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Cuban pitcher Yunesky Maya agrees to terms with Nationals

UPDATED, 10:56

CINCINNATI - In a move that both further validates their emerging international scouting department and could bolster their starting rotation this season, the Washington Nationals have agreed to terms with 28-year-old Cuban pitcher Yunesky Maya, a baseball source confirmed.

The Nationals will make the signing official after Maya receives his working visa and completes a physical in Washington. The agreement was first reported by ESPN Deportes.

Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo could not confirm or deny the agreement, but he acknowledged the Nationals have followed Maya for some time and believes Maya, a veteran of the Cuban national team and Cuban National Series, could be added to the Nationals rotation by the end of the season.

"We think he's capable of pitching in the major leagues very soon," Rizzo said. "You've got an accomplished, major league-ready caliber pitcher that's competed at the highest level."

Maya, a veteran of the Cuban National Series, was named the best right-handed pitcher in Cuba after the 2008-2009 season - "their Cy Young," Rizzo said. Maya throws four pitches -- a curveball, a slider, a changeup and a fastball that zips between 89 and 92 miles per hour. Before defecting in September 2009, Maya was the ace of the Cuban National team, ahead of even Reds prospect Aroldis Chapman.

"He's a terrific, poised, capable, major league-caliber pitcher," Rizzo said. "Some of the most successful organizations would like to sign him and put him directly into their rotation. We're one of them."

For an international department remade last year that is, in the words of one Nationals employee, "still getting its feet wet," the signing represents a significant victory. Several teams, including the Yankees, Phillies, Mets and Red Sox, reportedly had interest in Maya.

The fallout from the scandal surrounding the prospect once known as Smiley Gonzalez left the Nationals' international operations in shambles last year. This winter, the Nationals hired Johnny DiPuglia away from the Boston Red Sox and named him their international director. They opened a new academy in the Dominican Republic.

Maya joins 32 international signings the Nationals have made this year, Rizzo said, including reliever Rafael Martin, an American whom the Nationals signed this February out the Mexican League. Martin has a 2.81 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP in 51 1/3 innings for Class AA Harrisburg this season.

"We're happy with our progress," Rizzo said. "We're certainly not satisfied yet. Like we've said many times, we've allocated a lot of resources to personnel over there. We feel positive where our program is going. We feel good about where we're at."

The latest step was agreeing to terms with Maya, who will turn 29 in late August. He fled the country in September 2009 and set up residence in the Dominican Republic, where he remains, waiting for his working visa and pitching simulated games. After he officially signs, Maya will report to Viera, Fla. for extended spring training so the Nationals can evaluate where is from a physical standpoint.

The Nationals have scouted Maya for several years, Rizzo, watching him play in various tournaments outside Cuba. Maya pitched in the World Baseball Classic in both 2006 and 2009.

It is difficult to determine how much wear Maya has endured. The pitching restrictions in Cuban baseball are far different - and much looser - than in the minor leagues.

"We feel like we know him as well as anybody," Rizzo said. "He's a guy who's pitched a lot and knows his craft. He's pitched in front of 50,000 people before. Fifty-thousand people, when you've escaped a country, is probably not all that intimidating."

By Adam Kilgore  |  July 20, 2010; 9:35 PM ET
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Next: What the Nationals have in Michael Morse



Posted by: jfnats | July 20, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang-any ideas how this guy comps to Chapman? Any word on the dollar amount?
Go Nats!!!

Posted by: zendo | July 20, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

Yuniesky Maya Mendiluza.

Posted by: periculum | July 20, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Currently I'm a pessimistic Nats fan. Our signing of him simply means he has no talent until proven otherwise.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | July 20, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Rizzo called him a battle tested Cuban equivalent of a CY Young award winner .... never heard him say that about any pitcher working for the Nats.

Posted by: periculum | July 20, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

@Zendo he was second to Chapman in strikeouts in 2009. He is considered the 4th best prospect by the Cuban Ballplayers web site.

Posted by: periculum | July 20, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang-grats, Peri. How soon do you see him in DC?
Go Nats!!!

Posted by: zendo | July 20, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Here's some rain delay reading. I'm sure we all remember Marlon Byrd:

Posted by: nats24 | July 20, 2010 10:25 PM | Report abuse

we need some hitting! how about some timely hitting!


Posted by: brandonesque | July 20, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

#1 pitcher on the Cuban national team. We now have 2 starters better than anyone we have had since the red carpet rolled out at RFK.

Very funny listening to Charlie & Dave speculate about the actual namesake of the Cuban version of the Cy Young award. Jose Contreras?

Hmmm, maybe 70 wins isn't out of reach. . . .

Posted by: paulkp | July 20, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Now it makes sense why we offered El Duque a minor league deal, he can get Maya assimilated to US culture while in Syracuse and then Livan can tgake care of him in Washington!

Posted by: markfd | July 20, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Very funny listening to Charlie & Dave speculate about the actual namesake of the Cuban version of the Cy Young award. Jose Contreras?


I thought it would be the "Si Young."

(sorry, I couldn't resist)

Posted by: baltova1 | July 20, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

Gary Majewski got just lit up by the Cubs. His slider is not fooling anyone. He had a great intro song with the Nats, "I Go Back," by Kenny Chesney.

BTW has anyone compiled all the Nats' walkup songs?

Posted by: paulkp | July 20, 2010 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Finally some good news, now all we have to do is play some winning baseball.

Posted by: dargregmag | July 20, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

come on Nats. This is when the team can look good, when few are watching.

Posted by: JT2009 | July 20, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Can he make the next flight to Cinncy?

Posted by: norfolkoms | July 20, 2010 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Holy cow! Michael Morse with a bases-loaded clearing example of power on this team in the 6th, after the rain delay.

This is getting RIDICULOUS! Get Morse in the lineup!

Posted by: mo_dc | July 20, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Are the Orioles getting likeable and maybe even better? A gutsy 13-inning win tonight.

Posted by: paulkp | July 20, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Clippard. about to give up the runs the Nats just got. Can he prove me wrong ?

Posted by: JT2009 | July 20, 2010 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Twice it seems, JT, 2 very nice half-innings for the Clipper!

Posted by: NatAlbert | July 21, 2010 12:15 AM | Report abuse

Yes, glad I was proved wrong. Can we please now see some 9th inning magic from a team in desperate need of some.

Posted by: JT2009 | July 21, 2010 12:32 AM | Report abuse

okay, not to be. But can we see Morse in RF tomorrow (tonight) ?

Posted by: JT2009 | July 21, 2010 12:40 AM | Report abuse

Dunn protects the plate again on a called third strike to end the game. Is 40 home runs worth $60 mill over four years?

Just remember, the Nats are still losing...

Posted by: M20832 | July 21, 2010 7:26 AM | Report abuse

I'm in the minority to want the Nats to trade Dunn and Willingham. To get Hudson and/or Viciedo would work for me or Bourjos from the Angels (if Anaheim would make that deal.) I don't think Atlanta would give up Freeman for Willingham, but I'd sure like them to give it a try.
The Nats middle of the lineup has to be the most overrated trio in baseball. Look good on paper but don't seem to translate into winning. The offensive failure this year can't all be blamed on the 'little guys'. Trade Dunn and Willingham if a reasonable deal can be made. (Not Zimm, of course)And Rizzo can't ask for the moon. After all Dunn is a two month rental.

Posted by: jcampbell1 | July 21, 2010 7:50 AM | Report abuse

They got any leadoff hitters down there?

Posted by: shanks1 | July 21, 2010 7:52 AM | Report abuse

This is really great news - if he's as good as Horacio Pina I'll be happy

Posted by: nativedc | July 21, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

We have the worst third base coach in MLB. Holding a runner at third with 2 outs when right fielder throws into 2nd conceding a run. Oh, and we lose by that run.

Posted by: richyr | July 21, 2010 8:09 AM | Report abuse

A good signing, although I refuse to accept any Cuban player's given age as accurate. Add 3 years to whatever they claim, and you're probably no worse than 15 months off.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | July 21, 2010 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Looking at this guys Bio, he fits a profile of what I want in a Major League pitcher:

Maya said during a recent interview that he replaced the slider with a curveball. He also throws sinker, changeup and fastball. This year he touched 96 MPH against Villa Clara. Pedro Pérez, the pitching coach for the Cuban National team, asked him to throw even more inside fastballs.

Posted by: alex35332 | July 21, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

awww, man, nats24. Say it ain't so. I've always liked Marlon, and have enjoyed following his post-Nats career, including his current stint with a certain team, from a certain Mid-western town, for which a certain skipper will no longer be at the helm next year...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 21, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

uh, not in this fan's army as to the first point... :-)


Are the Orioles getting likeable and maybe even better?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 21, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

There are only 2 things the Orioles could do to be viewed positively by me. Other than that, they can win a World Series and I won't care

1. Cal comes back as Manager or GM or Owner.
2. Give the Nationals the rights to their own broadcasts.

Posted by: alex35332 | July 21, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

What does this mean? HBP? Is a Dead Ball an unhittable inside pitch? Who keeps this stat? Dibble is going to wet his pants?

"(Maya) tied for 5th in Dead Balls with
"Maya has a reputation for coming inside with high heat. During the WBC#1, Maya came in relief against Panamá. Panamanian Rubén Rivera was hitting with the bases loaded and a chance to win the game for Panamá and Maya came inside with a high heater. Rivera did not take the dead ball and shortly hit into an out. Then, Cuba finally won the game. aya also drilled Santiago de Cuba RF Alexei Bell in the septum during the opening game during this past season with a high heater."

Posted by: nova_g_man | July 21, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps a Dead Ball is one that can kill you? Septum rather than nose is cute.

Posted by: nova_g_man | July 21, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Aroldis is a thrower who is looking to hit paydirt, ready for the night life of New York, the pretty girls and the bling. Maya is a pitcher who carves batters up, defected because of a domestic issue and not because of the lure of big money and does not appear to be attracted to the big lights and the bling.

Posted by: nova_g_man | July 21, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Another player who defected with him is Camaguay’s slugging outfielder/first baseman Leslie Anderson.

Leslie Anderson is a slugging first baseman/outfielder in the mold of Kendry Morales. He may not eventually hit for the power that Kendry showed in 2009, but he did hit .381 in the Cuban League with 13 homeruns. That would be a 30 homer season in a 162 game schedule. Leslie is a player that could fill the first base position and even play the outfield. He may have to work on changing his name from Leslie.

Trade Dunn, sign Leslie?

Posted by: nova_g_man | July 21, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

lots of yuniesky videos

Posted by: nova_g_man | July 21, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Right on markfd
Now it makes sense why we offered El Duque a minor league deal, he can get Maya assimilated to US culture while in Syracuse and then Livan can tgake care of him in Washington!

Posted by: markfd | July 20, 2010 10:47 PM

Posted by: Sunderland | July 21, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Maya and Marti are both available…Marti is awesome…Maya has a curve that will turn you into a drunk….and he is a real fighter….he doesn’t full around…two years ago he Beam Alexei Bell, best slugger in Cuba at the time in the middle of his face(nose/head/eyes)Bell loss his timing completely for a year…missed the Olimpics and the WBC..Bell now is again top 3 hitters in Cuba as we speak…with a .390 average..and a ton of homers…Maya ain’t afraid of nobody…nobody…he has guts.

Posted by: nova_g_man | July 21, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Here is a video from the world baseball classic.

Seems to be an okay pitcher. Probably not No 1 potential, but I can see him working his way through the minors fairly fast and I could easily see him getting to DC this season.

What he DOES give the team now is even more flexibility to shed of our 5th starter caliber pitchers for a legit baseball player. I would like to see the team get a descent 2nd baseman, preferably one that we can stick in the lead off spot.

Posted by: alex35332 | July 21, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

qbano34 is on twitter, with 100 followers. He is Gerardo Ortega … Maya’s brother-in-law

Posted by: nova_g_man | July 21, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

David Letterman: We sent Russia ten spies, and they sent us four spies and a Cuban pitcher.

Posted by: nova_g_man | July 21, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

In addition to leading the league in pitchers who will be ready in a month or so (Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Marquis, Cheing Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler) they now also lead the league in pitchers who defected from Cuba.

In the box score of El Mundo, November 28, 1946: F. Castro pitched and lost in a game between the Law and Business Schools of the University of Havana. But all of the runs were unearned and F. Castro's WHIP remained low. Tho the report of a tryout with the Washington Senators is routinely debunked, I prefer to believe that they worked him out, because I like to play the what-if game. He could have been a back-end starter for our Nation's Capital team.

Posted by: nova_g_man | July 21, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

We have a secret scout in Cuba...Pete Ramos. Still around (I think) and still interested in baseball.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | July 21, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

So he's been pitching 'simulation' games? What, on EA Sports?

Posted by: richs91 | July 21, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

What's the status of the government's investigation of under-age pitchers? Anybody know?

Posted by: Juan-John1 | July 21, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

What's the status of the government's investigation of under-age pitchers? Anybody know?

Posted by: Juan-John1 | July 21, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

92 on the fast ball? another marshmallow arm. don't they have enough of those?

Posted by: lp_lodestar | July 21, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Did Glavine and Maddox ever throw much harder than 92-93?

A roster full of 97 mph guys like Joel Hanrahan that can't locate their pitches doesn't win games.

Something the Nationals learned with Joel and guys like Jesus Colome.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | July 21, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

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