Tag Archive | "Cuba"

New Baseball World Rankings – USA Ends Cuba’s Four Year Reign


USA Baseball has ended Cuba’s 4-year reign at the top of the World Baseball Rankings after a productive year in 2013.

The International Baseball Federation has used the World Baseball Ranking system since 2009, and each year Cuba has been at the top.

Team USA had a disappointing second round exit at the World Baseball Classic, but then picked up gold medals at the 12U Baseball World Cup and the 18U Baseball World Cup. Also giving Team USA points this summer was its “Friendship” series with Cuba where the USA’s National Collegiate Team won all five games.

Also jumping up in the standings was Japan who went from the third ranked country to the second also surpassing Cuba in the process. In the big tournaments of the year, Japan placed third at the World Baseball Classic, second at the 18U World Baseball Cup, and third again at the 12U Baseball World Cup.

The Dominican Republic made one of the bigger jumps in the standings after its win at the World Baseball Classic going from 13th a year ago to 5th.

The Netherlands remain the top European country in the standings as they swapped places with Canada moving up to 6th place.

The Americas continue to be the strongest in the polls collecting eleven of the top twenty spots. Asia and Europe combined take up 40% of the top twenty with both continents placing four teams. The last top twenty team comes from Oceania with Australia coming in at 14th.

Africa’s top representative is South Africa in at number 31.

Men’s Baseball World Rankings Top 10:

1. USA
2. Japan
3. Cuba
4. Chinese Taipei
5. Dominican Republic
6. Netherlands
7. Canada
8. South Korea
9. Puerto Rico
10. Venezuela

Complete World Rankings

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Cuban Slugger Jose Abreu Defects


According to the el Nuevo Herald, Jose Abreu has left Cuba and is reportedly in another Caribbean nation in order to defect to the USA. Ben Badler at Baseball America has also confirmed the story.

Abreu is one of the stars from Cuba. He tied for the lead in home runs in the 2013 World Baseball Classic hitting .360/.385/.760.

He is looking to follow in the footsteps of recent defectors Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, and Aroldis Champman. Puig defected in 2012 and signed a 7-year, $42 million contract and has become a sensation since being called up by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Abreu is a power-hitting first baseman. At the age of only 26, he stands to land a huge contract once he has established residency in another country. It will be a few months before he is able to sign with a team, but look for a team to make a splash in the off season with Abreu.

At 6’3″ and 250 lbs, Abreu is an imposing figure at the plate. He has tremendous power to all fields and has proven himself not only in Cuba, but on the international stage as well.

The lack of first base free agents in the market this upcoming off season will really help Abreu’s value on the open market.

He is the second player to defect this summer. In early July, 26-year old pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne defected while on the way to the Netherlands for the World Port Tournament.

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MLB Says No to Cuba in Caribbean Series


In mid-June Cuba said it would rejoin the Caribbean Series after a 53-year absence. However, that may now be in jeopardy thanks to Major League Baseball.

A Major League Baseball official told the organizers of the Caribbean Series that it would not cooperate with the 2014 tournament if Cuba is allowed to play.

Consent from MLB is crucial since many of the players that play for the teams are under contract to MLB clubs. But the Baseball Confederation of the Caribbean is working on obtaining a license from the US Government to allow a Cuban team in the 2014 tournament scheduled for February 1-7 in Venezuela.

In the early years of the tournament, Cuba was dominant. It won seven titles from 1949-1960. Then Fidel Castro took over, and he dissolved professional baseball canceling the 1961 tournament. After a nine year absence, the tournament restarted in 1970 without Cuba. That is how it has been ever since.

So earlier this year when it was announced that Cuba would rejoin the Series, there were many people who were very excited. Now that all may be in jeopardy because of two governments that can’t get along.

Another hitch in the plan is the plan for the Caribbean Series to return to the United States in another four years or so. The Series has been in talks with the Miami Marlins about the possibility of using their stadium to return to the area where the tournament was played as recent as 1991.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that Cuba participates in the World Baseball Classic, which partly takes place in the USA. So many are asking why MLB would try to ban a team from Cuba from playing in the Caribbean Series when it is allowed in the WBC.

It was announced on MLB’s official website on June 11 that Cuba would be joining the Series. Just over a month later, MLB sent out an ultimatum to the Confederation.

According to Diario Libre, which obtained a copy of the letter dated July 15, MLB Vice President of Operations Kim Ng wrote to Puello that MLB would grant the Confederation 24 hours to retract its agreement with Cuba. Otherwise, MLB will decline to sign its annual Caribbean Series agreement with the Confederation. U.S. sanctions, Ng said in the letter, require MLB to apply for licenses, and there is not enough time to do so before the tournament.¹

It appears that the Confederation has until August 15 to rescind the invitation to Cuba. If they fail to do so by that day, MLB will be unable to sign the annual agreement for the 2014 tournament.

¹ Cuba Standard (2013-08-07) “MLB threatens to pull plug on Caribbean Series over Cuba

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USA Collegiate National Team Completes Sweep of Cuba


The USA Collegiate National Team finished up its summer schedule with a 5-3 win over Cuba. The win gave the USA a historic sweep and helped it finish with a 20-3 record.

Carlos Rodon (North Carolina State) got the start and was virtually untouchable. He tossed 6.2 innings of scoreless ball giving up just two hits. He struck out eleven en route to his third win of the summer.

The middle relief struggled a bit for Team USA giving up three runs in the eighth inning, but Ryan Burr (Arizona State) was able to come in an shut down the Cuban bats in the ninth to pick up his sixth save.

The big blow for Cuba to get back in the game came off the bat of Lazaro Herrera who came on to hit a pinch-hit three-run home run off of Chris Diaz (Miami, Fla.).

Team USA got on the board in the bottom of the first inning. After working a walk and then stealing second, Kyle Schwarber (Indiana) scored on a Michael Conforto (Oregon State) double.

Trea Turner (North Carolina State) got the offense going again in the fifth inning. After working a walk and quickly stealing second, he moved to third base on a wild pitch. Alex Bregman (LSU) wasted no time in bringing him in by hitting a sacrifice fly to center field to give Team USA a 2-0 lead.

Errors would be Cuba’s downfall as the game progressed. They gave up three unearned runs over the sixth and seventh innings.

Team USA finished the summer going 13-0 in exhibition games and 7-3 in international play.

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Cuba Claims 2013 World Port Title with Win Over the Netherlands


The 2013 World Port Tournament finished up earlier today with the championship match between the world’s #1 ranked Cuba against the host Netherlands.

The two teams split their first two matches with the Dutch winning the first game 7-0 but falling in the second game 4-0. Heading into the final day of the round robin play on Saturday, three teams were sitting at 3-2 in Cuba, Netherlands, and Chinese Taipei.

Cuba defeated Curacao 11-0 to finish at 4-2 and earn a spot in the championship. Then it came down to the winner of the Netherlands and Chinese Taipei to see who would face Cuba.

The Dutch got a great performance out of Diegomar Markwell who tossed 8.2 innings of shutout ball to pitch the Netherlands into the championship game.

So it was all set. Cuba against the Netherlands for the 2013 World Port Tournament Championship.

Cuba 4, Netherlands 0

Wilber Perez was outstanding on the hill for Cuba. He pitched 5.1 innings allowing just two hits to earn the win. Rasiel Iglesias came on to finish off the game and earn the save. Iglesias tossed 3.2 innings allowing just one hit and striking out four.

The Dutch bats were silenced by Cuba’s arms, but the Cuban bats showed up. Rob Cordemans didn’t pitch bad, but he got no support. He allowed four runs, just two earned, in 7.2 innings.

Alexander Malleta had a great day at the plate for Cuba. He went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two RBI. Andy Ibanez chipped in with three singles, which was equal to what the entire Dutch team had, going 3-for-5. Jose Miguel Fernandez and Yadiel Hernandez both scored a run and went 2-for-4.

As a team Cuba led the tournament in every major category. They had the best ERA (1.73), team batting average (.276), and fielding percentage (.991) committing only two errors.

It was the ninth gold medal for Cuba, and thirteenth overall. The Dutch earned its eleventh medal and sixth silver.

Photo Courtesy WorldPortTournament.nl

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WPT: Cuba and Chinese Taipei Pick Up Wins on Day Four; Lead Tournament


Back to a full slate of games on Wednesday as all teams played at the 2013 World Port Tournament, the defending champion Chinese Taipei faced off with Curacao who was coming off its first win. The later game was a rematch between host Netherlands and the #1 world ranked Cuba.

Game 1 of the day saw a great pitching performance from Chinese Taipei’s Yank Jhih-long who tossed seven innings to earn the win. Over those seven innings he gave up just one run on three hits while striking out eight. Chen Yu-hsun came on to pick up his second save of the tournament pitching the final inning and a third.

Curacao starter Sherwenne Antersijn didn’t pitch bad, but didn’t pitch great. He tossed 6.1 innings giving up three runs on six hits taking the loss.

Neither team did too much offensively. Chinese Taipei took advantage of a late inning error to take on two unearned runs. Kuo Ming-jen had a nice day at the plate for Chinese Taipei. The shortstop went 2-for-4 in the game, scored a run, and drove in another.

Johannes Gregorius went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI for Curacao who fell to 1-3.

Game 2 featured Cuba and the Netherlands. The Dutch had defeated Cuba the first go around 7-0, but this time Cuba would get its revenge. It got a great start from Wilber Perez who shut down the Dutch offense for 7.1 innings. He allowed just four hits, walked six, and struck out seven as Cuba went on to win 4-0.

Rasiel Iglesias pitched the final 1.2 innings to earn the save.

It was a closer game than the score indicates. It was scoreless for the first seven innings as neither side could get to the opposing team’s starter until Cuba got two runs in the top of the eighth.

Dutch stater Orlando Yntema was touched up for a pair of runs in the eighth. After cruising through seven innings, Yntema walked the lead off hitter. After a sacrifice moved the runner to second base, Yadeil Hernandez came on as a pinch-hitter. On a 2-2 pitch, Hernandez hit a single up the middle to put Cuba on the board with a RBI single.

Yntema would be relieved but his relief, Leon Boyd, would immediately give up a double driving home Hernandez. That left Yntema with a line of 7.1 IP/5 H/ 2 R and the loss.

Cuba would take on some insurance runs in the top of the ninth on a Eriel Sanchez two-run single.

2013 World Port Tournament Schedule:

Sunday June 30
Cuba 3, Curacao 0
Netherlands 7, Chinese Taipei 2

Monday July 1
Chinese Taipei 4, Curacao 2
Cuba 0, Netherlands 7

Tuesday July 2
Curacao 3, Netherlands 2 (10)

Wednesday July 3
Curacao 5, Chinese Taipei 2
Netherlands 0, Cuba 4

Thursday July 4
19:30 Cuba vs Chinese Taipei

Friday July 5
14:00 Chinese Taipei vs Cuba
19:30 Netherlands vs Curacao

Saturday July 6
14:00 Curacao vs Cuba
19:30 Chinese Taipei vs Netherlands

Sunday July 7
14:00 Championship Game

2013 World Port Tournament Standings

1. Cuba 2-1
1. Chinese Taipei 2-1
3. Netherlands 2-2
4. Curacao 1-3

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World Port Tournament Opens with Wins from Cuba and Netherlands


As Prague Baseball Week and the Swiss Alpine Cup were winding down, another big tournament was just kicking off over in Rotterdam, Netherlands – the World Port Tournament.

This  year the WPT features just four teams, but they are some of the strongest in the world including the #1 ranked team from Cuba. Also playing are Chinese Taipei, Curacao and the host Netherlands.

Even before the tournament kicked off it was drawing attention from the world of baseball as a Cuban pitcher, Odrisamer Despaigne, defected on the flight to the Netherlands as the team make a stopover in Paris. This is the third straight time a Cuban player has defected at the WPT, which is played every two years.

The 2013 edition of the WPT kicked off with Cuba facing off with Curacao with Cuba starting off with a 3-0 victory. Cuban starter Ismel Jimenez pitched great tossing eight shutout innings. He gave up just six hits, walked one, and struck out ten to pick up the win. Rasiel Iglesias came in to pick up the save with a scoreless ninth.

Andy Ibanez had a great day at the plate for Cuba. He went 3-for-4 scoring twice. Yulieski Gourriel knocked in a run and scored once going 2-for-3 with a triple.

Raydell Isabella pitched well for Curacao tossing a complete game. He gave up just three runs (one run) on seven hits.

Game 2 saw the host Netherlands take on the defending champion Chinese Taipei.

Chinese Taipei jumped out in the third inning with a pair of runs to take an early lead. But that was it. The Netherlands came back in the fourth to take the lead and they would add on for a 7-2 win.

Diegomar Markwell picked up the win for the Dutch tossing seven innings giving up just two runs on eight hits.

Markwell got offensive support from a few sources. Lead off hitter Roeland Henrique may have went hitless, but he did his job by getting on base with three walks. Stijn van der Meer followed him up in the line up by picking up a pair of hits going 2-for-5. Hitting third was Danny Rombley who also went 2-for-5 scoring a pair of runs.

All three of these hitters set the table for the cleanup man, Bryan Englehardt who came through. Englehardt went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles, two RBI, and two runs scored.

Lin Wang-wei had a nice day at the plate for Chinese Taipei. The left fielder went 3-for-4 with a double and a RBI. Hsieh Jung-hao took the loss lasting just four innings while allowing three runs on six hits.

2013 World Port Tournament Schedule:

Monday July 1
14:00 Chinese Taipei vs Curacao
19:30 Cuba vs Netherlands

Tuesday July 2
19:30 Curacao vs Netherlands

Wednesday July 3
14:00 Curacao vs Chinese Taipei
19:30 Netherlands vs Cuba

Thursday July 4
19:30 Cuba vs Chinese Taipei

Friday July 5
14:00 Chinese Taipei vs Cuba
19:30 Netherlands vs Curacao

Saturday July 6
14:00 Curacao vs Cuba
19:30 Chinese Taipei vs Netherlands

Sunday July 7
14:00 Championship Game

2013 World Port Tournament Standings

1. Netherlands 1-0
1. Cuba 1-0
3. Chinese Taipei 0-1
3. Curacao 0-1

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Cuban Odrisamer Despaigne Defects During Flight to the Netherlands


Once again a Cuban player has used the World Port Tournament to defect. The tournament has seen this the past two times it was played as well (Aroldis Chapman in 2009 and Gerardo Concepcion in 2011).

This time it was 26-year old Odrisamer Despaigne did the same thing during a layover in Paris at Charles de Gaulle Airport. The team suspects that Despaigne traveled to Spain where his father lives.

Despaigne just finished up his sixth season in the Cuban National Series where he pitched for the Industriales. This past season he pitched 143 innings striking out 98. He posted a 3.27 ERA and a 10-5 record.

Photo courtesy World Baseball Classic Inc.

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USA Baseball Announces Friendship Series with Cuba


USA Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation announced an upcoming series between the two countries Collegiate National Teams. The two will compete in an international friendship series for the second year in a row. This year, Cuba will travel to the USA and play a five-game series.

The teams will compete across three states from July 18-23.

The two teams will first face off in Des Moines, Iowa for Game 1. They will then move onto Omaha for Games 2 and 3 before heading east to North Carolina to finish off the series.

Read more here with the complete press release by USA Baseball.

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WBC: Kalian Sams Sends Netherlands to Semifinals with Walk Off Win


Cuba 6, Netherlands 7

Box Score

Kalian Sams drove in the biggest run in Dutch baseball history on Monday night in Tokyo. Sams drove in the winning run with a bases loaded sacrifice fly sending the Netherlands to San Francisco and the semifinals.

The Netherlands rebounded a night after a 16-4 dismantling by Japan, pulling off the biggest victory to date for the Dutch.

The game was a seesaw battle as the two teams traded blows trying to eliminate the other.

Cuba fell behind in the bottom of the third inning. Randolph Oduber doubled to start the inning. Andrelton Simmons, who had a big day at the plate, followed up Oduber with a single. After a sacrifice bunt and a hit batter, Andruw Jones hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Oduber and get the scoring started.

Curt Smith followed up Jones with a RBI single. It was one of his three hits in the game and the Dutch led 2-0.

Cuba came back with two runs of its own in the top of the next inning. Yulieski Gurriel led off the inning with a double and scored on a Jose Fernandez single.

Dutch starter Orlando Yntema induced a double play right before Jose Abreu blasted a solo home run to straight away center field to tie the game up at 2.

Yntema tossed 3.2 innings allowing just two runs on four hits. He walked one and struck out one. It was his second appearance of the WBC.

The Netherlands once again took the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. With Sams at third having reached on a walk and Oduber at first, Oduber showed off his speed by stealing second base. Then Simmons drove in his first run of the night on a sacrifice fly.

The Dutch got their second run of the inning on a defensive miscue by Cuba. Oduber took off from second base stealing third easily. Cuba catcher Frank Morejon came up throwing, but third baseman Gurriel didn’t move to cover third. Not expecting a throw, the ball got away from Gurriel allowing Oduber to score.

Then again trailing by two, Cuba came right back to tie the game.Sandwiched around a fly out, Luis Rivera and Alexi Bell singled setting up Gurriel to drive in two runs with a long double just out of the reach of Dutch center fielder Sams. The double tied the game at four where it would stay until the eighth inning.

In the top of the eighth, Cuba finally took the lead.

Shairon Martis was in his last inning of work. After giving up a walk and a single, Martis retired slugger Alfredo Despaigne and then was pulled.

Leon Boyd came on to pitch in relief of Martis and immediately gave up a RBI single to Yasmany Tomas giving Cuba their first lead. The next batter, Eriel Sanchez, drove in Abreu from third with a sacrifice fly.

As the seesaw battle went, the Dutch came right back in the bottom of the inning. Kalian Sams walked to lead off the inning.

Cuban reliever Noberto Gonzalez pitched well in relief. He threw 4.2 innings in relief of starter Vladimir Garcia. After walking Sams, Gonzalez struck out the next two batters. He struck out five total before being pulled.

With Sams on first, Andrelton Simmons came up and hit one of the biggest home runs in the country’s history. Simmons hit a 2-1 breaking ball over the left field wall to tie the game.

Loek Van Mil came in to pitch the ninth for the Dutch. He gave up a few singles, but was able to get out of the inning without giving up a run.

Noberto Gonzalez was relieved after getting the lead off hitter out in the bottom of the ninth. Yander Guevera came in to relieve Gonzalez but didn’t get an out. He allowed two runners to reach base, one on an error and the other on a single.

Raciel Iglesias replaced Guevera and faced only one hitter and gave up a single to Xander Bogaerts to load the bases. He was immediately pulled and replaced by Diosdany Castillo.

Castillo faced one hitter as well, Sams.

Sams hit a deep fly ball to center field easily driving in Andruw Jones with the winning run sending the Netherlands into the semifinals in San Francisco.

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WBC: Cuba Crushes Chinese Taipei


Cuba Overpowers Chinese Taipei, 14-0

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Cuba used a prodigious display of power to eliminate Chinese Taipei from the second round of the World Baseball Classic, 14-0. The mercy rule victory featured four home runs and two doubles among 12 hits, and Cuba is one win away from punching their ticket to the semifinals in San Francisco.

Overshadowed in the hitting clinic was the dominance of Danny Betancourt, who threw six shutout innings. The right-hander scattered three hits and two walks, but retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced. Betancourt sent three down on strikes.

Frederich Cepeda got Cuba started on the right foot. After a José Fernández single in the first, Cepeda blasted a two-run homer to right centre. Chinese Taipei’s starter, Ching-Lung Lo, would keep the deficit at two through three innings.

Chinese Taipei had its chances in the early innings. Their best chance to score in the game came in the second. Betancourt struggled to find the zone in the first two frames, and Yung-Chi Chen and Chih-Kang Kao both singled in the second.  Chinese Taipei was unable to capitalise, and Betancourt did not let them get another runner to second.

With Betancourt keeping the momentum in Cuba’s favour, a four-run fourth ended Chinese Taipei’s chances of a comeback against the No. 1 team in the world. Cepeda walked to start off the inning and went to third on a bunt hit by slugger José Abreu. Abreu moved to second after the  Chinese Taipei reliever threw the bunt wildly.

Alfredo Despaigne seized the opportunity to drive in a run with a single to centre before Yasmany Tomás unloaded the bases on three-run homer to right centre. The next two batters would reach as well, but Cuba settled for four runs after putting the first six men aboard.

Yu-Chin Lin looked like he might keep the game close, coming in after the Tomás longball and getting Cepeda, Abreu, and Despaigne 1-2-3 in the fifth. After a strikeout to Tomás to begin the sixth, however, the wheels fell off for Lin and Chinese Taipei.

Frank Morejon and Bárbaro Arruebarruena followed with singles into the left field corner, both of whom were robbed of extra bases by Dai-Kang Yang’s strong throws. After a hit batter, Yuliesky Gourriel stroked a single to centre, scoring one and ending Lin’s night.

Fernández continued his red-hot approach at the plate with a bases-clearing double into the right field corner, and it was 10-0 Cuba. A double by Cepeda would add on another run, but Cuba was still flexing its muscles.

Abreu clouted a tape measure shot to dead centre to score Cepeda. The blast travelled well over 400 feet, nearly scraping the ceiling in the Tokyo Dome. Despaigne attempted to equal the feat a batter later, crushing a four-bagger to left-centre that travelled almost as far.

After putting eight straight men on base and scoring all of them, Cuba finally relented, with 18-year old reliever Jen-Ho Tseng getting two quick outs to end the shellacking. It was the fifth pitcher of the day for  Chinese Taipei. Had another run scored, the game would have ended on another version of the mercy rule.

Norberto González and Raicel Iglesías disposed of a deflated  Chinese Taipei side in the seventh. Chen had his second hit in the game, which was their first safety since the second inning. Chinese Taipei had only six baserunners in the contest.

Cuba, meanwhile, went 12-for-29 as a team. They left only three runners on base, hitting .667 with runners in scoring position. Fernández, Cepeda, Abreu, and Despaigne all had a brace of hits. Cepeda scored three and drove in as many, tying Fernández for the team lead in RBI.

Betancourt earned his second win of the WBC and has now thrown 10 2/3 scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts and a 0.60 WHIP. González has hurled four scoreless frames in relief.

After earning the win, Cuba will await their next matchup, which will take place on Mar. 11 at 11 a.m. GMT. They will face the loser of the Netherlands and Japan on Mar. 10 and the winner of the game will earn a guaranteed place in the semifinals.

Chinese Taipei could not recover from its heart-breaking loss to Japan the night before and finishes its best-ever performance in the WBC with a 5-3 record. They are now 6-7 in three World Baseball Classics, but have earned a spot in the 2017 tournament after having to qualify this time around.

Stay tuned for all your WBC news and analysis.

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WBC: Netherlands Continues to Roll; Downs Cuba with the Long Ball


Stellar Defence Sparks the Netherlands in Cuba Upset

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

The Netherlands tied a World Baseball Classic record with five double plays and coupled it with a slugging offence to shock top-ranked Cuba in a 6-2 victory. The Orange ripped six extra base-hits and eight singles and kept Cuba off balance for the entire game to move one out away from the WBC semifinals.

Diegomar Markwell did just enough to keep Cuba from mounting a rally, working low in the zones and inducing grounder after grounder. In his six innings, 13 of 18 outs were recorded on a groundball and the Netherlands tied the double play record by the sixth inning. The orange-and-black had a twin killing in each of the first four frames, an unofficial record.

Both clubs were on the basepaths for the entire game. The Netherlands started the contest by loading the bases against Ismel Jiménez, Cuba’s ace, but could not push a run across. The red-and-blue had a similar fate against Markwell in the bottom of the frame, but the southpaw worked around a José Fernández double to keep the game scoreless.

Both teams would get on the board in the second. Curt Smith led off the inning with a home run to left centre to give the Dutch a lead, and Kalian Sams followed with a double. Andrelton Simmons, who excelled in the field all afternoon, drove him home with a single. A one-base hit by Schoop would end Jiménez day early, though Simmons was thrown out at third by Guillermo Heredia, the centerfielder.

Alfredo Despaigne cancelled out Smith’s dinger with one of his own, crushing the first pitch he saw from Markwell into the right centerfield seats. Markwell would get out of the inning on a double play.

Both teams failed to score for the next three innings. Markwell, who had been up in the zone during the first two frames started working his breaking ball downward to much success, though he allowed at least one hit in every inning. The barrage of bouncers kept Cuba from finding a rhythm, but Cuba’s reliever Freddy Alvarez also settled the Orange down during the middle innings.

Álvarez ran out of steam in the sixth after throwing four full innings. Sams, who was hitless in the first round, had his second two-bagger of the game with one out, though Álvarez would follow him with out number two. The right-hander’s night was over after walking Simmons, and Yadier Pedroso entered.

Schoop, who had a dynamic home run in Fukuoka only days earlier, drove Pedroso’s second pitch over the left centre field wall for a three-run blast and a shocking 5-1 lead for the Netherlands.

Markwell finished his night in the bottom of the frame and prevented the red-and-blue from rallying back from Schoop’s four-bagger.

The Orange looked ready to break the game open in the seventh, loading the bases on three straight hits with no one out. Two of the safeties were of the infield variety, with Xander Bogaerts beautiful bunt the most notable. Reliver Yander Guevara somehow escaped the jam and turned things over to the Cuban hitters for the bottom of the inning.

Víctor Mesa, Cuba’s manager, gathered his entire team before they hit the dugout, speaking passionately with his usual animation. The talk appeared to be especially inspirational for Yuliesky Gourriel, who entered the day 1-for-13 in the Classic. Gourriel ripped the first pitch he saw for a solo shot to left centre, tying teammate Frederich Cepeda and Korea’s Seung-Yeop Lee for the all-time lead in homers.

Reliever Leon Boyd was hit hard in the frame, giving up two more hits, but got out of the eighth with a 5-2 lead.

Simmons and Schoop teamed up once more to take away Cuba’s run in the next frame. Simmons laced a pitch off the wall in left centre and Schoop planted a double in the left field corner to drive him home. That was all for the Orange, but the run gave them a four-run cushion against Cuba’s vaunted offence.

Boyd looked better in the eighth, retiring all three men to face him, but not without a little performance from Smith. With two out, the Netherlands’ first baseman raced into the camera well to try and catch a foul ball and fell into a cameraman, coming up with the ball. The umpires did not cover the Tokyo Dome’s enormous foul territory so quickly and ruled it as the third out, but replays showed he did not actually catch the ball.

The Dutch once more loaded the bases in the ninth, but could not come up with any more insurance runs. Loek Van Mil did not any additional help in closing the game out for the Netherlands, mowing Despaigne, Gourriel and Yosbany Peraza down 1-2-3.

With the victory, the Netherlands moves onward in the double-elimination bracket to face Japan in the Dome. They will do battle on Mar. 10 at 11 a.m. GMT. Cuba will have less time to regroup against Chinese Taipei in a 10 a.m. GMT contest on Mar. 9.

Six Orange hitters had multiple hits, led by Schoop’s 3-for-6, four RBI performance. He finished a single short of the cycle. Simmons, Sams, and Andruw Jones all got on base three times, with the first two both scoring a pair of runs.

Gourriel and Fernández each finished with a brace of hits. Fernández is hitting .583 for the tournament, but Cuba’s 4-5-6 hitters were only 2-for-11, leaving five men on base. The team hit only .154 with runners on, leaving six stranded after Markwell’s double play magic erased five additional baserunners.

The Dutch won without striking out a batter. Markwell got the victory for his six innings of one-run ball. He walked one and allowed nine hits. Jiménez was charged with loss, lasting only five outs and surrendering two runs on five hits and two walks. Six other hurlers finished the game, with Raicel Iglesías the only to retire more than one batter without giving up a run.

Cuba will have to beat Taiwan to avoid their worst finish in the World Baseball Classic and one of their most meagre showings in their long history. Check back for more about that fixture and the rest of the World Baseball Classic.

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WBC: Netherlands vs Cuba Pitching Match Up


Round 2 begins today in Tokyo, Japan as the winners from Pool A and Pool B meet for a chance at the semi-finals in San Francisco. To kick off Round 2, Pool A winner Cuba will take on Pool B runner up Netherlands. Let’s take a look at the starters for the game.

Netherlands

Taking the hill again for the Dutch will be Diegomar Markwell. He started Game 1 of the Classic for the Dutch against Korea tossing four scoreless innings to pick up the win.

The left-handed pitcher is the cousin of teammate Andruw Jones, and spent some time in the minor leagues making it as high as Double-A in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. However, since 2004 he has been pitching in Europe in the Dutch Major League except for a short stint in the CPBL in 2006.

In 2012, Markwell was brilliant for the Neptunus Rotterdam going 11-1 with an ERA of just 1.34 over 80.2 innings. The lefty keeps the ball down and gets ground balls which is how he kept the powerful bats of Korea at bay. He will have his work cut out for him with the way Cuba has been swinging the bats.

Cuba

Cuba will start right-hander Ismel Jimenez who pitches for the Sancti Spiritus of the Cuban National Series. In 2012, he went 17-5 with a 2.48 ERA in 26 games pitching 185.0 innings. The former infielder is in his second Classic.

Jimenez pitched Cuba’s opening game against Brazil tossing 4.2 scoreless innings. He gave up just four hits and struck out six along the way.

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WBC: Cuba Defeats Japan; Wins Pool A


Well-Rounded Cuba Holds Off Japan, 6-3

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Fully hitting its offensive stride, Cuba used a powerful hitting attack to defeat Japan 6-3 in the Fukuoka Dome. Both sides had already qualified for the second round of the World Baseball Classic, but Cuba takes the No. 1 seed to Tokyo, befitting of its top ranking in the International Baseball Federation charts.

Both teams received good starting pitching and the crowd in the Dome spent all but a few pitches cheering loudlyin unison for Japan and banging ‘Thunder Sticks’ together to create a riotous and deafening atmosphere. Despite playing on home turf, third-rated Japan batted first because of tournament rules and almost took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first frame.

With two outs, HirokazuIbata reached on a bouncer up-the-middle. The MVP of the Japan’s Central League, Shinnosuke Abe, stepped to the plate against Wilbur Pérez and blasted a 1-1 pitch to deep right centre. Cuba’s centerfielder, Guillermo Heredia, raced into the alley and caught the ball at the fence.

Kenji Otonari was perfect through the first two frames, and Japan threatened again in the second, putting two runners on base with one out, but could not produce a run.

After a third inning in which he put a runner in scoring position and gave up another warning track out to Abe, Cuban manager Víctor Mesa pulled Pérez to protect the perilous 1-0 lead. The left-hander gave up three hits and a walk, sending three down swinging.

YasmanyTomás broke Otonari’s six batter hitless streak in a dramatic way. Leading off the first, Tomás took a 1-1 pitch and crushed it about 20 rows into the left centre field bleachers. The blow was the longest of the tournament, beating even teammate José Dariel Abreu’s prodigious home run a day before. The blast travelled around 440 feet by unofficial estimation.

Otonari would escape the inning without allowing another run, but his night was over after three frames. He struck out two and walked none, giving up one other hit.

Japan continued to press for a run against reliever Yander Guevara. With two outs, Sho Nakata hit a grounder to BárbaroArruebarruena, who had otherwise showed impressive defensive chops. The Cuban shortstop booted the ball, giving the Samurai a chance in the fourth. AtsunoriIbata, at 40 one of the oldest players in the WBC, stroked a single between first and second, but Guevara struck out Nobuhiro Matsuda to end the inning. Matsuda had been three for his last eight.

Cuba added a run against reliever Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka, normally the ace of Japan’s staff, had struggled against Brazil in Game One. Koji Yamamoto, Japan’s manager, inserted the right-hander for a tune-up before the second round.

Tanakastruggled against Brazil using the more slippery American baseball, which is different than the ball used in Japan. He looked no more comfortable to start the fourth. José Fernández greeted him with a single and scored on a booming double by FrederichCepeda. After catching Abreu looking, Alfredo Despaigne hit a single to put two runners on base.

Tanaka suddenly found his groove, striking out Tomás and Eriel Sánchez to end the frame. Cuba had the 2-0 lead, but Japan was far from out of it, having put six runners on base during the first four innings.

Guevara allowed a walk, but Japan once again failed to capitalise and Tanaka took the hill for the bottom of the fifth. The righty continued where he left off in the fourth, mixing a fastball that was hitting the mid-90s/high-140s with a splitter and a nasty breaking pitch to strike out the side.

Japan could not capitalise on Tanaka’s performance in the sixth despite having runners on first and third with one out. Reliever Norberto González entered with two outs and got Inaba on a double play, erasing Nakata, who reached in all four plate appearances.

After HirokazuSawamura relieved to start the frame, Cuba took back the momentum and increased their lead. A red-hot Fernández ripped a double to deep right centre field and Abreu drove in Cuba’s third run two batters later. The slugger stole second base but Sawamura marooned him on second.

González continued to induce ground balls in the seventh, retiring Japan 1-2-3. Masahiko Morifuku also threw a scoreless frame, and the score was still 3-0 entering the eighth.

Cuba’s hurler stayed on the hill for another frame with similar results, needing only 14 pitches to get outs from all three batters. The red-and-blue would get González an additional cushion in the bottom of the inning against new pitcher Takeru Imamura.

With one out, Cepeda walked and Abreu hit a long single down the left field line. Despaigne made Imamura pay, ripping a three-run homer to left centre that travelled almost as far as Tomás’. Two strikeouts by Imamura would get Japan out of the eighth, but the lead had grown to 6-0.

González remained on the mound to start the ninth, and finished his run of nine batters retired in-a-row with a long flyout on the warning track in centre field. Mesa called in RaicelIglesías for some extra work, but the righty walked Nakata and pinch hitter KatsuyaKakunaka on full counts.Despite six-run margin, Cuba’s manager yanked his pitcher.

Darién Núñez became the sixth pitcher to take the hill for the red-and-blue. The southpaw fared no better than Iglesías, walking pinch hitter Yuichi Honda on five tosses. Mesa, much to the disbelief of those watching, pulled the left-hander and brought in Vladimir García.

García went to a full count on Hisayoshi Ch?no as Mesa stood gesticulating in the dugout, continuing to bellow in frustration as he had all inning. Desperate to throw a strike, García gave Ch?no something to hit, and Japan’s leadoff hitter bounced a ball over the pitcher’s mound that Arruebarruena made an acrobatic dive to snare.

Ch?no was safe by the time the shortstop could look for an out, and Nakata crossed the plate with the Samurai’s first run. Takashi Toritani then plated a second run on sacrifice fly, and Kakunaka made it 2-0.

With two outs and García throwing strikes, Mesa continued to show his passionate nature, marching to the mound to confer with his hurler, telling Sánchez, the catcher, to remain behind the plate as he conferred with García.

The talk did not appear to do any good, as Ibata stroked a line drive into the first base hole to score Honda. With the chanting crowd reaching a fever pitch, Japan sensed there might be more, but García struck out RyojiAikawa to end the game.

It was the first time since the 2008 Olympics that Cuba had beaten a full strength Japan. Cuba scored six runs on 10 hits, and an extra-base hit was involved on every score. Fernández improved his WBC average to .625 with two more hits, and Abreu and Despaigne joined him with a brace. Six different hitters scored for the red-and-blue, which hit .375 with runners in scoring position.

Ibata and Nakata each had two of Japan’s seven hits. The Samurai left 10 runners on base and were only 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Otonari took the loss despite a strong effort, while the 36-year old Pérez earned his first-ever WBC victory. Guevara and González picked up holds. The team struck out eight to Japan’s 10.

Both teams advance to Tokyo, where Cuba will take on the Netherlands on Mar. 8 at 3 a.m. GMT. Japan will face Asian rivals Chinese Taipei at 10 a.m. GMT on Mar. 9. The WBC changes to double elimination from the second round onward, with the top two teams from each second round bracket advancing to the semifinals.

Check back for more news, analysis, and previews of the rest of the World Baseball Classic.

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WBC: Japan vs Cuba Pitching Match Up


With Japan and Cuba already destined for Round 2, the game tonight will determine the seeding heading into the next round. The last time the two played was in the 2010 Intercontinental Cup when Cuba won 4-1.

Japan

Starting for the host Japan will be left-hander Kenji Otonari who pitched for the Softbank Hawks of the NPB in 2012. Last season Otonari posted a 12-8 record for the Hawks with an ERA of just 2.03 in 25 games. He ranked fourth in the league in ERA in 2012 and was an All-Star for the Hawks.

Internationally, Otonari has pitched in the 2005 and 2006 Japan-USA Collegiate Baseball Championship Series and in the 2006 World University Baseball Championship.

Cuba

Wilber Perez will get the start for Cuba. The veteran left-handed starter has pitched 12 seasons in the Cuban National Series with a lifetime ERA of 4.24.

In 2012 pitching for Isla de la Juventud, Perez went 7-16 with 110 strikeouts in 143.0 innings with an ERA of 4.46. The 35-year old will make his WBC debut on Wednesday.

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WBC: Cuba Crushes China


Abreu, Bell Launch Cuba to Second Win

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Cuba finally found its firepower against an overmatched Chinese pitching staff, putting up crooked numbers in the fourth and fifth innings on their way to a 12-0 mercy rule-shortened victory. José Abreu mashed a grand slam and Alexei Bell ripped a two-run homer to qualify Cuba for the second round.

Danny Betancourt started on the mound for Cuba and was dominant through 4 2/3, ensuring that China never had a chance to get any momentum offensively. He struck out eight, two shy of the WBC record, and allowed only one hit and a walk.

Cuba got on the board quickly in the first as José Fernández reached on an error and scored on a triple by Frederich Cepeda to the warning track in right centre. The red-and-blue loaded the bases in the second, but China’s starter Xin Li battled out of the jam.

Fernández stroked a single to start the third and scored on a safety by Abreu, but Li would once more escape the predicament. Li would finally be reached in the fourth after a series of strange events.

Báarbaro Arruebarruena legged out an infield hit to lead off the inning, and reached second on a throwing error by Li. China then tried to appeal that the Cuban shortstop had missed first base after stepping on Fujia Chu’s foot, but the umpires had to tell them to throw to first to complete the appeal. After discussion with China manager John McLaren and Li via interpreter, the appeal was denied. Once McLaren left the field, Arruebarruena sped off to third and swiped the bag before a pitch was thrown.

Two batters later, Alexei Bell ripped a home run to left centre, making the score 4-0. Li allowed another single to Fernández before exiting the game. Yu Liu relieved and Cepeda laced a ground-rule double down the left field line. Two batters later, Alfredo Despaigne thumped another two-bagger to the same area to plate both runners. Liu would get out of the inning, but not before Cuba had a 6-0 advantage.

The red-and-blue broke the game wide open in the fifth. Liu got the first out, but walked Arruebarruena. A hit by Guillermo Heredia and a walk to Yasmany Tomás loaded the bases before Fernández had his third hit of the day. The single to deep right plated two.

Cepeda walked to once more jam the sacks full, but Abreu unloaded them with a monstrous grand slam to left-centre. The blast travelled well over 400 feet. Liu retired the next two batters, but Cuba had a 12-0 lead.

Three Cuban relievers closed out the game, combining with Betancourt on the three-hit shutout. The red-and-blue settled for the 12-run mercy rule victory, though they put two runners on in the sixth.

Abreu led the squad with five RBI, falling short of Ken Griffey, Jr.’s WBC record of seven. Fernández paced Cuba with three hits and four runs scored, driving in two. Abreu was one of four players with a hitting brace, as was Despaigne, who drove in two. Cepeda upped his career average in the WBC to .457 with a double and a triple, two of six extra-base knocks by Cuba.

Betancourt accounted for all of Cuba’s strikeouts, earning his first WBC victory. Yadier Pedroso got four outs around a hit and a walk, and Vladimir García and Alexander Rodríguez finished off the game.

Li threw 3 1/3 innings, giving up four earned runs on eight hits and two walks. He struck out two, and pitched much better than his line would suggest, keeping Cuba off balance until the fourth. Liu was shelled for seven runs on five hits and three walks in 1 2/3. Song Ran gave up two hits in a scoreless sixth.

“Baseball is new in China,” McLaren told the media after China’s first game. “The guys play really hard. We are just trying to get better every day.”

China will attempt to avoid relegation to the qualifying rounds against Brazil on Mar. 5 at 8 a.m. GMT. The loser of the contest will have to earn a place in the 2017 WBC via a play-in tournament, while the winner will guarantee their spot.

Cuba and Japan will tangle to see who wins Pool A in the final game of the group. First pitch is scheduled for 10 a.m. GMT on Mar. 6. Stay tuned for more news, reviews, and analysis.

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WBC: Brazil Loses Another Close One to Cuba


Jiménez, Iglesías Silence Brazil’s Bats in Cuban Victory

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Cuba avoided an early no-hit bid by Brazilian pitcher Andre Rienzo and finally broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning. The top-ranked team in the world would go on to win 5-2, dropping baseball Cinderella Brazil to 0-2 in the World Baseball Classic.

Cuba was supposed to rely on its sluggers to propel them easily out of Pool A and into the second round, but then Brazil was never supposed to be in the World Baseball Classic to begin with. After three consecutive upsets in qualifying and giving No. 3 Japan a good scare in game one of the Classic, many of Brazil’s doubters had begun to take them seriously.

No one, though, could have predicted it would hold one of the world’s best offences hitless for 4 1/3 innings and force Cuba to rely on sacrifice bunts and the hit-and-run to score.

Rienzo got off to a wild start, walking two in the first inning. He gave up a third base on balls in the second, working around a runner on third with only one out to get out the jam.

Cuban ace Ismel Jiménez looked more in command, though he hit a batter in the first inning and got into trouble himself in the second. With one out, Tiago Magalhães stroked a double to left center and J.C. Múñiz followed with a one-base knock. After a strikeout, Múñiz was caught stealing second and Jiménez was out of the predicament.

By this point, Rienzo had settled down, retiring the side in order in the third and fourth. Though Jiménez had his K ball working, Brazil looked like it would threaten in third, as Felipe Burin and qualifier MVP Leonardo Reginatto both rapped singles up the middle. Rienzo buckled down on Daniel Matsumoto, Brazil’s cleanup hitter, and induced a fly out to end the threat.

The out seemed to focus Cuba’s starter, who needed only 11 pitches to get out of the fourth.

The red-and-blue finally solved Rienzo in the fifth. José Fernández, who leads the Cuban National Series in average (.393), worked a walk and took third one out later on a single by the nine-hole hitter, Bárbaro Arruebarruena.

Rienzo was up against the pitch limit, and leadoff hitter Guillermo Heredia would be his last before WBC rules forced him out of the game. The tension built as Heredia worked the count full, and on the decisive pitch, Rienzo induced a ground ball to the right of second that looked ideal for a twin killing.

Instead, Burin, the second baseman, took too long to get to the bag, and Arruebarruena, who had been moving on the hit-and-run play, was safe. Burin could only direct the flip from Márcio Tanaka to first for a single out. Fernández scored on the mental error, giving Cuba the 1-0 lead.

With a second chance in the frame, Alexei Bell greeted reliever Ernesto Noris with a run-scoring single to plate Arruebarruena. After stealing second, Noris generated a fly ball from superstar Yuliesky Gourriel to get out of the inning with the score at 2-0.

Jiménez finally ran out of pitches after two quick outs in the bottom of the fifth, but Freddy Álvarez entered and got the third out.

Barry Larkin called in Gabriel Asakura, a college hurler, to face the 4-5-6 hitters, no doubt hoping to recapture some of the magic from the righty’s appearance in Panamá City when he struck out 5-of-8 batters. Instead, future Cuban Hall-of-Famer Frederich Cepeda ripped a single to left and moved up a base on José Dariel Abreu’s single. Asakura then hit Alfredo Despaigne before he was yanked.

Hugo Kanabushi was the next pitcher out of the ‘pen and gave up a run on a ground ball that erased Abreu. After a single reloaded the bases, Larkin replaced the southpaw with Kesley Kondo. Kondo promptly gave up a two-run single to Arruebarrueno and the Cuba lead grew to five.

Kondo would get the second out, but after walking Bell, Larkin would dip into his bullpen for the fourth time in the inning and bring out Carlos Yoshimura. Yoshimura, who had a standout performance in the 2003 Baseball World Cup, struck out Gourriel, but the damage had been done.

Brazil showed plenty of pluck when they came to bat in the bottom of the sixth. Burin worked a walk and Reginatto tapped a ball to the left side that advanced Burin, but reached safely when Abreu dropped the throw.

With Cuba breathing new life into the blue-and-gold attack, Matsumoto struck for his first hit in the tourney, knocking home Burin on the infield single between first and second. Reginatto showed heads-up baserunning, scampering to third.

Reinaldo Sato stepped in against Álvarez, who promptly stopped the rally with a tailor-made 5-4-3 double play. Reginatto scored on the grounder, but Brazil had palpably lost the momentum. The Cuban hurler got Magalhães to ground out and end the threat.

Yoshimura gave up a single to Cepeda and a double to pinch hitter Yasmany Tomás, but got a strikeout and a ground out to escape the jam.

Múñiz was the first man up in the seventh for Brazil, and ripped a ball down the left field line for what appeared to be a double. After reaching second, new Cuban pitcher Raciel Iglesías threw to the second baseman Fernández, and the umpire singled the out. It was revealed that Múñiz had missed first base on his sprint to second, though replays were inconclusive at best.

The further blow to Brazil’s confidence was obvious, and Iglesías settled down to retire seven of the next eight batters, five on strikeouts. Yoshimura and Thyago Vieira each threw a scoreless inning for Brazil to end the contest in favour of Cuba, 5-2.

Jiménez, who paces the Cuban circuit in wins this season, earned the victory with 4 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out six. He did not walk a batter and scattered four hits. Álvarez earned a hold in his inning and one-third, though he allowed a walk, a hit, and two unearned runs. Iglesías more than earned the save with three scoreless frames, striking out the side in the ninth.

“Jimenez made pitches when he had to,” observed Larkin frankly in the post-game press conference.

Larkin used seven pitchers to evade the Cuban attack, which did have only one extra base hit. Rienzo took the loss despite give up one hit in 4 2/3 innings as he walked four and allowed two runs to score. He whiffed two. Blue-and-gold hurlers walked five and hit two batters.

Matsumoto was the only Brazilian to garner two hits, though he left three men on base. Burin reached base in two plate appearances, while Reginatto extended his WBC hitting streak to five games. Leadoff hitter Paulo Orlando struck out three times.

It is worth noting that Múñiz and Noris were the first Cuban defectors to ever face their homeland in a baseball game. Both played for several years in the National Series before leaving for Brazil.

Arruebarruena, in his first appearance with the national team, stroked two hits and plated a pair, scoring once. Cepeda was the only other Cuban hitter with a hitting brace. The top three hitters in the lineup were 1-for-13 and left nine men on base.

“Once again, it was a very competitive ballgame,” commented Larkin. “They came up with a couple big hits.”

Brazil will face China on Mar. 5 at 8 a.m. GMT. The blue-and-gold must win the game to avoid relegation to the qualifying rounds. A win would ensure that the team will appear in the 2017 WBC. Stay tuned for more news, reviews, and analysis.

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World Baseball Classic Team Preview – Cuba


Top-Ranked Cuba Looking for First World Title Since 2006

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)
Sixth in a series of 2013 World Baseball Classic Previews

Despite being the most dominant nation in international baseball history, Cuba will begin the third World Baseball Classic still looking for its first title. They finished second in 2006, but failed to make the semifinals three years later. The island country can still claim the top spot in the world rankings, but another subpar showing would put that rating in jeopardy. They will face Brazil, China, and Japan in their quest for their 39th world championship.

A Brief Cuban Baseball History
Cuba has a baseball tradition longer than almost any other nation. The sport was introduced from America in the 1860s by both Cuban college students who had studied in the U.S. and American sailors. At this point, the island nation was still controlled by Spain, and baseball grew in protest to traditional Spanish pastimes. The sport became synonymous with freedom, especially after it was outlawed in 1869.

The Cuban League was formed in 1878 and became professional by the end of the century. The level of play was quite high and, after all-star teams began touring in the United States in 1899, capable of beating American clubs.

By the 1940s, baseball was well entrenched in Cuban society, and there were a wide variety of amateur clubs developing talent as well as the Cuban League. The league was the first to be racially integrated (in 1900, nonetheless) and had a working reputation with MLB after World War II.

After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the government abolished professional baseball. Though this might seem like an attack on the sport (as during the Cultural Revolution in China), it was because the revolutionaries believed so strongly in the sport that it was necessary to remove the desire for profit. This would, in turn, allow baseball to be a source of nationalist pride and reflective of socialist ideals of equality.

The successful revolution was celebrated by baseball games involving the guerrilla leaders, who formed the Institute for Sports, Physical Education, and Recreation (INDER) in 1961. The Institute served several purposes.

First was to prepare the nation to excel in international sporting events to increase nationalist pride. Children with athletic promise are sent to academies for extensive training. The second was to give legitimacy to the revolution by showing the world the best of Cuba.

Additionally, it was hoped that it would allow Cuba to lead developing countries. Finally, it encouraged the populace to play games as a means of integration into the new egalitarian culture. Those that contribute to sporting successes are considered to have fulfilled their obligation to promote Cuba, and the sporting activity would increase the citizens’ health.

After the Cuban League was ended, the longstanding amateur leagues were elevated in status, and the Cuban National Series (CNS) became the chief circuit. Players compete in a five month winter season, including the playoffs, and it is considered their job. The regular season is 90 games. The CNS recently expanded to 17 teams that correspond to the provinces of Cuba.

During the summer, the Super Series of 28 games is played between five teams representative of regions in Cuba. The national team is chosen from players in the Super Series.

Much of the historical information in this section was culled from Roberto González’s The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball.

Cuba in International Tournaments
Cuba, consistently ranked No. 1 in the world by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), is the most successful country ever in global baseball tournaments. Of the four competitions considered by IBAF to confer a world title, Cuba has appeared 55 times and won the championship 38 times. The country has only failed to produce a medal in seven tournaments. Between 1984 and 2005, Cuba won every Baseball World Cup, and had a span between 1983 and 1996 where they won every single world title in all competitions, 14 in total.

Cuba’s most high profile failure, though, has been at the World Baseball Classic, where the competitions include many more big leaguers that previous championships. In 2006, the team advanced out of the opening pool by defeating the Netherlands and Panamá, though they lost 12-2 to Puerto Rico. They avenged the loss in the second round, eliminating Puerto Rico in a 4-3 victory and defeating Venezuela. Despite a loss to the Dominican Republic, they advanced to the semifinals.

Once more, they retaliated for the previous round’s loss by putting the Dominican Republic out of the tourney, and earned the right to play Japan for the title. Cuba had historically dominated Japan, but the Samurai were ready for them. Despite an eighth inning home run by star Frederich Cepeda, his second of the WBC, Japan jumped on their suspect pitching for a 10-6 victory.

After the second place finish in 2006, the Cubans were expected to show no mercy in the second Classic. Indeed, they swept through the first round with wins over South Africa, Australia, and Mexico to earn a spot in the second round. Cuba was placed in a bracket with Japan, Mexico, and Korea.

Japan defeated them in the first matchup, 6-0, before Cuba topped Mexico, 7-4. This gave Cuba a chance to earn their first win against Japan, but were shutout once more, 5-0. The losses were particularly disappointing for a team that hit 11 home runs in the first two rounds, including three by Cepeda and two by Yuliesky Gourriel, who also had a pair in 2006. The second loss eliminated the team and gave them a sixth-place finish, one of their worst-ever performances. It was the first time in 58 years that Cuba failed to make the final.

Their showing in 2009 inaugurated an ongoing period in which they have failed to win a single tournament. Even their dominance of Japan has come to an end, most recently in an exhibition series in the Sapporo Dome in November where they lost 3-1 and 2-0 to the Samurai.

“Our country does not know what it means to lose.  We were not ready in November, but we will take this to the US,” stated manager Víctor Mesa. “If that does not happen, it will be a very bad situation.”

Cuban Defection
Though the standard of play in Cuba is no longer at the level of the major leagues as it was a century ago, the nation produces a number of fine athletes, but since the Cuban Revolution, emigration has been prohibited. Cubans, therefore, have been prevented from playing professionally in other countries as they are expected to contribute to national glory.

This has resulted in these nominal amateurs undergoing a process known as ‘defection’, in which they leave Cuba, usually while playing abroad in tournaments, and establish residency in another country. Provided they do not move to the United States or Japan before becoming legal residents, it allows them to sign lucrative free agent contracts, usually with MLB or the Japanese leagues (Nippon Professional Baseball, or NPB). Several defectors have inadvertently become US residents first and were thus eligible for the draft.

Defection was common immediately after the revolution, but became rare until 1991, when René Arocha left the team while it was playing in the United States. The Commissioner ruled that he would be allowed to sign following a secret bidding process administered by his office. Cuban defectors had been granted the right to work in American since the revolution, but the rule had never been applied to a star athlete.

The process received a lot of attention from Hispanic media in the Americas, and a number of high-profile defectors since have had successful big league careers. They include half-brothers Orlando and Livan Hernandez, Kendrys Morales, and quite recently, Aroldis Chapman and Yoenis Cespedes.

Orlando Hernandez was 90-65 with a 4.13 ERA in nine MLB seasons, earning a reputation as a big game pitcher. The right-hander earned four World Series rings and had a 2.20 ERA and 11.3 K/9. In all postseason games, he was 9-3 with a 2.55 ERA and 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9).

The Yankee hurler’s younger half-brother, Liván, has had fewer flashes of dominance but has developed a reputation as a workhorse. Still active after 17 seasons, Hernández is 178-177 with a 4.44 ERA and 50 complete games. He is 7-3 with a 3.97 ERA in the postseason, winning four games as a 22-year old in the 1997 Florida Marlins’ run to a World Series title.

To this point, Morales is the best Cuban hitter to play in MLB, though a number of young stars may eventually challenge him. In six seasons, he has a .281 average and a .491 slugging percentage, with 79 home runs.

Chapman and Céspedes represent the next generation of Cuban players. Chapman signed a six-year contract in January 2010. Only 24, he throws one of the fastest pitches by any left-hander in major league history. Regularly timed in the low-100s (160s kmh), he has an incredible 212 strikeouts and a 2.33 ERA in 135 innings. In 2012, he served as the Cincinnati Reds’ closer, saving 38 with a 1.51 ERA and 15.3 K/9, one of the best marks in history.

Céspedes is the most recent star defector, inking a four year, $36 million contract with the Oakland Athletics in February 2012. In his last season, he joined José Dariel Abreu in setting the National Series record with 33 home runs (in 90 games). The centerfielder also made headlines for his international exploits.

Céspedes had a stellar rookie year for the A’s, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year balloting and receiving MVP votes. He hit .292/.356/.505, knocking 23 home runs and stealing 16 bases, gaining a reputation as a strong defensive outfielder as well.

The Roster
Despite the absence of Céspedes, Chapman, and others, Cuba has an experienced lineup that has strong chemistry from its many tournaments together. Because of the country’s policy on emigration, the 28-man roster all plays in the National Series as well. Unlike two of the other teams in Pool A, their lineup consists mostly of veterans, with only three players younger than 26.

Cuba’s three most recognisable stars occupy the heart of the order: Frederich Cepeda, Yuliesky Gourriel, and Alfredo Despaigne. José Dariel Abreu and Alexei Bell are also well-known for their hitting ability.

Cepeda is a career .340/.489/.583 hitter in the Cuban National Series, with 190 career home runs. The outfielder has produced at a similar level in international events and has been in peak form during WBC play. He is 22-for-50 (.440) with five doubles and five home runs (.840 slugging percentage). Cepeda is the all-time RBI leader in the Classic, with 18.

Gourriel has almost matched Cepeda’s numbers, recording a .335/.416/.597 line through 11 seasons. He has 215 four-baggers in 927 games. In international play, he has hit over .300 with 20 home runs since joining the national team in 2002. In the 2006 and 2009 Classics, the Gold Glove third baseman hit .298 with a .561 slugging percentage.

Despaigne, only 26, has already established himself as a premier slugger in Cuba and on the world stage. The leftfielder has prodigious power, ripping 202 home runs in eight seasons to go with a .347/.439/.653 mark. His past five seasons are truly eye-popping: a .365 average with a .729 slugging percentage. In 2012, he set the CNS season home run record with 36, needing only 87 to enter the record books.

Despaigne’s performance in 2009 Baseball World Cup was one of the greatest in history. He stroked a .436/.500/1.109 mark with 11 home runs, a Cup record. The next highest total is nine. Despaigne had one of his few poor performances in Cuba’s underwhelming 2009 Classic appearance, going 4-for-17 with a homer, striking out four times.

If anyone could upstage Despaigne’s recent campaigns in the Cuban circuit, it is Abreu. He is a career .341/.453/.623 hitter and held for one season the season record for home runs (33) before Despaigne reclaimed his old record. His record-breaking season truly was one for the books, as he hit .453, setting records with a .597 on-base percentage and .986 slugging percentage. Between 2010-2012, the first baseman hit .411 with an .877 slugging mark. Abreu comes into his first Classic leading the league in home runs (13) and slugging (.735) and second in average (.382).

Bell also held the single season record for home runs for one season and has 120 over 11 seasons. He is a career .322/.416/.555 hitter. Bell missed the 2009 Classic with injury, a blow for Cuba after a 2008 Olympic performance that included three doubles, four triples, two four-baggers, and 10 RBI in nine games.

Cuba clearly has power throughout the lineup, and is known for its aggressive approach, perhaps inspired recently by Fidel Castro’s scathing rebuke of their patience in 2009. Nikkan Sports reported that they spent a lot of time after their arrival in Japan working on contact hitting over power production. They do not offer much in the way of speed, though most of the hitters are at least average. Manager Víctor Mesa will align his lineup, which hit .296 in the first two Classics, as follows:

Guillermo Herédia – CF
Alexei Bell – RF
Yuliesky Gourriel – 3B
Frederich Cepeda – DH
José Dariel Abreu – 1B
Alfredo Despaigne – LF
José Fernández – 2B
Eriel Sánchez – C
Erisbel Arruebarruena – SS

The Pitching Staff
Though Cuba’s lineup is one of the best in the world, they will need a few solid pitching performances if they intend to challenge for their first world title since 2006. In WBC play, the nation has a 3.99 ERA to go with its 9-5 ERA.

Its ace is Ismel Jiménez, while Norberto González and Yadier Pedroso may also be in line for starts. Freddy Álvarez, Danny Betancourt, and Vladimir García will be available for key outs in the early through late innings.

Jiménez is 102-38 in his National Series career and is already off to a 9-0 start in the 2012-13 season thanks to a 1.06 ERA. His .728 winning percentage is the best all-time in Cuba, and he became one of only three pitchers to record 19 wins in 2011-12. He was 1-0 with a 3.68 ERA in the 2009 WBC, earning a win against Australia in relief after coming on with the bases loaded.

González has 119 wins, 88 losses, and 20 saves in 12 seasons, accumulating a 3.89 ERA. That mark has been much lower over the past three campaigns, as he is 37-14 with a 2.95 run mark. The southpaw first donned the red-and-blue in 2003 and has had a number of clutch performances. González will be appearing in his third Classic, where he has a 3.24 ERA in seven games.

Pedroso is 67-35 with a 2.89 in the CNS, striking out eight K/9. In 2011-12, he led the league in strikeouts with 128 in 129 1/3 frames, and was 10-6 with a 2.64 ERA. He has a 3.83 ERA in seven tournaments for Cuba.

Álvarez is 36-31 with a 3.37 ERA in Cuba, but is 15-9 with a 2.37 ERA in the past two campaigns. In his only tournament for the senior national team, he was 1-0 with a 3.65 ERA.

Betancourt is 85-55 with a 3.87 ERA in 12 season. He is currently having his best season since 2005-2006. The right-hander has turned in a number of strong performances while wearing the red-and-blue. In three tournaments spanning 29 innings, he is 3-0 with three saves and a 2.48 ERA, striking out 39. At the 2005 World Cup, he pitched the gold medal game against Korea, hurling 7 1/3 shutout frames.

Along with Betancourt, Vladimir García could serve as closer for Cuba. The right-hander has performed a variety of roles in the CNS, tallying a 51-33 record and 62 saves over seven campaigns. He has a career 2.91 ERA, though he mustered a 1.71 mark in 2011-12 and has a 2.02 ERA in the current campaign. In two tourneys for Cuba, he has a 2.35 ERA, striking out 10.6 batters per nine innings.

“We do have confidence in, and rely on, our pitchers,” Mesa explained. “No matter what the situation is, they can pitch. That’s our strong point. We are very optimistic.”

Cuba and the 2013 WBC
Cuba played a demanding spate of exhibition games to tune up for the World Baseball Classic. After leaving Cuba in mid-February, the team played four games against other WBC clubs in Taiwan, splitting the series. Taiwan beat them 6-5 in the first game on Feb. 18, with Cuba defeating Australia a day later, 5-3. The squad blasted Taiwan 22-11 behind three home runs from Despaigne on Feb. 22, but was shut out on the 25th by the Netherlands, 5-0.

Cuba then continued on to Japan, where in the days leading up to the Pool A opener, it took a pair of wins from NPB teams. It topped the Hanshin Tigers 3-2 on Feb. 27 and finished with a 10-8 victory over the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks on Mar. 1, both in Tokyo Dome.

The six practice games made it clear that Cuba has one of the best offences in the world, but may have to out-slug some of its better opponents. In the four games against national teams, they scored 32, but allowed 25. They also committed five errors and failed to field sacrifice bunts cleanly on several occasions, which might cause problems against the other three nations.

They will first test Brazil, their fellow COPABE (Confederaciòn Panamericana de Béisbol, the governing body of baseball in the Americas) members. The two nations first met in 1951 at the Pan American Games, and Cuba has never dropped a decision in their 12 meetings. Andre Rienzo, a top Chicago White Sox prospect, will start for 20th-ranked Brazil. Cuba will counter with Jiménez in the 3:30 a.m. Mar. 3 matchup.

Cuba will move on to face China, ranked at No. 18 by IBAF.  Like Brazil, the red-and-gold are not considered much of a threat, though Cuba will take them seriously. Since their first meeting in 1998, Cuba is 7-0, scoring an average of 11 runs while allowing only 2. Game time is 7:30 a.m. GMT on Mar. 4.

The final game of Pool A will likely be one of the most exciting in the tournament, as it pits Cuba against Japan. Cuba holds a 50-12 advantage in the all-time series, and Japan only won a single time between 1972 and 1997. The average result of 6-3 is far more indicative of how tense the rivalry is.

Cuba will also be looking for revenge as the Samurai swept the two-game series in November and have eliminated the Cuban team in both previous World Baseball Classics. The two arch-rivals will be pitted against each other in the final first round game at the Tokyo Dome on Mar. 6 at 10 a.m. GMT.

“Our main goal is to go to the [semifinals in the] U.S.,” Mesa told MLB.com. “I have no doubt we can go to America. We have confidence.”

Stay tuned for more previews, reviews, and analysis.

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WBC: Cuba vs Brazil Pitching Match Ups


Game 1 of the day from the 2013 World Baseball Classic, or it might be the final game of the day depending on where you are located, features Brazil and Cuba. Brazil is coming off a heartbreaking loss to Japan after leading the game late. So let’s take a look at the starting pitchers for each team.

Brazil

Andre Rienzo was signed by the Chicago White Sox in 2006 and has moved through the system over the years. In 2012, Rienzo spent most of the season with Double-A Brimingham, but was called up to Triple-A Charlotte for the final week of the season. In 2012, he compiled a 7-3 record in 18 games pitching 103.1 innings. He is a strikeout pitcher averaging more than a strikeout per inning at each level in 2012.

Rienzo started the opening game of the Panama City Qualifier against the host team Panama but didn’t factor into Brazil’s 3-2 win.

Cuba

Ismel Jimenez will get the nod for Cuba and is appearing in his second WBC. He is a former infielder and has been a star of the Sancti Spiritus of the Cuban National Series since 2007.

The right-hander posted a 17-5 record for Sancti in 2012 posting an ERA of 2.48 in 185 innings of work.

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International Players on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects List – Numbers 91-100


Today we start a series taking a look at the international players on the Baseball America 2013 Top 100 Prospects List. Today we will take a look at the bottom 10 of the list from 91-100 and see which players were born and raised internationally.

So here we go with the first few:

Leonys Martin, of, TEX – #97

Martin was born in Cuba and signed by the Texas Rangers in 2011 as a free agent. He has been a top prospect in the minors for a few years now appearing on the 2012 edition of the Top 100 the previous season at #79.

He has spent two seasons in the Rangers farm system and has had a little taste of the Major League level as well. In the minor leagues he has done quite well. In 124 games, at all levels, he has hit .323 with 16 home runs and 29 stolen bases. However, he has struggled in his short time at the MLB level. He has appeared in 32 games garnering 54 at-bats hitting just .204.

The upcoming season could be huge from Martin though. With the absence of Josh Hamilton in the Rangers outfield, Martin looks to get a lot of playing time perhaps in a platoon with Craig Gentry in center field. He will get a lot of playing time this spring as they will look for him to be a contributor at the big league level.

Bruce Rondon, rhp, DET – #95

Bruce Rondon is from Valencia, Venezuela and was signed by the Detroit Tigers as a non-drafted free agent in September 2007.

This is the first time Rondon has cracked the Top 100 List, but he is only 22. Last season he pitched at High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A doing quite well at all levels. He is a closer in the minor leagues already picking up 65 saves in five years in the minor leagues. In 2012, he picked up 29 saves in the minor leagues. He is a strikeout pitcher averaging more than one per inning in his career so far, but he has had control problems in the past walking 5.10 per 9 innings over his career.

He has a lot of upside and his future is now. The Tigers didn’t resign closer Jose Valverde and are looking for Rondon to open the season as the Detroit Tigers closer if the passes the audition this spring.

Daniel Corcino, rhp, CIN – #94

Corcino is from Azuna, Dominican Republic and enters the 2013 season at only 22 years of age. He was signed by the Cincinnati Reds as a non-drafted free agent in January 2008.

After spending three seasons in Rookie ball or at the Low-A level, Corcino was moved to a starting pitcher and really took off. In 2011, he spent the year at the Low-A level and pitched well for Dayton going 11-7/3.42 in 26 starts. He made the jump to Double-A Pensacola last year and pitched just as well. In 26 starts, Corcino went 8-8 with a 3.01 ERA over 143.1 innings.

Like a lot of young pitchers he has struggled at times with his control. Over his minor league career he has averaged 3.48 walks per 9 innings. He can miss bats at time as well with his career 8.65 strikeouts per 9 innings.

He will once again get to face advanced hitters at either the Double-A or Triple-A level for 2013 to see if he can continue his success and move further toward a spot in the Cincinnati rotation.

Next up we will take a look at the prospects from 81-90.

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Eight Great Latin American Ballplayers


By Ismael Nunez

This month of February is African-American History Month. It’s also Dominican History Month, and in the first week of February every year:  Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela participated in the Caribbean World Series!

Yet the games are not shown on prime-time and at the same time there are several Latin American ballplayers many USA citizens don’t know much about.  Here are the Magnificent Eight!

Cuba

Martin Dihigo stood 6’3 and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. He was the first Latin American Ballplayer who played in the Negro Leagues elected into the Hall. The only ballplayer elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in four countries (Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, United States).  In Cuba he was called “The Immortal” in other Latin American countries he was called “El Maestro” (The Master). As a pitcher he won over 25o games had a winning percentage over .650. As a hitter he had a batting average of over .300 and won batting  and home-run titles.  Too many, including former Negro League Hall of Famers, consider him the greatest player ever!

Jose Mendez stood only 5’8. In Cuba he was called “El Diamante Negro” (The Black Diamond) yet he had a winning percentage of .747.  When Major League Teams traveled to the island in exhibition games Mendez won most of the time! In one game he defeated Hall of Fame Pitcher Christy Mathewson in 1911.

Cristobal Torriente stood between 5’9 and 5’10 yet weighed 190 pounds. He was called “The Cuban Babe Ruth”, played baseball year-round, and was a star player both in the Negro and Cuban Leagues from 1913 to 1922. His lifetime batting average was .352.

All Three of these Cubans are in Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY

Dominican Republic

Tetelo Vargas has been called “The Father of Dominican Baseball and The Dominican Deer” who was excellent both on defense and offense! Long before there was Manny Ramirez, and Vladimir Guerrero there was Vargas. Playing in the Negro Leagues, Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Mexican Leagues he put together a lifetime batting average of .300.  He also had good speed, and was notable base stealer.

Horacio “Rabbit” Martinez was an outstanding shortstop, and a clutch hitter.

To many he was the greatest shortstop ever to play in the Dominican Republic and one of the top shortstops in the Negro Leagues from the 1930’s and 1940’s. In an article for SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) many would say long before Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith there was Martinez making those plays. He had a rifle of an arm and brilliant speed.

In his Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, James A. Riley wrote that Martinez was “a good bunter, fast on the bases, and good on either end of the hit-and-run play! Always a hustler!”

Dominican baseball player Manny Mota had this to say about Martinez “Mr. Horacio Martínez was without a doubt one of the greatest players in the history of the Dominican Republic. Besides being a great player, he was like a father to me. I’ve got a great deal of respect and admiration for him.”

Rob Ruck, author, The Tropic of Baseball: Baseball in the Dominican Republic, and co-writer/producer of the film Republic of Baseball stated this, “I think that both Tetelo Vargas and Horacio Martínez merit consideration for the Hall of Fame. Now that the Hall has opened its “Viva Baseball” exhibit about Latinos in baseball, I hope that they might establish a special committee to consider such candidacies, as they did once before, in 2006!

Puerto Rico

Pancho Coimbre & Perucho Cepeda

Long before Puerto Rican great like Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Alomar arrived in the Hall of Fame, you had these two individuals.  Coimbre and Cepeda both stood 5’11 and both were Afro-Puerto Rican as well as outstanding hitters/fielders. Cepeda’s single season batting average of .464 is the highest in Puerto Rican Baseball History. Coimbre’s lifetime batting average of .337 is the second best in Puerto Rican Baseball History.  Both are in the Puerto Rican Baseball Hall of Fame.

Mexico

The country has had baseball fever long before Fernandomania in 1981, Bobby Avila winning the A.L. batting title in 1954, or the country winning the 2013 Caribbean World Series. Before all of this there was Hector Espino!

He was called the “Babe Ruth of Mexico”  and his  achievements have been compared favorably with many baseball legends who have received baseball’s highest honor.

He won a staggering 18 batting titles(winter/summer leagues) which is six more than the 12 batting crowns Hall of Famer Ty Cobb captured. He also spent 24 years with the Orange Men from 1960-84. Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson (Orioles) and Carl Yastrzemski (Red Sox) are tied with 23 years of service in one uniform.

He became the oldest man to win a batting title in 1983 when he was 43 years-old and hit .316. Ted Williams was 40 when he hit .328 in 1958.

He led Mexico to its first Caribbean World Series win in 1976, and in 1988 was elected to the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame (Salón de la Fama del Beisbol Profesional de México).

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Netherlands: 2013 World Port Tournament Schedule Announced; Cuba to be Fourth Team


Cuba has been announced as the fourth team at the 2013 World Port Tournament.

Cuba will join Curacao, Chinese Taipei, and host Netherlands in the 2013 edition of the tournament. The tournament will be played in Rotterdam from June 30 to July 7.

The bi-annual tournament also released the schedule with Cuba and Curacao kicking it off on Sunday June 30.

2013 WPT Schedule:

Sunday June 30
2:00 pm – Cuba vs Curacao
7:30 pm – Netherlands vs Chinese Taipei

Monday July 1
2:00 pm – Chinese Taipei vs Curacao
7:30 pm – Cuba vs Netherlands

Tuesday July 2
7:30 pm – Curacao vs Netherlands

Wednesday July 3
2:00 pm – Curacao vs Chinese Taipei
7:30 pm – Netherlands vs Cuba

Thursday July 4
7:30 pm – Chinese Taipei vs Cuba

Friday July 5
2:00 pm – Chinese Taipei vs Cuba
7:30 pm – Netherlands vs Curacao

Saturday July 6
2:00 pm – Curacao vs Cuba
7:30 pm – Chinese Taipei vs Netherlands

Sunday July 7
2:00 pm Final

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Cuban National Series: New Structure, Less Baseball


By Reynaldo Cruz

After having a forgettable seventeen-team tournament last season, the Cuban Baseball National Commission decided to make changes. So they held a nationwide interview, visiting each and every one of the provinces to find out the opinions of journalists and players alike.

The result, which we can say for sure that did not surface in any province, is a Frankenseries. Finally, after a whole two years of
controversy surrounding the seventeen-team field and the presence of an in-season farm team —which had extended for over twenty years— the decision was to eliminate Metropolitanos and change the competition format.

Forty-five games will be played in the first stage, with no zones or pools to qualify, in a round-robin-like first round, all teams will
play three games against every contender. Meaning that from 45 matches at home, fans will only see their heroes 21 or 24 times, depending on how lucky they are… and we can bet who will be benefited from that “luck”.

When game 45 stops, the top eight teams, ignoring pools or zones, will move to the second round and each contender will be reinforced with five players from the eight remaining clubs —who will have no choice but to go home and call it a season— in a draft-like selection system. The top eight will then play another 42 matches (six against each opponent) and four of them will make it to the semifinals and therefore the finals.

What have we gained?

Nothing, honestly. Half the teams will be gone for the rest of the season, and some young prospects will lose seasoning games and the opportunity to develop skills.

Right now, when Cuban baseball is at a major crossroads, and the quality of international play has increased, players do need to play more. Less games (45 for half of the teams and 87 for the other half) will bring nothing but lower quality, and a shortage in the amount of young talent surfacing every year.

Many players who might later become stars start the seasons slow, mainly as rookies, and it is not until game 30 that they start showing signs of quality and all that. Limiting the amount of games played will hurt the legitimacy of the Rookie of the Year, since not all the players will have the chance to fully develop and many of them will be ignored for the second half.

So we hope that this type of structure does not last long, or the only first-place Cuban baseball still holds, being the IBAF World Ranking, will be gone in a couple of years.

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Cuba to Play CPBL Team in Exhibition in November


The Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) announced that the Cuban national team will be making a trip to Taiwan to play a two game set in November.

The game will pit the current world #1 team in Cuba against the best that the CPBL has to offer.

Game 1 will be on November 12 at Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taichung. Game 2 will be the following day at the Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium in Taoyuan.

It is also rumored that Cuba is looking to add either Japan or South Korea or both to its Asia trip.

The series is being called the 2012 CPBL vs Cuba Games and will be fully sanctioned by the IBAF. This is just one of many events by international baseball committees in an effort to promote the game internationally in hopes that they will receive reinstatement at the Olympic Games.

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