Two Cuban baseball players defect in Puerto Rico

Wed Feb 4, 2015 12:36pm EST
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By Daniel Trotta

HAVANA (Reuters) - Two Cuban baseball players defected in Puerto Rico, where a squad from their country is playing in the Caribbean Series against four other Latin American teams, Cuban sports officials said on Wednesday.

Pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez, 19, rookie of the year in the Cuban league last year, and shortstop Dainer Moreira, 30, left the team after Tuesday night's game in San Juan, said two Cuban sports officials, who requested anonymity because they are unauthorized to speak publicly.

The Cuban government does not comment on defections.

The recent rapprochement between Cuba and the United States has yet to open the path for top Cuban players to Major League Baseball.

But under new U.S. regulations published as part of the opening to Cuba, American teams can more easily sign Cuban players once they establish residence outside of Cuba.

Such players are generally free to sign with a team and no longer need special clearance from the U.S. Treasury Department to play.

Gutierrez, a right-hander for the Pinar del Rio club, would be the more coveted of the two as a Major League prospect because of his youth.

The light-hitting Moreira, from Matanzas, is one of Cuba's better fielding shortstops but may have less potential as a big-leaguer.   Continued...