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Cuban RHP Yariel Rodriguez Promoted to MLB by Toronto Blue Jays

 Conor Liguori  |    Apr 12th, 2024 2:34pm EDT

Yariel Rodriguez reacts while leaving the mound in the third inning during the 2023 World Baseball Classic Quarterfinal game between Team Australia and Team Cuba at Tokyo Dome on Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Yuki Taguchi/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Cuban-born right-handed pitcher Yariel Rodriguez was promoted to Major League Baseball by the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday, reports Francys Romero on X. At the time of this report, Toronto has not confirmed the transaction. According to Romero, he will join the big league club on Saturday.

Rodriguez, 27, signed a five-year $32 million contract with the Blue Jays during the offseason and did not pitch in professional baseball during the 2023 season except for the World Baseball Classic.

Instead, he negotiated with Nippon Professional Baseball’s Chunichi Dragons to release him to pursue an MLB contract. The Dragons released Rodriguez in October 2023, and the Blue Jays agreed to a deal with the native from Camaguey, Cuba, in February.

Rodriguez began 2024 with the Toronto Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons. He made two starts, allowing no runs and striking out 10 in 6.1 innings. Toronto is being careful with Rodriguez; he threw zero innings during the summer and winter. He suffered back spasms in spring training, limiting him to two appearances during exhibition play.

Rodriguez made 72 starts in six seasons in Serie Nacional de Besibol in Cuba but strictly came out of the bullpen in 79 games for the Chunichi Dragons between their Central and Western League teams from 2021-22. He may be Toronto’s best option to be the fifth starting pitcher in their rotation. Alek Manoah is on the 15-day IL with right shoulder soreness, and Bowden Francis has given up 12 earned runs in 8.1 innings.

It seems unlikely that Rodriguez will fill anything more than an opener or long relief role early this season, as the Blue Jays could wait a while longer before stretching him out. In his nine-year professional baseball career, the highest number of innings Rodriguez has thrown in a season was 133.1 in 2018, with the Ganaderos de Camagüey and Gallos de Sancti Spiritus in Serie Nacional de Béisbol.

Rodriguez throws a four-seam fastball that has reached as fast as 100 mph, a slider, splitter, and curveball. According to R.J. Anderson of CBS, his fastball averaged 92.7 mph during his two starts with Triple-A Buffalo and topped out at 95.9 mph. He averaged 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings across all leagues and levels.

Internationally, Rodriguez represented Cuba in several tournaments, including the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games, the 2019 WBSC Premier12, and the 2023 World Baseball Classic. He started the first game of the 2023 WBC for Cuba, allowing one earned run and striking out six in a 4-2 loss against the Netherlands.

The Toronto Blue Jays (6-7) will open a three-game set against the Colorado Rockies (3-10) starting Friday at 7:07 p.m. EST at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Blue Jays are in last place in the American League East, four games back of the New York Yankees (10-3) for first.