Peter C. Bjarkman*
HAVANA TIMES — After weeks of speculation, the final 28-man roster for Cuba’s World Baseball Classic team was announced this morning in a press conference staged in Havana’s Latin American Stadium.
The squad directed by manager Victor Mesa contains a number of surprises, most especially the replacement of Yulexis La Rosa by Yosvani Peraza in the catching corps, the addition of young Industriales slugger Yasmani Tomás to the crew of five outfielders, the selection of an additional infielder (Raúl González of Ciego de Avila), and the addition of pitchers Yadier Pedroso, Diosdani Castillo, and Leandro Martínez.
Dropped from the provisional roster announced in mid-January were not only catcher La Rosa, but also pitchers Darien Nuñez, Yulieski González and Vicyohandri Odelín, plus outfielders Rusney Castillo and Yadiel Hernández.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was the elimination of Castillo, the batting champion and MVP of the 2011 IBAF World Cup games in Panama. Castillo (Ciego de Avila) has suffered a season-long slump this winter and is not now considered to be in top physical playing condition.
The final Team Cuba roster for the third edition of the MLB World Baseball Classic thus stands as follows:
Final Cuba WBC Pre-Selection Roster
Bold=new additions not on original WBC roster
#=Previous World Baseball Classic Experience
*=No previous national team appearances
#Ismel Jiménez (Sancti Spíritus) RHP (Age: 26, 8 National Series)
#Vladimir García (Ciego de Avila) RHP (Age: 23, 7 National Series)
#Freddy Asiel Álvarez (Villa Clara) RHP (Age: 23, 7 National Series)
Odrisamer Despaigne (Industriales) RHP (Age: 25, 7 National Series)
#Danny Betancourt (Santiago de Cuba) RHP (Age: 31, 12 National Series)
#Norberto González (Cienfuegos) LHP (Age: 33, 15 National Series)
*Yander Guevara (Ciego de Avila) RHP (Age: 25, 5 National Series)
*Raciel Iglesias (Isla de la Juventud) RHP (Age: 22, 2 National Series)
*Wilber Pérez (Isla de la Juventud) LHP (Age: 36, 12 National Series)
#Yadier Pedroso (Artemisa) RHP (Age: 26, 8 National Serie)
Alexander Rodriguez (Guantánamo) RHP (Age: 29, 12 National Series)
*Diosdani Castillo (Villa Clara) RHP (Age: 25, 5 National Series)
Leandro Martínez (Granma) LHP (Age: 33, 5 National Series)
#Eriel Sánchez (Sancti Spíritus) BR/TR (Age: 38, 19 National Series)
Frank Camilo Morejón (Industriales) BR/TR (Age: 26, 8 National Series)
#Yosvani Peraza (Pinar del Río) BR/TR (Age: 33, 15 National Series)
José Dariel Abreu (Cienfuegos) BR/TR (Age: 25, 9 National Series)
*Luis Felipe Rivera (Isla de la Juventud) BL/TL (Age: 35, 16 National Series)
José Miguel Fernández (Matanzas) BL/TR (Age: 24, 5 National Series)
*Andy Ibáñez (Isla de la Juventud) BR/TR (Age: 19, 1 National Series)
#Yulieski Gourriel (Sancti Spíritus) BR/TR (Age: 28, 11 National Series)
Erisbel Arruebarruena (Cienfuegos) BR/TR (Age: 22, 5 National Series)
Raúl González (Ciego de Avila) BR/TR (Age: 25, 7 National Series)
#Frederich Cepeda (Sancti Spíritus) BB/TR (Age: 32, 15 National Series)
#Alfredo Despaigne (Granma) BR/TR (Age: 26, 8 National Series)
Alexei Bell (Santiago de Cuba) BR/TR (Age: 28, 11 National Series)
Guillermo Heredia (Matanzas) BR/TL (Age: 21, 3 National Series)
*Yasmani Tomás (Industriales) BR/TR (Age: 22, 3 National Series)
The team will depart on Friday (February 15) for Taiwan where they will begin a series of pre-Classic exhibition games this coming Monday (February 18, versus the Chinese Taipei WBC squad) in Taichung.
Cuba opens its WBC play in Fukuoka, Japan on March 3 against Brazil, followed by games against China on March 4 and on March 6 with host Japan, the two-time Classic champions. Two of the four teams will qualify for round two.
(*) For full coverage of the World Baseball Classic from Peter C. Bjarkman visit Baseballdecuba.com