Jose Rodriguez of Team Cuba pitches in the seventh inning against Team USA during the World Baseball Classic Semifinals at loanDepot park on March 19, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
Cuban national team pitcher Jose Rodriguez will play for Tigres de Chinandega during the 2023-24 season in Liga de Béisbol Profesional Nacional in Nicaragua, Yusseff Diaz of Pelota Cubana reported on Sunday.
World Baseball Network spoke to Rodriguez about his preparations of playing in his first professional season outside of Cuba through WhatsApp on Sunday.
Rodriguez said, “Firstly, thanks to the team for giving me the opportunity to participate with them this season… I always prepare thoroughly and work hard daily to stay in shape, after the season ends in Nicaragua I will see the offers that are available,” interpreted from Spanish to English.
Rodriguez, 31, was born in Camaguey, Cuba and has played in 13 seasons in Serie Nacional with the Ganaderos de Camaguey, half the season with Toronjeros de Isla de la Juventud in 2015-16 and half the season with Industriales de la Habana.
During the 2023 season with Ganaderos de Camagüey in Serie Nacional, Rodrigues went 6-4 in 10 starts and two appearances out of the bullpen throwing 64 innings posting a 3.94 ERA allowing 28 earned runs, 66 hits, nine doubles, three triples, two home runs, 21 walks, and striking out 51 batters with a 1.36 WHIP.
Rodriguez helped Camaguey reach the quarterfinals of the 2023 season, where they played Avispas de Santiago de Cuba and lost in six games. He started in game two of the best-of-seven quarterfinals, facing 29 batters in eight innings and allowing five hits, no earned runs, one walk, and striking out 10 batters.
Rodriguez also started in Game 6 of the Serie Nacional quarterfinals throwing 10 innings facing 34 batters allowing eight hits, one earned run, one walk, and striking out eight.
Rodriguez is also on the Cuba roster for both the 2023 Pan American Games and the 2023 Caribbean Cup in Puerto Rico, which will be held from October 1-8.
Rodriguez helped Cuba earn silver in July at the 2023 Central American and Caribbean Games in San Salvador. The gold medal game was rained out, and Mexico received the gold due to having the best overall record.
During the Central American and Caribbean Games, Rodriguez started one game, posting a 7.00 ERA throwing three innings, allowing seven hits, three earned runs, one walk, and three strikeouts.
“For the upcoming Pan American games we are preparing hard, it is always a competitive and high-level tournament, we plan to bring a good and competitive team, I hope the results are positive,” Rodriguez told World Baseball Network.
Cuba is ranked No. 8 in the World Baseball Rankings and will appear in the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile aiming for their 13th gold medal at the event.
The Pan American Games will have a total of eight nations in the baseball event, including No. 3 Mexico, No. 6 Venezuela, No. 10 Dominican Republic, No. 11 Panama, No. 16 Colombia, No. 24 Brazil, and host nation Chile, which is not ranked in the World Baseball Rankings. Chile has not been ranked in two consecutive World Baseball Ranking cycles, including the rankings released on December 31, 2022 and March 28, 2023, after the World Baseball Classic. The Pan American Games baseball tournament will be held from October 18 to October 28 at the Baseball and Softball Center in Cerrillos, Chile.
In March, Rodriguez played on the Cuban national team at the 2023 World Baseball Classic, pitching in two games out of the bullpen, throwing 2.1 innings with a 7.71 ERA and allowing four hits, two earned runs, one home run, and one strikeout, helping Cuba reach the semifinals in Miami at loanDepot Park where they lost to the United States 14-2.
“The WBC contributed a lot to my knowledge since I had the opportunity to share with athletes who have had experience in the big leagues,” Rodriguez said.
Last winter league season, Rodriguez played in the Cuban Elite League during its first season of operation with Ganaderos, posting a 2-2 record with a 2.91 ERA, throwing 43.1 innings and allowing 43 hits, 14 earned runs, three home runs, 13 walks, and striking out 20 batters with a 1.292 WHIP.
“The mechanics are always worked on to improve the coordination of movements and be organized when you are going to throw. Here the physical part is worked hard to be able to perform at the expected level,” Rodgriguez stated on what he would like to improve for the upcoming winter league season to World Baseball Network.
Rodriguez will join former teammate World Baseball Classic Cuban national team catcher Lorenzo Quintana for the upcoming 2023-24 winter league season with Tigres de Chinandega.
Rodriguez’s contract with the Tigres de Chinandega will be assigned from the Federación Cubana de Beisbol and the Cuban National Baseball Commission.
The FCB last week published a list of professional players whose contracts have been assigned to teams in other professional leagues in Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic for the upcoming winter league season and the 2024 season.
The Cuban National Baseball Commission will handle players’ professional contracts that are sanctioned through the Instituto Nacional de Deportes, Educación Fisica y Recreación, which is headquartered in Havana.
Rodriguez can potentially explore opportunities to play in Japan and Mexico for the upcoming 2024 season through the federation.
The 2023-24 Liga de Béisbol Profesional Nacional season will start on November 3, and the Caribbean Series roster will be built with domestic and foreign players as reinforcements for the event.
Seven or eight foreign players will be allowed on each of the five teams’ rosters for the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Nacional.
The five teams participating will be all returning from the 2022-23 Liga de Beisbol Profesional Nacional season: Indios del Bóer, Tren del Norte, Leonés de León, Tigres de Chinandega, and Gigantes de Rivas.
The 2023 World Baseball Classic Nicaragua national team manager, Sandor Guido, will manage the Tigres de Chinandega for the upcoming Liga de Béisbol Profesional Nacional season.