Cedeno tearing up Winter Ball

Cedeno leads Cubs' contingent in Winter Ball

Ronny Cedeno is tuning up for the 2006 season with a red-hot winter.

Cedeno, expected to be the starting shortstop for the Chicago Cubs, was third in the Venezuelan Winter League in batting at .362 (47-for-130) through 33 games. Cedeno has one home run and 20 RBIs for the Aragua Tigres, who rank second in the league as a team in batting.

The Cubs did try to acquire free agent Rafael Furcal, but the shortstop chose the Los Angeles Dodgers. Cedeno, 22, now will be given the chance to be the regular shortstop.

Catcher Henry Blanco, who has agreed to participate in the World Baseball Classic and could be playing for Venezuela, was hitting .262 in 42 games for Caracas with three home runs and 13 RBIs.

Jose Macias, who was a utility player for the Cubs, but was designated for assignment to make room on the roster for Bob Howry, was batting .375 in 10 games for Caracas. Macias was expected to play for Panama in the WBC next March.

In the Dominican Republic, outfielder Felix Pie was batting .209 in 29 games for Licey, the top team in the Dominican league. Pie has one home run, 10 RBIs and one stolen base so far. He will likely open the 2006 season at Triple-A Iowa.

Catcher Jose Reyes, added to the Cubs' 40-man roster before the Rule 5 Draft, was hitting .286 in 21 games for Escogido in the Dominican. Cuban left-handed pitcher Raul Valdez was 5-2 with a 2.86 ERA in nine games for Licey. He has struck out 50 in 50 1/3 innings, and given up 16 earned runs on 48 hits and 20 walks.

In Puerto Rico, catcher Geovany Soto was batting .192 in 19 games for Arecibo with two home runs and six RBIs. Outfielder Luis Montanez, a first-round pick in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft, was hitting .157 in 21 games for Carolina with two homers and eight RBIs.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.