09/25/13 - Reuters - Young Cuban baseball pitcher believed to have left the island
By Nelson Acosta
HAVANA | Wed Sep 25, 2013 6:34pm EDT
HAVANA (Reuters) - A promising young Cuban pitcher failed to show up for
training this week and was widely believed to have left the island, which
would make him the latest talented prospect to seek a lucrative Major
League Baseball contract in the United States.
Raicel Iglesias, 23, is one of the island's top relief pitchers and a
member of the Isle of Youth team preparing for the national championship
series that starts on November 3.
CaféFuerte, a Cuban exile website in Miami, reported that Iglesias left
Cuba by boat on Saturday. If confirmed, it would be the fourth defection
this year from Cuba's national squad, following that of big-hitting first
baseman Jose Dariel Abreu, who left the island in August.
"Iglesias hasn't been here with us for two days. He didn't show up,"
Armando Johnson, the Isle of Youth manager, told Reuters.
"He was here all last week. The cause of his absence is unknown," said
Lazaro Labrada, director of sports on the Isle of Youth off Cuba's south
Iglesias participated in three Cuban national championships, with a
win-loss record of 8-12 and 20 saves, and would be the third pitcher to
leave the national squad this year after Odrisamer Despaigne and Misael
Siverio, who abandoned the Cuban team in France and the United States,
Iglesias appeared this year in the World Baseball Classic in Japan, and
had one successful save appearance in five games with a respectable 3.86
"Raicel Iglesias is a good prospect, perhaps the best of all in (Cuban)
pitching among those under 23 years old," said Yasel Porto, a leading
Cuban baseball commentator.
LURE OF MAJOR-LEAGUE PAYDAY
Communist-ruled Cuba is bleeding baseball talent as the island's sports
authorities look for ways to stop the exodus of players seeking a big
payday in Major League Baseball.
The departure of players is attributed to state-controlled salaries of
about only $20 a month, contrasting sharply with the potential big money
"There are more Cubans currently playing in the Major Leagues in the
United States at any time since the revolution in 1959," said Porto,
listing 21 players signed to U.S. clubs this season.
The Cuban government has repeatedly denounced what it calls the theft of
its talent as part of the half-century ideological conflict with the
Due to the long-standing U.S. embargo against Cuba, as well as Cuba's own
sports regulations, Cuban baseball players living in Cuba cannot play
professionally in the United States.
In July, the Cuban government allowed a handful of Cuban baseball players
to join overseas professional leagues, including in Mexico and Japan,
under special government-approved contracts. But the United States remains
Players have chosen various routes to leave the island, including homemade
rafts and smuggler boats.
The pace of defections picked up after hard-throwing pitcher Aroldis
Chapman defected in 2009 and signed a $30 million contract with the
Oakland Athletics outfielder Yoenis Céspedes, winner of this year's Home
Run Derby, the popular competition the day before the annual All-Star
Game, defected in 2011 and signed a $36 million, four-year contract.
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, who left Cuba in 2012, signed
a seven-year, $42 million contract. Puig made his Major League debut on
June 3 and has emerged as one of the top contenders for the Rookie of the
(Additional reporting; Editing by David Adams and Peter Cooney)
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