Yulieski Gourriel’s Last Hit in Cuban Baseball?

Yulieski Gourriel.  Photo: juventudrebelde.cu
Yulieski Gourriel. Photo: juventudrebelde.cu

HAVANA TIMES — “Undoubtedly Yulieski Gourriel has been for years the face of Cuban baseball, with detractors and supporters, but nobody can deny he has been by far the best that stayed in Cuba with all the talent that has left the country in the recent past and present,” wrote Ray Otero on Thursday in baseballdecuba.com.

Recent events cloud the probability of seeing Yulieski, 30, wearing the Team Cuba uniform again or even that of Industriales, his last team in the Cuban league, after a decade with Sancti Spiritus.

On Friday, CaféFuerte said the infielder was excluded from the national pre-selection for not showing up for training and therefore will not be on team Cuba for the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.

The situation of Yulieski Gourriel is a much commented, said team Cuba skipper Roger Machado. The manager said Yulieski “was excluded for missing workouts and his position has been filled by Rudy Reyes.” Machado, who substituted Victor Mesa at the help of Team Cuba, has a 35-player shortlist of players who are currently working out in the Latin American Stadium.

In the typical style of Cuban sports authorities of minimizing the loss of star players or prospects, Machado commented: “Never mind the absence of Yulieski, we have athletes who can do the job as well or better.”

According to Ray Otero, “the biggest buzz about the Yulieski Gourriel saga began with the not yet entirely clarified situation of the cancellation of his contracts in the Japanese League, especially the controversial contract with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars. Subsequently, doubts about the future arose from his recent request to be dropped from the Industriales roster as well as from Team Cuba, plus the presence of his father, the legendary Lourdes Gourriel in Miami, even giving interviews to the media.

“The presence in Miami of the senior Gourriel has led many to believe his sons would seek residence in a third country, using the current laws regarding Cuban players in the majors to aspire to a contract with any of the 30 MLB teams,” said Otero.

Yulieski’s older brother Yunieski, 33, is currently playing with the Quebec Capitals and many believe he will not be playing any more in Cuba. And finally, the youngest of the Gourriels, Lourdes Jr., 21, a great prospect, was excluded from Team Cuba for the tournaments in July, at the Pan American Games in Toronto and a tour against a US university selection in North Carolina.

Otero also noted the loss of another great prospect of Team Cuba, Camaguey pitcher Norge Luis Ruiz, 21, “who left the country with his family, bound for Haiti, in late May.”

Ruiz was a great promise of Cuban pitching and had an outstanding performance as a reinforcement with the Pinar del Río Vegueros champion in the last Caribbean Series in Puerto Rico. He had also successfully participated in a previous exhibition series against a US college selection held in several US cities, and was in the sights of major league scouts. However on neither occasion did he opt to stay, noted Ray Otero.