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Location: Havana, Cuba

is a blog to give a fresh angle on a fascinating and beautiful Caribbean Island country that, despite being relatively small and with only 11 million people, has been a major player in American and world politics for a half century. I also suggest you try

Friday, March 03, 2006

Cuba Takes Five Lefthanders to WBC

by Circles Robinson

Cuba will take a hard-throwing pitching staff of 14 veterans and young aces to the World Baseball Classic including five lefthanders.

The final 30-man roster was announced Thursday evening by Cuban Baseball Federation President Carlos Rodriguez on national television and radio.

The nightly Round Table program began direct from Central Park in Havana with the opinions of hardcore baseball fans who gather regularly to discuss the sport and the island’s players.

Cuban fans have often speculated of how their team would do against US Major Leaguers and the Classic is considered the most competitive event ever for the Olympic and World Cup Champions.

Nobody doubts that the country will come to a halt at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 8 when the Cuban team takes the field to play its first game against Panama, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The WBC actually began on Friday with two games played in Japan between Pool A rivals South Korea and Chinese Taipei and Japan vs. China.

The Koreans won a tough pitching duel by shutting out Taipei 2-0, while Japan, the Pool A favorites, won easily over China, unleashing 16 hits including three home runs to win 18-2.

Play continues Saturday at the Tokyo Dome with a morning game between Korea and China and Japan meeting Taipei in the afternoon.

The other three groups begin play next week. Pool B includes the United States, Mexico, Canada and South Africa. Pool D is comprised of the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Italy and Australia, while Puerto Rico, Cuba, Panama and the Netherlands compete in Pool C.

The Cuban pitching staff includes the highly effective left-hander Adiel Palma, 35, and power pitching right-hander Pedro Luis Lazo, 34. The other left-handers are Norberto Gonzalez, 26, Yosvani Perez, 26 Yulieski Gonzalez, 25 and this year’s Cuban Baseball League sensation, Maikel Folch, 25.

Right-handers Vicyohandri Odelin, 26, Yadel Marti, 26, Jonder Martinez, 27, Ormari Romero, 29, Luis Borroto, 23, Yunieski Maya, 24, Yadier Pedroso, 19, and Deinys Suarez, 21 round out the staff.

The three catchers are clutch hitting Ariel Pestano, 31, Roger Machado, 31, and Eriel Sanchez, 30.

The seven infielders will be led by team captain and shortstop Eduardo Paret, 33, third baseman Michel Enriquez 27, and the versatile Yulieski Gourriel, 22, at second; the diamond also includes Joan Carlos Pedroso, 26, and Ariel Borrero, 33, at first base, shortstop Juan Carlos Moreno, 30, and utility player Rudy Reyes, 24.

Cuba chose to take six outfielders to the Classic: power hitting left fielder Frederich Cepeda, 25, right fielder and four time batting champion Osmani Urrutia, 29, center fielders Carlos Tabares, 31 and Alexei Ramirez, 24, as well as Yoandry Garlobo, 28, Leslie Anderson, 23.

Manager Higinio Velez and the coaching team including Benito Camacho, Jose Elosegui, Francisco Escaurido and Carlos Cepero will keep the team practicing in top form in the few days remaining before traveling to Puerto Rico.

Cuba has the only all-amateur team to compete in the World Baseball Classic. All the team's games and several from the other groups will be broadcast live on Cuban radio and television.


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