Top Cuban Pitcher Headed to Washington

By Circles Robinson

Yunieski Maya in his old Pinar del Rio uniform.

HAVANA TIMES, July 21 — Yunieski Maya, not long ago the top right-handed pitcher on team Cuba, is headed for Washington to play with the Nationals, reported ESPN on Wednesday.

Maya, 28, played for Pinar del Rio in the Cuban League and left the island last year presumably to try and make it in the US Major Leagues.  The amount of his contract was yet to be revealed.

When discussing the signing of another Cuban, Aroldis Chapman, to a 30 million dollar contract last year with the Cincinnati Reds, Cuban baseball expert Peter C. Bjarkman said about Maya:

“He may be a few years older, but he was a true ace on a national team staff (2008 Olympics and 2009 World Baseball Classic) that Chapman had considerable trouble even qualifying for.  Maya was by most measures the best pitcher in Cuba the season immediately before his 2009 departure.”

Chapman, 22, is thus far 6-6 and with a 4.21 ERA pitching for the Red’s AAA Louisville team.

According to the Washington Post, Maya has been residing in the Dominican Republic since leaving Cuba and over a month ago “was authorized by the US Department of the Treasury to sign with a Major League Baseball team.”

Maya has four pitches an over-90 MPH fastball, plus a curveball, slider and changeup.  He pitched for six seasons in the Cuban League, with a 48-29 record and a 2.51 ERA.

The Post said that Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo “could not confirm or deny the agreement.”  Nonetheless, he told the daily: “We think he’s capable of pitching in the major leagues very soon.  You’ve got an accomplished, major league-ready caliber pitcher that’s competed at the highest level.”