Cuban Baseball Newsbeat
Monday, July 14, 2014
Mr. Burns, I think we can trust the President of Cuba.
Eventually, the players who leave the island establish residency in another country and are declared free agents. Workouts are scheduled, sometimes attracting 200 scouts and executives if the player is a big enough star.
Sometimes, a player may work out for a specific team, as Abreu did for the Reds when they wanted to see if he could play third base or left field (he couldn’t, at least not to their satisfaction, and with Joey Votto set at first base, they reluctantly dropped out of the bidding).
Eventually, a player signs pending a physical exam, which can be something of an adventure in itself. The Dodgers had to have someone drive Puig 1.5 hours across Mexico City to find an MRI machine. When the Reds recently signed pitcher Raisel Iglesias, scheduling the physical was almost a bigger obstacle than negotiating the contract.
“We were working on a tight deadline, and the kid couldn’t get a visa yet to come to the Dominican Republic or the U.S.,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty explained. “We finally brought a doctor from the Dominican, and a Spanish-speaking doctor we work with in Cincinnati, to see the kid in Haiti. But then they had to find an MRI machine in Haiti.”
It all got done, and now the Reds will hope Iglesias does as well for them as Chapman has. He was nearly as expensive, costing the Reds $27 million for a seven-year contract, even though he wasn’t as highly touted as Chapman (who got $30.25 million for six years in January 2010).
The prices keep going up, which only makes the decisions tougher.
“The gut feel has to be there,” said Don Welke, a top Rangers scout who has been to many Cuban showcases and was involved in the signing of outfielder Leonys Martin. “It’s huge risk, huge reward. As it’s turned out recently, whoever has taken the risk has gotten the reward.
“But some scout had to stick his neck out for every one of these guys. And you’d better darn well be right, because your owner is asking you why you want to spend so much on a guy you only saw in two workouts.”
Posted: July 14, 2014 at 03:17 PM | 3 comment(s)
Friday, June 20, 2014
Cuban authorities say hard-hitting outfielder Yasmani Tomas has defected, multiple media outlets reported Friday.
Tomas went 6-for-16 during the WBC with two homers, one double and four strikeouts.
According to official statistics, Tomas hit .275 for Industriales last season with 10 home runs and 59 RBIs in the 90-game regular season and seven playoff games.
He dipped to six home runs while hitting .290 in 257 plate appearances for Industriales this season, but a source told Baseball America that may have been because of an arm injury suffered while crashing into an outfield wall.
10 HR in 90 games is a pace of 18 in 162 games. That doesn’t sound all that hard hitting to me.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Marrero was a bright spot on a bad team. He didn’t reach the majors until he was just a few days shy of 39, an age most ballplayers were well into retirement. The Washington journalist Bob Addie once wrote that Marrero “might have become a Hall of Famer had he been plucked at a younger age.”
In just his fifth big league game, Marrero struck out Boston’s Ted Williams with a dancing knuckleball. According to specious news accounts, he patted himself on the chest as he walked off the mound, saying, “Gude. Me want more money.”
Three decades later, a Post reporter visited Cuba and talked to Marrero about facing Williams. He told one of his favorite stories, about another game in which Williams went deep twice. The old pitcher would never forget: once off a slider, once off a knuckler.
“After the game, he put his arm around me under the stands and said, ‘This was my day,’ ” Marrero recalled. “I told Williams, ‘Every day is your day.’ ”
Monday, February 10, 2014
“IT IS WELL past noon in the mansion they call the American Dream House, and the owner has yet to wake up. Half a dozen friends and relatives sit under an imported Italian chandelier in the living room, watching the hours pass on a silver-plated clock, waiting for Aroldis Chapman to come downstairs. House rules dictate that nobody disturbs him; it is Chapman’s $30 million contract that paid for this house, and it is his singular left arm that brought his family from a coastal province in Cuba to the manicured suburbs of Florida’s gold coast, wher
“We are usually just sitting here, trying to pass the hours,” says Maria Caridad, his mother, speaking in Spanish as the clock closes in on 1 p.m. She mops the kitchen floor even though a crew of six housecleaners performed the same chore a few days earlier. She turns on some salsa music and cooks pigs’ feet on the kitchen stove, leaning over the pot to inhale the familiar smell. “This reminds me of Cuba,” she says. “Of home.”
Across the living room, her husband and Aroldis’ father, Juan Alberto, turns the TV to Channel 374, the only Spanish-language station available on their deluxe cable package. One of Chapman’s assistants has been teaching Juan Alberto some English, hoping to ease the 74-year-old’s transition to the United States, but the lessons fail to solve a bigger problem. “I’m too old to learn, and there’s no one here I need to talk to anyway,” he says, so he settles into the recliner for his third Cuban soap opera of the day.
Every new immigrant in this household has developed an antidote to boredom, and for Aroldis, it is sleep. Midday gives way to early afternoon. Early afternoon turns toward dusk. His parents move outside to sit by the swimming pool, where they study the ornate drapes of his second-story bedroom for any sign of movement. Some days during the offseason, the Reds’ 25-year-old closer stays in his room until sunset, sleeping, watching movies or just throwing a racquetball against his bedroom wall.
Finally, a few minutes before 4 p.m., the curtains lift and Chapman descends the spiral staircase to the pool deck. He wears sandals, sunglasses and a tank top obscured by heavy gold chains. He lights a Marlboro Red cigarette and flops down onto an all-weather mattress near the pool.
“Why so late like this?” Maria Caridad asks. “Why all this sleeping?”
“There’s nothing else to do,” he says.”
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Another one of Cuba’s best players has left the island, the latest in a wave of defections that isn’t expected to slow down.
Rusney Castillo, a 26-year-old center fielder who had been one of the top players in Cuba, has left the country to pursue a contract with a major league team, Baseball America has learned.
Castillo has played five seasons for Ciego de Avila in Cuba’s top league, Serie Nacional, so he will be able to sign as a free agent exempt from the international signing bonus pools.
That process could still take several months, since Castillo will have to establish residency in another country, have Major League Baseball declare him a free agent and the U.S. government’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) clear him to sign. Once that process is complete, Castillo should draw interest as a free agent who could either go straight to the majors or get a tuneup in Triple-A before moving up.
Castillo is short but has a strong, athletic frame at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds. His best tool is his speed, as he’s an above-average runner and one of the better base stealers in Cuba. More of a doubles hitter than a big home run threat, Castillo puts a charge into the ball with a line-drive righthanded swing, though he can get long to the ball at times and some scouts think he’s prone to chasing pitches off the plate. Primarily a center fielder in Cuba, Castillo has also played some second and third base, so his versatility could be a draw for some teams. He’s an aggressive, high-energy player, though some teams see him as a fourth outfielder.
When Yoenis Cespedes was in Cuba, Cespedes was the star center fielder on the Cuban national team, with Leonys Martin the up-and-comer. With Cespedes and Martin gone, Castillo stepped in as Cuba’s national team center fielder at the World Cup in October 2011 in Panama. Castillo was a standout at the tournament, hitting .512/.524/.854 in 10 games, going 21-for-41 with two home runs, two triples, four doubles, one walk and two strikeouts. He made the tournament’s all-star team after leading the World Cup in batting average and slugging while ranking fourth in on-base percentage.
for his generous support.
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