Cubans make noise on MLB Opening Day

The new season of Major League Baseball (MLB) kicked off this Thursday with several interesting notes and prominence of the players born in Cuba, who made themselves noticed wielding the wood, although left-handed Cionel Pérez also shone from the mound with a good relief performance.

The man from Matanzas, the only shooter from the island who entered the box on Opening Day 2023 (a blank inning in the Orioles’ victory over Boston), repeated his performance from 2022, when he also withdrew an episode without allowing Tampa liberties. With Cionel there are 16 Cuban pitchers who have worked more than once in the opening games of the season and 12 who have done so in consecutive seasons.

Instead, Cuba once again ran out of starters in this start of the MLB contest. In fact, 9 years have passed since a West Indian pitcher took the ball for an opening on Opening Day. The last designated in this function was the deceased José Fernández, in 2014, wearing the flannel of the Miami Marlins.

In total, there were 15 Cubans who jumped to the diamonds in the first game of the 2023 season, the second highest number in history (the record is 16, in 2017) along with the contests of 1969, 2016 and 2022.

Perhaps due to the number and caliber of the protagonists, expectations centered on the duel between the Chicago White Sox and the Houston Astros, in which the Texan franchise could have set an impressive record, since it had ten consecutive opening games without capitulating.

But the narrow 2-3 defeat put an end to the possibility and the Astros had to settle for continuing to share that locker with the Boston Beaneaters, who linked their chain between 1887 and 1896.

The might of the Cuban army was enjoyed by fans of both sides: home runs from Yordan Alvarez and Yasmani Grandal, the undisputed first official of José “Pito” Abreu since his exchange from Chicago to Houston, and the luxury baptism of Oscar Luis Colás in the best baseball on the planet were brushstrokes that remained for history.

Grandal ignited the fire with his homer, but it didn’t take long for Yordan to hit a similar shot for the second consecutive Opening Day, a feat that is not unprecedented for a Cuban just because Rafael Palmeiro had done it in the 1990 and 1991 seasons.

With their full-turn shots, Grandal and Yordan evened out, joining the exclusive group of players from the island who have hit an opening home run on more than one occasion. This list is led by Tany Pérez (4), escorted by Palmeiro (3), Tony Oliva (2), José Canseco (2), “Pito” Abreu (2).

A little smaller is the group that Colás has just joined, whom the White Sox high command made his debut in a turn as a pinch hitter, and the man from Santiago did not disappoint with a solid unstoppable connection to central field.

Only four other Cubans had achieved it in their initial visit to the batting box, since Tony Taylor did it for the first time in 1958 with the Chicago Cubs shirt. Two years later Tony González did it with Cincinnati. The list was completed with the particularity that the remaining three did so defending the colors of the South Chicago franchise: Abreu (2014), Luis Robert Jr. (2020) and, now, Colás.

Nor now did Luis Robert Jr. and Yoan Moncada leave blank; the first, signing a couple of singles and a run scored, and the other added his first indisputable championship.

In the remaining challenges there was also a highlight for those born on the island. The Texas Rangers from Ciego de Avila, José Adolis García, was the only one with a pair of trailers on the recent Opening Day, something that 27 Cubans have achieved in history, 14 of them since the 2010 season.

Meanwhile, Randy Arozarena extended his state of grace from the past World Classic with an RBI shot with the Tampa Bay Rays; Aledmys Díaz (3-2), in his debut with Oakland, sounded the wood against the very Japanese Shohei Othani and signed their first hits of the course Jorge Soler (Miami Marlins) and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (Arizona Diamondbacks).

Cubans make noise on MLB Opening Day
Yordan Álvarez Photo: ADAM DAVIS/EFE/EPA.

Performance of Cuban baseball players on Opening Day 2023

Yordan Álvarez: 3-1, home run, two runs scored, one RBI.

Jose Dariel Abreu: 4-1.

Yasmani Grandal: 4-1, home run, one run, one RBI.

Luis Robert Jr.: 4-2, one scored.

Yoan Moncada: 5-1.

Oscar Luis Colas: emergent, 2-1.

Yandy Díaz: 2-0, a walk.

Randy Arozarena: 4-1, one RBI

Jorge Soler: 4-1.

José Adolis: 4-2, one scored, two RBIs.

Aldemys Diaz: 3-2, one RBI.

Miguel Vargas: 2-0, one scored, two walks.

Lourdes Gurriel: 4-1.

Jose Barrero: 4-0.

Cionel Pérez: One inning pitched, no runs.

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