By Reynaldo Cruz
The mystery is over: in a press conference held by the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB, for its Spanish acronyms), the 50 names that will be part of the preliminary roster for the 2023 World Baseball Classic, to be held this March, were announced. The list, which includes several names with Major League experience, some of them even active, brought some surprises among the followers of Cuban baseball.
Of course, it took some time for them to announced the names, as FCB president Juan Reinaldo Pérez Pardo took some time to narrate some of the hurdles they had to overcome to get some current and former MLB players on board, and this included some political discourse, something that has never been missing from his announcements and statements since he took office. He also ruled out players who had committed “serious acts of lack of lack of discipline”, emphasizing on defectors or players who “abandoned a sports delegation in a competition”.
He also complained that the players who do not reside in Cuba would be unable to receive “the benefits of FCB” if they were not able to train in Cuba, which might have led many to wonder what benefits the FCB can give a player who is not their property in a foreign league, including the Show.
Important information was provided, however, players who are not limited (some major and minor leaguers might be subject to club restrictions) will begin training on January 15, and late in the month they plan to go to another country, probably Mexico and the Dominican Republic, which are the ones who have offered interest, to train and have friendly games there. Around February 15, they will head East, to play in Japan, so far with the Chunichi Dragons, the Yomiuri Giants and the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. These three teams have held Cuban players signed under the control of the FCB.
On March 3, they will be in Taiwan, which is the venue of their Pool, but Pérez Pardo did not assure that games would be planned or coordinated to face Chinese Taipei or any CPBL team. The idea to move to Asia that early responds to the need to adapt to the different Time Zone and let the effects pass.
Armando Johnson, the head coach, also mentioned that they were trying to field a team in which everyone had a function, and added the need to use speed, given the many struggles to produce with the lumber in recent years.
The names are as follows:
Catchers: Andrys Pérez, Oscar Valdés, Yosvani Alarcón, Rafael Viñales and Lorenzo Quintana (Lidom).
Infielders: Ariel Martínez (is primarily a catcher but can also play in the outfield, NPB), Guillermo Avilés, Bárbaro Erisbel Arruebarruena, Luis Vicente Mateo, Yadil Mujica, Yurisbel Gracial (can also play in the outfield, NPB), Dayán García, Pavel Quesada, Yoan Manuel Moncada (MLB), Andy Ibáñez (MiLB), Pedro Pablo Revilla (NPB), Guillermo García (NPB).
Outfielders: Raico Santos (LMP), Yoelkis Guibert, Roel Santos (LMP), Yadir Drake (LMP), Alfredo Despaigne (NPB), Lázaro Armenteros (MiLB), Yoenis Céspedes (Lidom), Luis Robert (MLB).
Pitchers: Yoennis Yera (LMP), Liván Moinelo (NPB), Carlos Juan Viera (LMP), Raidel Martínez (NPB), Yariel Rodríguez (NPB), Frank Abel Álvarez (NPB), Naykel Cruz, Marlon Vega, Javier Mirabal, Franklyn Quintana, Jonathan Carbó, José Ramón Rodríguez, Alexander Valiente, Roberto Hernández, Yeudis Reyes, Pavel Hernández, Hermes González, Dariel Góngora, Alberto Pablo Civil, Onelkis García (Lidom), Ronald Bolaños (MiLB), Luis Miguel Romero (MiLB), Yoan López (MLB), Elián Leyva (LMP), Roenis Elías (listed as member of Lidom, but recently signed with the Chicago Cubs).
The team will be managed by Armando Johnson, and his coaching will include Germán Mesa (bench coach), Rafael Muñoz (3rd base coach), Armando Ferrer (1st base coach), Pedro Luis Lazo (pitching coach), José Elósegui (pitching coach), Humberto Guevara (physical trainer), and Orestes Kindelán (hitting coach).
The absence of Yasmany Tomás, a player many thought would be a fixture and would add power to a team almost deprived of it (Despaigne is not the same player and Céspedes might not be either) might have surprised some. At the same time, the case of Roenis Elías could become the first player to leave the team, as he might not be cleared by the Cubs to play in the WBC. Also, Luis Robert, who finished last season with an injury, could be subject to restrictions by the Chicago White Sox.
Only one of the outfielders announced is currently playing in Cuba, making it the position with the least Liga Élite members.
Note: Foreign league players between parenthesis. NPB: Nippon Professional Baseball, MLB: Major League Baseball, Lidom: Dominican League, MiLB: Minor League Baseball, LMP: Mexican Pacific League.