alums Suarez, Ponce trade NPB-MLB places

International baseball alums Suarez, Ponce trade NPB-MLB places
Suarez earned his first MLB chance posting 42 saves for the Hanshin Tigers of NPB. Ponce obtained his release from the Pittsburgh Pirates to pursue an opportunity with the Nippon Ham Fighters.

International baseball alumni Robert Suarez and Cody Ponce are trading places for the 2022 season. Suarez will move from Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) to Major League Baseball (NPB), while Ponce will go the opposite way.

Robert Suarez, who represented Venezuela at the World Baseball Classic 2017, signed a one-year contract with the San Diego Padres of MLB. The club has an option for the following season.

Suarez, 30, started his professional career only in 2015. After playing in semi-pro leagues in Venezuela, he moved to a semi-pro club in Mexico. His performances attracted attention from the Saraperos de Saltillo of the Mexican Baseball League (LMB). He established himself amongst the premier closers in the league, collecting 23 saves in 43 appearances.

Suarez signed for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of NPB at the end of the season. He pitched in 58 games in 2016, but missed the whole 2017 season and pitched in only 20 games through the 2018 and 2019 seasons for the Japan Series winners.

After the 2019 season, the right-hander signed for the Hanshin Tigers and earned the closer's job. He collected 25 saves in 2020 and 42 in 2021, breaking a club record with 14 consecutive saves.

Cody Ponce, 27, has a deal with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of NPB for the 2022 season.

He was on the US roster at the WBSC Premier12 2019. He started three games, including the bronze medal game that the US lost against Mexico. Ponce (pictured above) left that game with a no-decision after five innings. He didn't allow a run.

He made his MLB debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2020. The right-hander pitched in 20 games over two seasons for the Pirates, five as a starter.