Yulieski Gourriel Signs to Play Ball in Japan

He will play for the Yokohama DeNA Baystars

Ray Otero  (Baseballdecuba.com)

It’s just a matter of days when Cuba’s top third baseman Yulieski Gourriel heads off to play this summer in the Japanese professional baseball.

HAVANA TIMES — The Yokohama DeNA Baystars signed a contract on Monday in Havana with Cuban infielder Yulieski Gourriel, through the representative of the Japanese squad in Havana, Shun Kakazu.

The Baystars plan to use Gourriel, who turns 30 on June 9, at second base but the possibility that the Cuban moves later to third base, his main position in Cuba, is not ruled out. He will start out batting third on his team’s lineup.

The team of Japan’s Central League, founded in 1950, is headquartered in Yokohama Stadium in the city of the same name. Gourriel was recruited after he concluded his season with Industriales in the Cuban league, a requirement for playing overseas in the offseason.

The Yokohama team has two league titles, in 1960 and 1998.

While the amount of the contract has yet to be disclosed, Gourriel is expected to receive a similar or higher amount than the $1.5 million earned by his former teammate in Sancti Spiritus, outfielder Frederich Cepeda.

The General Manager of the Baystars, Shigeru Takada, says Gourriel was always a favorite of his and will be useful to the Japanese team.

Meanwhile, Cepeda was introduced this Monday to his teammates and coaches of the Yomiuri Giants which also have the services of former Cuban league player Leslie Anderson. Juan Miranda, also formerly playing in the Cuban league, will play for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters; and Yunieski Betancourt with the Orix Buffaloes in the NPB (Japanese Professional Baseball League).

Gourriel will be the third player in baseball history to receive permission from the Cuban Baseball Federation to play in Japan’s professional league – behind Omar Linares and Frederich Cepeda. Linares did so after retirement from the Cuban league while Cepeda and Gourriel are still active.