Nationals introduce Yunesky Maya
On Friday afternoon, Livan Hernandez chatted with Phillies reliever Jose Contreras, two pitchers closer to 40 years old than 30 who had come from Cuba to America and become wealthy and free men.
Hernandez mentioned Yunesky Maya, the 28-year-old Cuban right-handed pitcher the Nationals were about to sign. Contreras remembered. Yes, that was him. Maya had been a bat boy for the team Hernandez and Contreras played on together in Cuba's highest baseball league.
"So now here we are," Hernandez said Saturday evening. He sat two seats from Maya, impeccably dressed in suit and gray tie, at a dais erected to announce Maya as the most significant international prospect the Nationals had ever signed. "Look at this."
The Nationals, after years of their scouting and unimaginable measures of his daring, had come to agreement with Maya weeks ago. On Saturday, General Manager Mike Rizzo made it official and proclaimed Maya the Nationals' "first major international signing that we think is going to impact our major league ball club immediately."
Hernandez slipped a No. 27 Nationals jersey over Maya's shoulder. Maya confidently spoke Spanish to a room full of English reporters, his agent Bart Hernandez doing the translating. "Quiero aqui pronto," he said - "I want to be here soon."
Maya arrived in Washington at roughly 2 p.m. Friday. He will watch the game tonight and tomorrow, then board a plane to Viera, Fla. to throw in front of Nationals pitching coordinator Spin Williams. Afterward, they will determine Maya's next move. They believe it could include him pitching in the major leagues this season.
Through his agent, Maya said he is a "guy that pounds the strike zone. He's aggressive. He's a guy that hits the corner with good command." He chose the Nationals among several suitors because they were aggressive, he said, in showing they wanted him. Johnny DiPuglia, the Nationals new Latin American director, led the charge.
Last year in Cuba's best league, Maya earned the equivalent of the Cy Young, going 13-4 with a 2.22 ERA.
"I'm very happy for anybody who comes over from Cuba," Livan Hernandez said. "I'm in the same situation in '95. I heard they were going to sign him. I've seen him pitch in Puerto Rico. I think he's got everything he needs to pitch in the big leagues."
July 31, 2010; 6:33 PM ET
Categories: Livan Hernandez , Yunesky Maya | Tags: Yunesky Maya
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