Last year's Intercounty Baseball League MVP is heading back to Guelph.
The Royals have confirmed Claudio Custodio is boarding a plane Thursday to come back to Canada, and will get the start Saturday at home against Hamilton.
It was part of a busy IBL signing deadline for the Royals, who also re-inked prolific hitter Sean Reilly and last year's closer Andrew Case ahead of the 11:59 p.m. cutoff Monday night.
"We were waiting on (Custodio's) visa, and as luck would have it for us, we were going to sign him regardless," said Royals field manager Dino Roumel.
"We were confident with the gamble we were going to take, that he was going to be up here again. He wanted to come up, he turned down a great opportunity in Mexico cause he kind of felt – I hate the unfinished business thing – but we felt like we had a shot last year at being a lot better than what we were in the playoffs. He wanted to come back, and he knew our team could be a little deeper."
Custodio broke the league's single-season record for strikeouts last year with 196, all the while going 11-0 in the regular season. He had a 2.17 ERA in 120 innings.
He's been pitching in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League over the last several months. He appeared in 21 games, 20 as a reliever, finishing with a 2-1 record, a 2.10 ERA in 34.1 innings, striking out 21 and walking 14.
Roumel was happy with what Custodio produced there, and is looking forward to having the righty back.
On Reilly, the league's all-time leader in hits, home runs and RBI will extend his 20+ year IBL career.
He had a .298 average in 26 games in 2022 for Guelph.
Roumel said things are being finalized with the 46-year-old's availability.
Reilly – who has a son playing sports, and is a full-time firefighter – still wanted to play, so Roumel got him to sign and will look to get him in enough games to qualify for the playoffs.
"He's in real good shape as always," Roumel said.
"You couldn't go backwards, you couldn't miss the deadline and say he wants to play after the deadline was done."
He said Reilly provides a veteran bat in either the starting lineup or off the bench, as well as leadership, respect and intangibles that will echo through the lineup.
"He's destined to be a manager in this league, time permitting," Roumel said.
Reilly, and all IBL hitters, need 24 plate appearances to qualify for the postseason roster.
As for Custodio – and all IBL pitchers for that matter – the playoff qualification is 10 innings and five appearances.
Speaking of pitchers, Case is a big addition to the bullpen.
The former Toronto Blue Jays prospect played in 15 regular season games for the Royals last year, and recorded five saves. Case had a 2.07 ERA in 17.1 innings, striking out 19 and walking four.
Overall, Roumel is feeling good about the stretch run, with a strong starting rotation and is especially confident about the back end of the bullpen, including Case and this week's IBL pitcher of the week Brandon Deans.
He admits the team will be counting on pitching to get them through, but he also likes what he sees out of hitters. Namely Tristan Pompey, who has hits in six of seven games since returning from the Pan Am Games qualifier in Argentina in June.
Brando Leroux leads the team with a .371 batting average, one of five regular hitters with an average above .300.
"We're starting to gear up now," he said.
"We had 27 different lineups in 27 games. We're happy about where we're going, and how hard the guys are working. It's going to be fun."
With 14 games to go, Guelph is in sixth place at 11-17.
But the Royals are still in the thick of things, just three games back of Hamilton and Toronto for fourth place.
"Anybody from one to seven has a chance of winning any day, and now add Brantford in there, the way they're playing, anybody can beat anybody," Roumel said.
"It's amazing. You got to be ready to play every day, and it's so much better for this league and all the people who follow it."
Guelph is home to league-leading Welland Tuesday night. First pitch is set for 7:30 p.m. at Hastings Stadium.