By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
Jan. 14, 2023
Portuarios and Agricultores will face off in the first year of the Cuba Elite League’s best-of-seven series final at Estadio Martires de Barbados in Bayamo.
The first game of the series is on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. EST. The Elite League final will run from January 14-22, with all start times at 1:30 p.m. EST. The best of seven series final winner will represent Cuba during the Caribbean Series in Caracas, Venezuela, February 2-10. The Cuban Elite League, formed in 2022, is the island nation’s winter league, with the Cuban National Series having switched to a spring and summer schedule.
Agricultores took first place of the regular season, during the first year of the Elite League at 30-19 under manager Carlos Santos, and swept Tabalaceros in the best-of-seven semifinals series.
Agricultores’ 22-year Serie Nacional veteran infielder Yordanys Tardio batted .345 in the Elite League regular season with 3 home runs, drawing 12 walks, 58 hits, and 28 RBI with 186 plate appearances.
Outfielder Yuniesky Dominguez is another player to look for on Agricultores. The 14-year Serie Nacional veteran batted .333 in 214 plate appearances with no home runs, drawing 21 walks, league leader with 63 hits, and 17 RBI in the regular season. Eleven-year Serie Nacional infielder Osvaldo Sanchez batted .312 in the regular season, with 12 runs batted in, no home runs, 49 hits, and 13 walks in 178 plate appearances.
Agricultores relief pitcher Alberto Hidalgo was 7-1 during the regular season and appeared in 17 games out of the bullpen, recording a 0.60 earned run average, throwing 30 innings with 13 strikeouts and walking nine batters. Starting pitcher Cesar Rondon went 4-0 and started eight games, posting a 2.18 earned run average and allowing eight walks, along with striking out 23 batters in 41.1 innings pitched.
Portuarios finished in third place at 26-24 during the regular season under manager Michael Ventura. During the Elite League semifinals, Portuarios won their series in six games over Centrales.
Elite League batting champion outfielder Dennis Laza batted .348 during the regular seasoned led the Elite League in on-base percentage at .455. Laza had 56 hits in 198 plate appearances with five home runs, 28 walks, and 27 runs batted in during the regular season.
Outfielder Alexander Zayas batted .327 with 131 plate appearances during the regular season, driving 14 runs batted in, no home runs, drawing 17 walks, and 35 hits. Infielder Lazaro Martinez batted .319 during the regular season in 151 plate appearances with 43 hits, 14 runs batted in, nine walks, and one home run.
Portuarios starting pitcher and long reliever Jose Garcia had a 4-1 record during the regular season and led the Elite League with a 1.02 earned run average in 21 appearances. Garcia pitched 53 innings with 21 strikeouts and walked 23 batters in the regular season. Starting pitcher Raymond Cruz had 9 starts during the Elite League regular season with 48.2 innings pitched and recorded a 3.33 ERA, with 17 strikeouts, and walking 14 batters in the regular season and will likely be used in key situations during the League final.
Cuba will appear in the Caribbean Series for the first time since 2019 in Panama City, Panama at Estadio Rod Carew. Lenadores de Las Tunas was the last representative of Cuba for Serie Nacional to represent the Cuban League, losing in the final to Panamanian club Toros de Herrera. Cuba will face Curacao’s National Team in the first game of the Caribbean Series at Estadio La Guaira on February 2 at 10:30 a.m. EST.
Cuban Elite League Finals Series Schedule
January 14 – Game 1: Portuarios @ Agricultores, 1:30 p.m. – Estadio Matires de Barbados
January 15 – Game 2: Portuarios @ Agricultores, 1:30 p.m. – Estadio Matires de Barbados
January 16 – Travel Day
January 17 – Game 3: Agricultores @ Portuarios, 1:30 p.m. – Estadio Nelson Fernandez
January 18 – Game 4: Agricultores @ Portuarios, 1:30 p.m. – Estadio Nelson Fernandez
January 19 – Game 5: Agricultores @ Portuarios, 1:30 p.m. – Estadio Nelson Fernandez
January 20 – Travel Day
January 21 – Game 6: Portuarios @ Agricultores, 1:30 p.m. – Estadio Matires de Barbados
January 22 – Game 7: Portuarios @ Agricultores, 1:30 p.m. – Estadio Matires de Barbados