Cuba Opens WBC Play vs. Japan on Tuesday

Noelvis Etenza announced as the starter

Noelvis Etenza was announced as Cuba’s starting pitcher for game one vs. Japan.

HAVANA TIMES — The decision was a surprise but that’s what managers are for. Carlos Marti, announced right-hander Noelvis Entenza to face the two-time WBC champions Japan on their home turf in the inaugural tournament clash for both squads, reports Ray Otero of

Game time at the Tokyo Dome will be Tuesday at 5:00 am Cuba time, (7:00 p.m. in Japan), as part of Group B of the event.

Most observers, Otero noted, expected righty Vladimir Baños to get the call after a good showing in the prep games.  However Manager Marti chose Entenza based on his scouting reports of the Japanese team.

Marti also announced his starting lineup, the same one that he has been presenting in a more stable way in the last exhibition games.

Team Cuba lineup:

1- Roel Santos (CF)
2- Alexander Ayala (SS)
3- Frederich Cepeda (DH)
4- Alfredo Despaigne (LF)
5- William Saavedra (1B)
6- Yurisbel Gracial (3B)
7- Carlos Benítez (2B)
8- Frank C. Morejón (C)
9- Yoelkis Céspedes (RF)

Carlos Marti, manager of Team Cuba for the 2017 WBC.

Of the starting lineup for the first encounter of Cuba, only three players have previous experience in the WBC.  Those are Cepeda (2006, 09, 13), Despaigne (09, 13) and Morejón (13). The starter Entenza has never pitched at this level.

Cuba has a balance of 1-3 against Japan in World Baseball Classics. The only victory came in the 2013 edition, when surprisingly left-hander Wilber Perez picked up a 6-3 win in a game where six other Cuban pitchers saw action, including a repeater to the  WBC, Vladimir Garcia, who finished that historic triumph.

For Japan, right-hander Daisuke Matsusaka defeated Cuba twice, 10-6 in the Final of the 2006 WBC and 6-0 in the Second Round of the 2009 Classic. In that same Second Round of 2009, Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma completed Japan’s third straight win against Cuba by beating them 5-0 at San Diego’s Petco Park.

On Tuesday, what many consider a weaker Cuban team will try to upset favored Japan.

Here is the schedule for the first round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic for Pools A & B.

Monday, March 6
Group A: Israel v. Korea, 6:30 p.m., Gocheok Sky Dome.  (Israel won 2-1 in 10 innings)

Tuesday, March 7
Group A: Israel v. China Taipei, 12:00 p.m., Gocheok Sky Dome.
Group A: Korea v. Holland, 6:30 p.m., Gocheok Sky Dome.
Group B: Cuba v. Japan, 7 p.m., Tokyo Dome.

Wednesday, March 8
Group A: China Taipei v. Holland, 6:30 p.m., Gocheok Sky Dome.
Group B: China v. Cuba, 12 p.m., Tokyo Dome
Group B: Japan v. Australia, 7 p.m., Tokyo Dome

Thursday, March 9
Group A: Netherlands v. Israel, 12:00 p.m., Gocheok Sky Dome.
Group A: Korea v. China Taipei, 6:30 p.m., Gocheok Sky Dome.
Group B: Australia v. China, 7 p.m., Tokyo Dome.

Friday, March 10
Group A: Tiebreak Game (if necessary), 6 p.m., Gocheok Sky Dome.
Group B: Australia v. Cuba, 12 p.m., Tokyo Dome.
Group B: China v. Japan, 7 p.m., Tokyo Dome.

Group C: Canada, Dominican Republic, Colombia and the USA begin play on  March 9 at the Marlin’s Park in Miami, Florida.

Group D: Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Italy and Mexico also begin play on March 9 at the Charros Stadium in Jalisco, Mexico.