Young Cuban baseball pitcher believed to have left the island

Wed Sep 25, 2013 7:50pm EDT
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By Nelson Acosta

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 coast.

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, respectively.

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 earned-run average.

"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.   Continued...