Saturday (January 3) marked the opening session of the second “etapa” (second round) of play for Cuba’s National Series #48, the pennant race now continuing after a brief hiatus for 50th Anniversary revolutionary celebrations. An exciting first third of the campaign, from the end of November through December 28, was chocked full of surprises, the biggest ones coming in the Oriente Division, where defending league champion Santiago de Cuba slumped to sixth place and perennial bridesmaid Villa Clara sprinted to a remarkable start. The Orangemen won their first 15 outings and completed the first month with a sterling 18-3 mark that left them 2.5 games up on trailing Camaguey (also a big surprise this season).
The second round of this year’s 90-game campaign is slated to run through the February 13-15 All-Star Weekend, after which the league will shut down operations for nearly six weeks while the national team first trains for and then participates in the second MLB-orchestrated World Baseball Classic. For those of you not following the daily pennant-race Cuban League action on www.baseballdecuba.com, regular updates of the league standings are posted on my personal website found at www.bjarkman.com. That site also contains a direct link to the corresponding page on www.baseballdecuba.com in which interested fans can access the complete box scores for all league games played to date.
Regarding the WBC, Ray Otero and this author will be publishing our predicted “Classico” roster for the Cuban National Team on www.baseballdecuba.com during this coming week. Our projected 28-man roster (plus five outside “possibilities”) will be analyzed in detail on the website’s Spanish-language page by Ray Otero and on the English-language page by yours truly. The actual Cuban team roster will be revealed by the Cuban Federation the day after All-Star weekend on February 16, and then will train in Mexico until the opening games in Mexico City on March 8. I will reveal a listing of the www.baseballdecuba.com “predicted roster” on this blog in a couple of days, with the full position-by-position analysis saved for our other Cuban League website. Stay tuned.
Will Eduardo Paret and other aging veterans (Osmani Urrutia? Ariel Pestano?) return to man Team Cuba for WBC 2009? Or will there be a rash on new faces like Yosvany Pereza and Leonys Martin on the scene? See www.baseballdecuba.com this week for full Team Cuba details.