Thursday, February 19, 2009

Who's on first

The Cubans, fresh off of their loss three years ago, are ready to go for this year's WBC. They are the first team to announce their final 28-man roster:


Ariel Pestano* (Villa Clara),

Rolando Meriño (Santiago de Cuba),

Yosvany Peraza (Pinar del Río)


Frederich Cepeda* (Sancti Spíritus),

Alfredo Despaigne (Granma),

Yoennis Céspedes (Granma),

Leonys Martin (Villa Clara),

Leslie Anderson* (Camagüey)


Joan Carlos Pedroso* (Las Tunas),

Alexander Mayeta (Industriales),

Yulieski Gourriel* (Sancti Spíritus),

Eduardo Paret* (Villa Clara),

Michel Enríquez* (Isla de la Juventud),

Héctor Olivera (Santiago de Cuba),

Luis Miguel Navas (Santiago de Cuba)



Pedro Luis Lazo* (Pinar del Río),

Norge Luis Vera (Santiago de Cuba),

Yuniesky Maya* (Pinar del Río),

Luis Miguel Rodríguez (Holguín),

Miguel Lahera (Habana Province),

Vladimir García (Ciego de Avila),

Ismel Jiménez (Sancti Spíritus),

Yolexis Ulacia (Villa Clara),

Ciro Silvino Licea (Granma),

Dany Betancourt (Santiago de Cuba).


Aroldis Chapman (Holguín),

Yunieski González* (Habana Province),

Norberto González* (Cienfuegos)


Higinio Vélez (Manager),

Benito Camacho (General Manager),

Francisco Escaurido,

Carlos Cepero,

Lourdes Gourriel,

Pedro Pérez,

Eduardo Martin,

Humberto Arrieta,

Jorge Fuentes.

I don't know anything about the team, and I'm willing to bet most peope don't. A couple of interesting tidbits:

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this year’s Cuban roster is management’s decision to enter the tournament with a pitching staff manned by only three southpaws among the thirteen hurlers. Cuba is very never short on hitting, but a sometimes shaky bullpen corps proved a major Achilles Heel in tournament loses (Puerto Rico in round one, the Dominicans in round two, and Japan in the finals) against the big league all-stars back in 2006.

WBC and international fans looking for unknown gems among the Cuban arsenal are likely to be most impressed next month by mammoth slugging backup catcher Yosvany “Gordo” Peraza (who blasted 25 homers in an injury-shortened 2008 season), along with a pair of slugging 22-year-old outfielder teammates from the cellar-dwelling Granma ball club. Alfredo Despaigne and Yoennis Céspedes last season became the first Cuban League players from the same club to smash 50-plus homers between them. Céspedes is getting his first crack at national team stardom, mainly thanks to the collapse of Alexei Bell; Céspedes was a late cut from both the 2006 WBC team and last summer’s Olympic squad. Despaigne debuted with a bang in the 2007 World Cup and was considered by many big league scouts to be the most dangerous bat in the Cuban lineup during last summer’s Beijing festivities. Despaigne and Céspedes should lead a Cuban slugging display (along with Peraza, Pedroso, Cepeda and Gourriel) that could carry this team all the way to Los Angeles, if only the pitching holds up even moderately well.

Anyhow, I don't think the Cubans are quite over the defeat in 2006, and they're ready to go. Beisbol, anyone?

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