HAVANA TIMES — After eight seasons in the Cuban league with mediocre stats, Santiago de Cuba right-hander Manuel Portuondo signed a US $990,000 contract to pitch for the Atlanta Braves, reported MLB on Wednesday.
According to Mark Bowman writing for MLB.com, Braves international scouting rep, Gordon Blakeley watched Portuondo, 28, in the Dominican Republic and liked what he saw.
While Portuondo’s numbers in Cuba – a 5.82 lifetime ERA with 16 wins and 27 losses, 197 strikeouts and 195 walks-, don’t exactly raise eyebrows, his last couple years in the Dominican Republic have apparently brought a change for the better.
The Braves have seen promise in him, said Manny Paula, one of Portuondo’s reps. Better diet and improved training appears to have helped. His 92-94 mph fastball moves on the corners. When he arrived in the DR he only threw 85 mph, said the agent.
Whether Portuondo actually makes it to the big leagues remains to be seen. He is expected to start out pitching for either AA Mississippi or AAA Gwinnett.