Leyva, Elias, Rodriguez Potential Top 3 Starters at WBC For Cuba

By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network

Pelota Cubana Reporter Yusseff Diaz cited sources from Federacion Cubana de Beisbol that a possible starting rotation for the first three games of the World Baseball Classic would include Elian Levya, Roenis Elias, and Yariel Rodriguez. 

If Cuba used those pitchers in that order, Leyva would be starting against the Netherlands on March 7 at 11 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1,  Elias would start against Italy on March 9 at 6 a.m. EST on Tubi, and Rodriguez would start against Panama on March 9 at 11:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.

Cuba will play in Pool A from March 7-11, and will play host nation Chinese Taipei for the final game in Taichung City on March 11 at 11 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 2.  

Cuba manager Armando Johnson and pitching coach Pedro Lazo, a 14-time gold medalist in international competitions, have decisions to make on filling the roster with Major League players as well as players from other professional leagues. Previously, Cuba’s World Baseball Classic rosters were drawn from the island nation’s Serie Nacional and Winter Elite League players, as well as Cuban players playing in the Japanese, Mexican, South Korean, and Taiwanese leagues.  

Cuba will look to bounce back in the 2023 World Baseball Classic after carrying a similar roster of players that they brought to 2020 World Baseball Softball Confederation Americas Qualifier, which was held in West Palm Beach, Fla. The Cuban national team went 1-2, losing to Venezuela, and to  manager Eric Whitt’s scrappy Canadian team. Both losses were by one run.  

Key notable returning players coming back to Cuba to play for the World Baseball Classic from the 2020 Olympic Qualifier team are Yadir Drake, Alfredo Despaigne, Roel Santos, and Livan Moinelo, who will have to step up and contribute on next month’s global stage.  

During the 2019 WBSC Premier 12 under manager Miguel Borroto, Cuba played in Group C at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea. Cuba went 1-2 in the tournament and got shutout by Canada and South Korea when they were fifth in the world.  

Carlos Marti managed the 2017 Cuban national team in the World Baseball Classic, where they went 2-1 in Pool B and advanced to the second round, losing all three games to Japan, Netherlands and Israel. 

Cuba appeared in the first World Baseball Classic in 2006 with a team that rose to the occasion, losing to Japan in the finals. This year’s team will have the task bringing the first championship back to the island since the national team won gold during the 2004 Olympic Games. 

Cuba has also 31 total medals in the history of the Baseball World Cup, with 25 of them being gold. This will be labeled as an historic run for Cuba if they can get to Miami for the championship game at Loan Depot Park on March 21.

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