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Reports: Cuba Catcher Prieto Leaves Team In Miami, Doesn’t Fly Back to Havana

 Leif Skodnick  |    Mar 20th, 2023 5:23pm EDT

Ivan Prieto of Cuba celebrates a homerun in the fourth inning during the third place game between Cuba and Colombia as part of the WBSC U-23 Baseball World Cup at Sonora Stadium on October 2, 2021 in Hermosillo, Mexico. Prieto defected from Cuba during the 2023 World Baseball Classic in Miami. (Photo by Luis Gutierrez/Norte Photo/Getty Images)

By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network

MIAMI- Cuba bullpen catcher Ivan Prieto left the team Sunday following a 14-2 loss to Team USA in the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic at loanDepot Park, PelotaCubanaUSA’s Yordano Carmona reported Monday.

Prieto, 26, has played eight seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional with Holguin and Granma, batting .297/.389/.403 in 257 career games. He played for Agricultores in the inaugural season of Cuba’s Elite League over the winter, contributing to the team’s championship. He is the first player to defect from the Communist country during a World Baseball Classic.

Cuba was staying at the Ritz Carlton in Key Biscayne, Florida, about 11 miles from loanDepot Park. The details of Prieto’s departure from the team are unclear, but he was not among the group that returned to Havana via a charter flight Monday morning.

Pelota Cubana noted that Prieto is regarded as one of the best catchers in Cuba, and that his inclusion as a bullpen catcher, rather than as a full member of the roster, was controversial, as he provided clutch hitting for Granma’s last two championship teams and his handling of pitchers.

The website reported that he is likely to try and find a place to play in American professional baseball.