Saturday, July 29, 2006

Notes from a Saturday Afternoon

First things first: I was at dinner last night, when my brother gave me The Call. The "You might want to be watching the game" call. There was no TV at the restaurant, and by the time we wrapped up, and I was trying to find a bar to catch the game at, the second phone call came, saying that Ty Wiggington knocked the Devil Rays' first hit, in the fifth inning.

But the call was indicative of the kind of stuff that Chien Ming Wang had last night. Wang went the course with a two-hit complete game shutout, his 12th win, bringing his ERA down to 3.77.

Coming into spring training, 2005, Wang was considered a marginal prospect. He only got a chance last year because the Yanks' new acquisitions for the rotation came up lame. Still, the thought was that Wang was closer to being a league-average innings-eater than anything special. Now, he's the Yankees #2 pitcher, easily.


On another side of things, no one can make up their mind whether or not Yuliesky Gourriel has defected from the Cuban National team. A news report out of Colombia (via the Dominican Republic) claims that Gourriel's not only defected, but on his way to the Bronx. For those of you who don't read Spanish, here's a translation:
Cartegena, Colombia -- The Cuban ballplayers Yuliesky Gurriel (sic) and Eduardo Paret have defected in the Colombian port city of Cartegena, Colombia, host of the 20th Central American and Caribbean Games, according to local press reports.

"One of the members of the Cuban team who defected was the star second baseman Yuliesky Gurriel, considered one of the best in the world at his position. It would seem that his next destination would be the New York Yankees" reports the Times of Bogota.

According to the newspaper, "the other Cuban defector is shortstop Eduardo Paret."

On Tuesday, Cuban athletes Damaris Nay, Julio Acosta and Carlos Castillo defected in the Dominican Republic, which is the sub-venue for the Team Handball competition in the 20th Central American and Caribbean Games.
Meanwhile, another report has him safely in Cuba as of Thursday:

Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, July 28 (Prensa Latina) Cuban second baseman Yulieski Gourriel said on Friday that he was satisfied with regaining the baseball title at the 20th Central American and Caribbean Games in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

The young player was warmly welcomed upon arrival in this central Cuban province on Thursday and "received phone calls from all over Cuba, from his friends and relatives", according to her (sic) mother, Olga Castillo.

If Gourriel has defected, he's definitely a player the Yankees will be interested in. He's only 20 years old, and he has a plus power bat that can play at second or third base. He'd probably have been the first position player taken, if he'd been in this year's amateur draft, and some say he would have been the top pick overall.

Now that the rumored Wilson Betemit for Scott Proctor deal is off (Betemit went to the Dodgers), the Yankees are still looking for infield depth; however, it's doubtful that Gourriel's the kind of prospect to skip the minors altogether even if the Yankees were able to sign him at top speed. Before a Cuban defector becomes a free agent, they have to establish citizenship in another country--usually Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic--so this could take a while to play out, if true. Still, we'll follow this story.

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